League One Club-by-Club Preview for 2017/2018: Oldham Athletic

Best Blog or Account to Follow: Bipolar Latic saw the glory years when the Latics were in the Premier League; he’s been witness to over 1,000 competitive and takes a philosophical view of the club’s current status as the ‘caretakers’ of the third tier.

2016/2017

Record Last Season + Quick Summary: 

League One - 17th; W 12 / D 17 / L 17 / F 31 / A 44 / Pts 53

Only a single victory in the league up to the start of October (against neighbours Bury, naturally) was indicative of life under Steve Robinson. Goals were at an absolute premium and it was rare for the Lancashire outfit to garner more than one in a match, which when coupled with a defence under constant pressure, was a recipe for disaster. During their dismal latter half of 2016 however, they did earn a couple of surprise victories, most notably against table-toppers Scunthorpe United at a juncture when the Iron looked as imperious as their nickname made them out to be. Even so, it wasn’t enough for Robinson to keep his job and he was dismissed with the club deep in the relegation zone doldrums.

John Sheridan was tempted back for a third permanent spell as manager at Boundary Park and almost immediately, what became known as the ‘Shezzarection’ was in gear. A very positive late winter period with victories earned against divisional rivals nearby in the standings catapulted them out of the bottom four. Many a 0-0 or 1-1 scoreline was ground out in 2017 with the back five (including Connor Ripley) utterly colossal against much more fancied and dangerous opponents. Safety was assured with a few games to spare and the Latics’ fans could look forward to League One football for the 21st consecutive campaign.

Top Goalscorer: Lee Erwin (8 goals in 25 starts/2,210 minutes)

Top Creator: Aaron Amadi-Holloway (4 assists in 14 starts/1,147 minutes)

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Player of the Season Peter Clarke was a titan at the back for the Latics last season. Can he be just the same as he pushes 36 years of age during 2017/2018?

2017/2018

Manager/Head Coach: John Sheridan; an icon in Oldham. An excellent player in his day (and capped by the Republic of Ireland, most memorably at the 1994 World Cup), the last six years of his career on the pitch were spent at Boundary Park, which took in two stints as either sole or co-caretaker in charge of the first team. Led the Latics to the play-offs in his first full season in charge and just outside the top six in the following season. Departed in March 2009 after a succession of poor results.

In between his first and second spells in south-east Lancashire, he led Chesterfield to the League Two title in 2010/2011 and the EFL Trophy in 2011/2012 (although the Spierites slipped back into the fourth tier), Plymouth to the play-offs in 2014/2015 and latterly a short period in charge of Newport County. He took the reins at Oldham once again in January 2016, saving them from relegation… only to join Notts County early in the close season. He endured a disastrous time at Meadow Lane, which ended after a foul-mouthed tirade came to light after the last defeat in a sequence of nine.

Remarkably, he was in situ at Oldham just 10 days later and tasked with one simple goal: save the club from relegation – again. That he achieved this without a final day nail-biter is testament to getting the most of a limited squad and motivating them in such a way as to push what was possible from each individual but moreover the team itself.

Ins: Dan Gardner (Chesterfield), Craig Davies (Scunthorpe United), Courtney Duffus (Everton U23s) & Rob Hunt (Brighton & Hove Albion).

Outs: Charles Dunne (Motherwell), Josh Law (York City), Lee Croft (free agent), Michael Ngoo (free agent) & Jamie Reckord (free agent).

Predicted First XI & Shape:

Oldham1718

Tactics: The strategy Sheridan employs is quite well-worn by this juncture but it’s still devised and implemented as it quite simply works for the most part. The centre back pairing of Anthony Gerrard and Peter Clarke are akin to twin colossi and will sit deeper than any other in League One for almost every game. It helps diminish the lack of raw pace and speed on the turn the duo have and that is their only real combined weakness.

Oldham have a plethora of right-backs on the books but no senior specialist on the other flank, so expect neither Chris Kettings in goal nor Rob Hunt to be on the teamsheet on Saturday if things go to plan for Sheridan. On the right, Ryan McLaughlin is well-regarded at the club. Despite his lack of height, he can jump quite well and will rove up the flank to support Ryan Flynn on the overlap and provide crosses. He’s likely to be on set piece duties once more.

Another imposing figure in the XI is that of Ousmane Fané, who takes no prisoners. He stands tall, covers the not-inconsiderate gap in front of the centre backs with aplomb and can run towards either goalmouth all match long. Ollie Banks can comfortably perform any role in the middle and with Fané behind him, he will look to receive the ball from his Malian teammate and play reliably accurate balls to the front two.

Out wide, Tope Obadeyi could continue the mini-revival his career has undergone since donning the blue and red. His pace and athleticism have never been in question but it has been a case of trying to marry those to a more defined end product, which he has started to do. He will endeavour to keep the opposing full-back and nearest centre-back occupied, dragging the latter out of position with his agility and dribbling skills. Ryan Flynn will be slightly less direct but he’s no slouch either, adding a defensive dimension to his game and a remarkable ability to stay on his feet and maintain composure on the ball.

The underrated Aaron Amadi-Holloway will use his versatility to link up with the midfield and either Craig Davies or Courtney Duffus. Whilst no blisteringly quick, he has a knack of getting into good positions both horizontally and vertically on the pitch, which makes it difficult for his opposing number to keep close tabs on him. Being close to Davies will be essential to get the most out of the latter. It’s been a lean time for the former Scunthorpe target man but he still possesses all the traits required of the role and might relish being the focal point of the side. Additionally, he has a good record when taking penalties and can still oversee direct free-kicks if required.

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John Sheridan has got the best out of Craig Davies before at Chesterfield… but that was years ago now. Can he once more glean the best from the target man?

Predicted ‘Area’ of Finish: Safe but sorry. At the time of writing, Oldham are still chasing at least goalkeeper and a left-back. They will be hard-pressed to get anyone better than Connor Ripley as their #1, who was the outstanding shot-stopper in League One last term. Even without those additions, the greater confidence that everyone connected with the club has about 2017/2018 should be reflected in how they fare. Whilst unlikely to be quite so frugal in defence this time out, their pathetic goals haul should be overtaken with months to spare – Davies and Duffus will chip in more reliably than their predecessors. They will get in the faces once more of teams with more skillful individuals and upset many apple-carts. A mid-table finish or perhaps even higher is not outside the realms of possibility.

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