Oldham Athletic, meeting the opposition.

Oldham Athletic, meeting the opposition.

With two games left of their League Two season and a frustrated Micky Mellon giving his verdict on his team in press conferences, Rovers’ campaign has fizzled out with their away performances and results both being a great reason for their lack of success.

In terms of the away form rankings, in comparison to other teams that Tranmere share the fourth division with, Mellon’s team come 17th. However, their home form sees them placed second – Exeter City sit first – and up next is a game against Oldham Athletic as John Sheridan’s Oldham Athletic travel to Merseyside.

Given that Oldham’s fate has been sealed, they will be playing National League football come August, it’s hard to predict how the ninety minutes will pan out. Paddy Harwood gave me his thoughts on all things Latics ahead of the upcoming encounter. 

With only a couple of games to go until the season ends, Oldham Athletic’s fate has been confirmed as they will play in the National League next season. How would you assess the way this season has gone for the Latics and what would you say are the reasons behind the struggle? How low is the relegation to the National League in comparison to other low experiences you’ve felt following the club? 

The season has been an absolute disaster from start to finish. We began the season with a fella from Geordie Shore playing on his own up front and it has got worse from that point! The main reason behind the season of struggle is the owners. They took out an EFL loan last summer, which meant the club were under an embargo and could only sign players on one year deals and for 800 quid a week. The owners’ brother is our Sporting Director and is heavily involved in the recruitment of players and the recruitment of players, to put it mildly, has been dreadful. We have also gone through three managers this season, two of whom were absolutely rubbish (Curle and Benachour). The recent run of 10 defeats in 12 games hasn’t helped matters either, especially when Barrow and Stevenage started to pick up points. Being relegated to the National League is an all time low for the football club. All season, I have thought we would pull a couple of wins out and get clear of the drop zone. I think the penny finally dropped for me when Piergianni was sent off against Northampton. We lost the game, Barrow and Stevenage won and we were going to be without our captain for three games against the likes of Jamile Matt and Matt Smith. Come August, I’ll have had the “pleasure” of watching Oldham in the Premier League all the way down to the Conference.

John Sheridan was appointed manager in late January for his sixth stint in charge. How would you describe his time at the club so far this year and what is his relationship with the fanbase currently like? 

His time at the club hasn’t gone so well this time. We did have a mini run of 3 wins and 4 draws when he first came in but we have recently lost 10 games in 12 and he has not been able to turn it around like I thought he could. His relationship with the fanbase is still as good as ever – for anyone under the age of 30, he is probably the greatest legend they have seen at the club. He is just about to sign a deal to stay on as manager for next season too. I’m not convinced that he is the man to build a side to try and get out of the National League, but the board reckon it will appease fans and boost Season Ticket sales… I think they’re in for a shock!

It has been reported that Oldham owner Abdallah Lemsagam is willing to sell. Have there been any further developments on this in terms of preferred bidders and if Lemsagam is to stay, do you think he could ever repair his relationship with the club’s fanbase? 

One thing we have learnt over the last 4 years is to never believe a word that Abdallah Lemsagam says. They put out a statement on Monday to say that they are still talking to bidders, but all bidders have signed a non-disclosure agreement. The relationship between Abdallah/Mohamed and the fanbase is irreparable. He doesn’t like us and we certainly do not like him. If he is still at the club next season, you can expect gates of less than 1000 against the likes of Bromley and Solihull Moors!

Who would you say your side’s key players are? 

Davis Keillor-Dunn has scored a few goals this season, but he is largely rubbish. Dylan Bahamboula might fancy it if the sun is out, but he has been missing since August. The captain, Carl Piergianni, is out through suspension so if your lot have anything about them, they’ll be lumping it up to a front man to win everything in the air against our makeshift backline of (probably) Harrison McGahey, who is at least a stone overweight and Kyle Jameson, who we signed after being released from Fylde and is usually good value for either an own goal or giving a penalty away.

How do you see the upcoming ninety minutes panning out? What is your score prediction? 

Hopefully with a partisan away crowd letting the Oldham players know exactly what they think about the “performances” they have put in this season. Oldham will probably win now that the games are unimportant, which just about sums that shower up.

What is Sheridan’s preferred playing style and who do you believe will be selected in the starting eleven? 

It has been quite direct this season and been a case of getting balls into the box. The problem is that we get balls into the box but there is no striker there to head it into the net! Our lineup will probably be Danny Rogers, Jordan Clarke, McGahey, Jameson, Hart, Missilou, Whelan, Adams, Keillor-Dunn, Stobbs and Luamba. Although I’m sure most Latics fans would like to see Harry Vaughan in the side, he is a decent young player and has been linked with moves away but Sheridan has kept him out of the side whilst we were in the relegation scrap as he wanted to go with more experienced players.

What are your thoughts on Tranmere this season? At time of writing, they sit just outside the play-offs but they’d be much further up the table if their away form wasn’t as damaging. Who would you say Rovers’ key players are? 

The only player I’m really aware of at Tranmere these days is Peter Clarke, who will always be remembered fondly by Oldham fans. He was also one of the first people to be stitched up by our owner and his brother! Looks like you are probably going to miss out this season. 4 points is a lot to claw back with only two games remaining.

What moments/goals/experiences stand out for you in previous Tranmere v Oldham matches? 

We used to have quite a good rivalry with Tranmere in our League One days. I remember Clint Hill playing and scoring for us against Tranmere in 2002, although the one that stands out for me is a game at Prenton Park in 2007. Oldham won 1-0 with a Craig Davies header in the 96th minute. I used to love our rivalry with Ronnie Moore and he was always a good pantomime villain whenever we played each other, most notably in 2009 when Joe Royle returned as Oldham manager and you beat us 2-0. I think his son scored in that game.

Finally, touching on the January recruitment and the upcoming summer. Would you say any of the three winter signings have been relatively influential and what business would you like the club to look at completing in the upcoming months? 

We only made three winter signings anyway. One of them (Christopher Missilou) has been alright at best, Tope Obadeyi played well on his debut but has either been injured or rubbish since (including one of the worst individual performances I have ever seen against Northampton on Good Friday) and Mike Fondop came in, got concussed, returned in a game at Newport, scored twice and tore his calf. He’s never been seen since. As for the summer, it needs a complete overhaul. I would happily see every single player on our books released, not one of them are worth keeping. A priority for the National League is probably a big donkey to play up front and two bulldozing centre halves, a bit like you had with McNulty a couple of years ago. It is going to be an interesting summer to say the least.

Tranmere’s League Two season, in terms of the games they play at Prenton Park, comes to an end on Saturday afternoon and it’s not a campaign that many will look back on too fondly. However, fans do have a few glimmers of hope in the form of their exciting standout players with Elliott Nevitt and Lee O’Connor being two that have shone across the last year, namely.

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