Comment: ‘Same old, same Oldham’… another beginner takes charge at Latics

Having been marooned in the third tier of English football since the late 1990s, you would be forgiven for thinking that this weekend has been amongst the most eventful in Oldham Athletic’s recent history.

But you would be wrong.

A grand total of 18 managers have been and gone in that time, the latest being Darren Kelly who was dismissed on Saturday to become the sole casualty of The Latics’ underwhelming start to the season.

David Dunn has subsequently stepped into the fray as so-called ‘interim’ player/manager, following in chairman Simon Corney’s recent blueprint of appointing young ex-professionals cutting their managerial teeth at Boundary Park.

First, back in 2010, came Paul Dickov, before Lee Johnson spent two years in the dugout, ahead of current assistant manager Dean Holden being given his first experience at the back end of last season.

All three enjoyed mixed success, with Johnson providing fans with a glimpse of a long-awaited playoff chance before leaving for Barnsley as the end of the season approached.

Oldham subsequently fell away under Holden’s stewardship, and the start to this season has given dwindling crowds little to cheer for.

On the back of an unbeaten league start yielding one win and four draws, Kelly’s side lost three on the spin to render his position untenable.

While fans feel little animosity towards the Northern Irishman, it has been almost universally agreed that his appointment was a mistake – perceived as the latest in a long line made by the Oldham board.

The retired defender had no playing experience above League Two, coupled with no former first team coaching posts.

In short, the ex-development coach was – to put it lightly – a perplexing appointment by Simon Corney and co.

Just nine games into his tenure, the 36-year-old looked out of his depth and a 5-1 home defeat to Peterborough, who themselves are without a manager since the departure of Dave Robertson, was one gutless performance too far and saw Kelly out the door.

While the poor performances of the players themselves must not be forgotten amidst the debacle, they need – as is true in every industry – a leader they can respect and get behind.

In Dunn, who has 12 seasons of Premier League experience to his name and has been an esteemed senior member of the playing squad since a summer switch from Blackburn, Oldham may have found the man to turn their season around.

Nevertheless, the question of inexperience remains.

With no coaching badges to his name, Dunn’s appointment has the potential to be a catastrophe.

Furthermore, he has been one of Oldham’s standout performers on the pitch this season and will likely heavily reduce his own game time as he adapts to his new player/manager role.

It would be unfair and premature to say Athletic’s season is already in jeopardy, but Dunn – should he hold onto the job permanently – will need to shake his players into action sooner rather than later to stop the rot and keep the club in with a chance of finally breaking free of their League One shackles.

Suffice it to say, fan morale is low due to recent results, combined with the past year’s off-field turmoil, the latest of which involves the North Stand’s failure to open in time for the new season and increasing dissatisfaction with the board.

Attendances are falling, and positive results are needed to bring back fans who are spoilt for choice in the rich footballing area that is the North West.

Bemoaning poor treatment of Kelly by the board, fans have also been quick to suggest that Dunn was lined up as a fall-back replacement should the Kelly experiment fail.

With 39 League One fixtures remaining, there is plenty of time to turn things around, and the Latics faithful – and they are exactly that given the club’s unavoidable place in the shadow of Manchester giants City and United – need to remember that their support is desperately needed by those who take to the field rather than those who sit comfortably in the directors’ box.

Image courtesy of Oldham Athletic, via Youtube, with thanks.

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