Record Last Season + Quick Summary:
League One - 21st (relegated); W 11 / D 17 / L 18 / F 58 / A 75 / Pts 50
A strange season for the ‘Proper’ Latics, which was arguably influenced more by events off the field than on it. Not unlike near neighbours Bury, financial uncertainty has dogged Oldham Athletic in recent times. The key difference though is that it was/is with the influence of former football agent, Abdallah Lemsagam, who helped to bring in plenty of overseas signings during the summer, back when frequent Boundary Park manager John Sheridan was still in post. In sharp contrast to 2016/2017, goals were much easier to come by, although it took until their sixth league game to even register a solitary point. The 5-1 reverse at Rotherham United was the (latest) death knell for Sheridan, and despite some players putting on extremely impressive displays, results were decidedly mixed.
Fortunes were more favourable upon Richie Wellens’ appointment after a successful caretaker stint, when he’d been unbeaten in five games. A last-gasp victory in the derby against the Shakers sent spirits soaring, but several key players’ form faltered from January onwards, which was also the same time as Lemsagam’s takeover was finally completed.
Things seemed to pick up again during the final weeks of winter; the comeback draw against Bury put the brakes on their rivals’ survival chances, but it also heralded a spell of just one win subsequent to that encounter. On the final day, they only needed all three points away at Northampton Town to preserve third tier status at the expense of their other East Lancashire neighbours, but it was Rochdale who prevailed through a certain Joey Thompson strike, completing his Hollywood-esque story and demoting Oldham from a league they had hitherto had named after them, such was the length of their stay in League One.
Early in the close season, a national newspaper article once again shone the spotlight on the financial situation, which was followed by a club statement by Lemsagam attempting to reassure supporters. With Wellens gone and Frankie Bunn in his place, it promises to be an eventful ride once more.
Top Goalscorer: Eoin Doyle (14 goals in 28 starts/2,580 minutes)
Top Creator: Jack Byrne (9 assists in 37 starts/3,274 minutes)
Manager/Head Coach: Frankie Bunn; father of Harry (still at neighbouring Bury at the time of writing), the former striker, who had a three-year spell at Oldham in the late 80s, has finally got a chance at management and the age of 55. He has spent the majority of the last decade in development roles, most notably in Huddersfield Town’s academy. Both the situation at the club and the manager himself are a bit of an unknown quantity, but I’m sure he’ll be looking to place emphasis on developing players with the view to selling them on for badly needed revenue.
Ins: Johan Branger-Engone (FC Dieppe), José Baxter (Everton U23s), Christopher Missilou (Le Puy Foot), Giles Coke (Chesterfield) & Sam Graham (Sheffield United U23s),
Outs: Kallum Mantack (free agent), Ollie Banks (Tranmere Rovers), Abdelhakim Omrani (free agent), Mason Fawns (free agent), Tope Obadeyi (free agent), Paul Green (Crewe Alexandra), Brian Wilson (free agent), Patrick McEleney (Dundalk), Craig Davies (Mansfield Town), Aaraon Amadi-Holloway (Shrewsbury Town) & Ryan McLaughlin (Blackpool).
Predicted First XI & Shape:
Tactics: To most fans’ relief, there is now genuine competition in goal and in the centre of defence. The flashy stylings of Johny Placide could now be usurped by Zeus de la Paz, who won’t take quite as many risks. Ahead of the Curaçaoan will be one of stalwart captain Anthony Gerrard or Peter Clarke. Both work very hard and are extremely combative… and slow. Thankfully, the rise of the likes of Tom Hamer and George Edmundson should ease those problems. The former is one to watch in the league, having had an impressive senior debut in April.
The current personnel in the squad seem to suit a 3-5-1-1, which also plays into the hands of Cameron Dummigan, who is at home anywhere on the right flank. Rob Hunt can play on either side and is a more conservative figure than his Northern Irish teammate.
If Bunn opts to play a holding midfielder, new signing Christopher Missilou will compete for the berth with Ousmane Fané, once the latter is back from injury. Fané’s height and physicality will make him an even bigger asset to his manager than he has been under previous régimes.
Giles Coke will be looking to kickstart his flagging career; he, like José Baxter, has barely had a game for a few years, but their abilities have never been questioned nearly as much as their attitudes. Coke has an excellent left foot and is a fine passer of the ball, especially when attempting low, threaded through balls in behind the defence. Jack Byrne will need to recapture the form he had before his loan spell from nearby Wigan Athletic was made permanent, and could find himself behind the more reliable Dan Gardner in the pecking order. The latter can operate anywhere across the width of the pitch and will be looking to increase his goal return.
Several recent departures from the club make Oldham look very thin on the ground up top. Courtney Duffus is out on loan at Waterford until November, where he has been in fine form. Baxter isn’t really suited to leading the line, so unless some more signings are made quickly, Jonathan Benteke could be that man. Younger brother of Christian, he will need to hit the ground running. He has good strength and aerial reach and should look to play in Baxter from second balls.
Predicted ‘Area’ of Finish: Mid-table mediocrity. It’s incredibly difficult to predict how this season will pan out. There are some talented players I haven’t mentioned above – the likes of Gevaro Nepomuceno chief amongst them. Bunn’s task will be to create a united dressing room, which encompasses a surprisingly high number of nationalities for a fourth tier outfit. Boundary Park should be the environment for Baxter to reinvigorate himself, and hopefully get the best out of Byrne once more. Goals are going to be a serious issue, unless two or more are drafted in to assist Benteke. Off the pitch matters cannot be totally ignored, either. Long-suffering supporters will be hoping for a semblance of stability at the very least. I think an immediate return to the ‘Oldham League’ is way beyond them at present, but I could just as easily be proven wrong.