D3D4 Oldham Athletic Correspondent Chris Stringer looks at a future without John Sheridan…
As Oldham make their way through their 21st consecutive season in League One, I think it’s fair to say that supporting Latics is rarely an easy task. After failed owners, administration in 2004 and stagnation since a failed playoff campaign in 2007 it has felt as if the very soul of the club has slowly melted away. It has been said before that some managers are made for certain clubs – Stockport County have Jim Gannon, Rochdale have Keith Hill – for Oldham it is John Sheridan. The ex-Latics midfielder led the club to the playoffs in 2007 and saved them from relegation twice in the past two seasons after inexperienced managers fell below expectations. To the majority of the Oldham faithful, the man is a hero.
Today we are met with the news that just 9 months into a 2-and-a-half-year contract, John Sheridan has left Oldham by mutual consent along with his assistant Tommy Wright. Coach Richie Wellens, along with Head of Youth Development Tony Philliskirk, are taking training today and are likely to be in charge for the match against Peterborough United tomorrow. It does feel as if Sheridan hasn’t fully had the freedom to build the squad he wanted to. Foreign trialists have descended upon the club with a number of them penning deals – these are unusual deals for Sheridan, who tends to prefer a mix of young domestic talent alongside League 1 journeymen. There are also rumours that the potential investor tried to force some players out during the transfer window. This combination has not made the job an easy one.
A veil is hanging over the club as due diligence takes place that will see investor Abdallah Lemsagam become majority shareholder. It appears the businessman has not seen eye to eye with Sheridan and is keen on bringing in his own man – Walter Zenga and Pablo Correa have already been linked to the job. The recent poor results give him just the opportunity to make a change. The new foreign players also appear to have links the Lemsagam, who until recently was listed as owner of football agency Sport2JLT. The man from Morocco certainly appears to be wanting to take a hands-on approach.
Undoubtedly there is a lot of change at Boundary Park. After years of stagnation there is certainly a desperate need for change – particularly investment. The reaction of the fans, however, says it all. The disappointment at losing a widely loved manager is symptomatic of a feeling that the club is losing its identity. No one would argue that 4 points from 9 games is a good return. Similarly, no one would argue that a 5-1 loss to Rotherham is positive. What fans would argue is that Sheridan has faced an upward battle ever since the talk of investment began – there has certainly been a strain placed upon his players and indeed upon himself.
For Oldham fans, it is imperative the club do not drop a division. The gates are already 3000 lower than they were 10 years ago and after seeing rivals Stockport and Tranmere drop into non-league there is a genuine fear the same could happen to Oldham, bringing with it even lower crowds and severe financial difficulty. Be it Zenga, Correa or someone else it is going to be a difficult task for anyone to win over the dressing room and, more importantly, the fans as a storm continues encircle the Lancashire club.
words Chris Stringer, D3D4 Oldham Athletic Correspondent