FOOTBALL is a numbers game. End of. It’s all about how many you win, lose, draw or fluke it on penalties.

Goal difference, home wins, away triumphs . . . last-minute complications, substitutions, play-acting shenanigans and offside flags.

True enough – or so I thought . . . until, never mind the big match, the big picture hits you right between the eyes. And I never saw it coming.

Take this season, 2018-19 . . . or any other, take the one we all love to go on about, the 1990-91 campaign, the Second Division title-winning last-match, last-gasp epic — Neil Redfearn’s unstoppable stoppage-time penalty and all that.

Or take the 1989-90 “pinch-me” marvel – six goals in a single game for Frankie Bunn and a first Wembley appearance for the club in the League Cup final.

Manchester United were pushed every inch of the way in a Maine Road FA Cup semi-final which went to an extra-time replay the same year.

Final-day heroics in 1992-93 can never be replicated. A 4-3 thriller at home to a Matt Le Tissier-inspired Southampton after already seeing off title contenders Aston Villa on their own patch (Big Joe Royle being sent a crate of champagne from Alex Ferguson) and the mighty Merseyside juggernaut that is Liverpool at Boundary Park. Heady, somewhat merry days.

Then there was 1993-94 – a remarkable second visit to Wembley for another FA Cup semi-final with a United side ready to conquer Europe . . . another replay at Maine Road — but also relegation from the Premier League.

All milestones etched in the memory of any Latics fan worth his half-time Bovril.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Dwindling down to the fourth tier after all those great times has been a bitter pill to swallow for many of Athletic’s stalwart supporters.

The 2017-18 campaign, historic in its adversity, will linger long in the grey matter as Latics dropped down to the basement division for the first time since the 1970-71 season.

So what now?

There’s something about all these years as they come and go. But it’s all about the bits in-between that matters — that tell-tale all-important and intriguing line which separates beginnings and ends.

“When your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?”

Words of wisdom from a poignant poem by Linda Ellis (me neither). It’s often read aloud at funerals and is a truthful, honest, heartfelt scribe.

It refers to numbers on a tombstone, from the beginning . . . to the end.

First comes your date of birth, then day of death.

What matters most of all however, is the dash – the time spent ludicrously loving, lauding and living life to its absolute fullest between those years. Analyse those words (don’t lose me now, I’m going somewhere with this I promise) and comparisons can be immediately drawn to, shall we say, other spheres – namely football, and in particular Oldham Athletic.

The dash represents all the time spent alive on this earth.

Take Frankie Bunn – a Latics legend from 1989 . . . it’s now 2018. Many years have been spent crafting knowledge and learning the game from first a player, coach and then manager’s perspective.

This year is his first in the hotseat. He’ll live and learn.

Bunn, alongside assistant Andy Rhodes, has all those memories. They both live and breathe Oldham Athletic.

Criticism may fly their way from time to time, but that’s football. Back in the late Eighties when mullet hairstyles and shoulder pads were all the rage, shell suits and sweat bands were commonplace.

Today, social media and reality TV is “a thing” . . . not that you’d imagine Bunn and Rhodes doling out hash-tags or “liking” a tweet.

Times have changed alright – but now it’s what’s in front of us that counts.

Bunn has drilled home the point on many occasions that Latics are “starting again”.

And we shouldn’t be unperturbed by that. We should embrace it.

He’s having to learn the hard way.

There’s no money on the table, echoed by last week’s reports of unpaid wages.

There’s no magic wand except for the one used to gamble on the recruitment of waifs, strays and the odd wannabe.

Sam Surridge is one such gamble that’s paid off admirably. Goalkeeper Daniel Iversen is another. Wigan loanee Callum Lang doesn’t look too shabby.

Before anyone inexcusably puts the boot in – it’s worth remembering that Bunn’s managerial “dash” has only just permeated the paper on which it’s being drawn.

Off-the-field troubles will no doubt remain a facet of Boundary Park life.

Everyone pulling in the same direction is what really counts.

Forget the cash. Long live the dash.