The managerial revolving door at Boundary Park continues to move freely with the recent departure of Paul Scholes after just 31 days in the hot seat. Rumours of interference in team selection refuse to go away with the alleged culprit being the brother of owner Abdallah Lemsagam. The man in question being Mohamed Lemsagam the clubs ‘Sporting Director’.
Scholes’ reign only lasted 7 games, garnering 1 win, 3 draws and 3 losses. Not the most glittering of starts but it must be said that a start is all it was. The style of play was more enterprising and adventurous than previous managers – with the exception of Pete Wild’s recent spell as caretaker manager – and but for an unfortunate habit of conceding very late goals in three of the games, then his points total would have looked much healthier.
These are somewhat worrying times at Oldham Athletic. Many of the supporters were happy to see the club sold to Mr Lemsagam last season, after the previous owner Simon Corney had apparently outstayed his welcome. Mr Lemsagams’ arrival at the club had given the long-suffering faithful at Boundary Park some hope that brighter days were ahead. However, relegation (away at Northampton) on the last day of the season was a big blow. Yet even then there was hope that their stay in League 2 would be a short one.
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Richie Wellens was relieved of his duties, to be replaced by a management duo of former Latics favourites Frankie Bunn and Andy Rhodes. Optimism was high at the start of the season, but results and performances were disappointing and the team found it difficult to achieve consistency and to attain the results and league placing that the fans had hoped for. Rhodes left the club suddenly in October with no information given by the club as to the circumstances – a lack of dialogue with the fans that has become a feature in recent times. Bunn himself lasted until the day after Boxing Day after suffering a humiliating 6-0 loss away to Carlisle.
And so, after what must be said was a successful stint as caretaker manager by Youth Team Coach Pete Wild, and following protracted negotiations between both parties the announcement was finally made that former Manchester United legend Paul Scholes was to take his first steps into football management by taking the reins at the club that he had supported since he was a boy.
There had been other times in Oldham’s recent past when it was thought that Scholes may have been interested in taking the job, but they didn’t materialise, and this time it felt like the right time for both the manager and the club.
Optimism was high, albeit slightly guarded, but with the connections within the game that Scholes would undoubtedly be able to call on, plus his obvious love for the club it made him both an interesting and exciting choice to take the club forward into a new era.
The play-offs may have proved to have been out of reach for this season, but surely next season with a summer transfer window and a chance to sign his own players and to shape the team and the squad his own way gave supporters both hope and excitement for the future.
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Sadly it was not be, and Scholes’ resignation statement hinted strongly at what supporters had been hearing for a while. He had not been allowed to work in the way that had originally been agreed at the outset and so had no option but to leave. Rumours followed that up to 12 members of the current squad had been promised new contracts without the manager being consulted. We will probably never know if that really was the case but it does tie in with the rumours of interference from the boardroom.
Pete Wild has now been given the job of First Team manager on an interim basis until the end of the season. It remains to be seen which direction the club will go in after that. Wild is a popular choice with a lot of the supporters as he is a local lad, and has stepped into the job in trying circumstances when many – probably including himself – thought it was maybe too big of a leap from the youth team to coaching the first team. In his spell as caretaker manager however he grasped the chance with both hands and with his infectious enthusiasm he managed to galvanise and inspire the team to some excellent results including the fantastic giant killing FA Cup victory over Fulham at Craven Cottage.
In Oldham`s recent past there has never been a dull moment for the fans but the volume of managers coming and going at the club has sometimes had a debilitating effect on the enthusiasm of the supporters and now with the club back in League 2 for the first time in 40 odd years it is surely the time for stability and investment, and for whichever manager gets the job in the long run, for him to be given the backing of the owners and to be allowed the freedom to manage the team his way and to recruit the players that he wants.
The fans will always support their club, as they always have done, the season ticket holders at home games number around 3,000, and the away support for a relatively small club is fantastic.
The outlook for the club is uncertain but the fans are overdue some success on the pitch. It remains to be seen if their patience and dedication will be rewarded.