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[FM21] - Rejuvenating the Most Depressing Team to Follow in Recent History


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Having failed to finish in the top half of a league table in any of the last eleven seasons, Oldham Athletic are arguably the most depressing team to have followed in recent history. Whilst other teams may have also suffered relegation (Oldham were relegated to League Two in 2018), you would be hard pressed to find another team devoid of any highlights in recent memory. No promotions, no Play-Offs and no cup successes. Not one solitary season of achievement, just continuous under-performance and disappointment for their fans.

Oldham Athletic: 10 Years of Misery

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Oldham won the Championship in 1991 (the last time the club lifted a trophy), meaning they were inaugural members of the newly founded Premier League. They survived for two seasons, before being relegated in 1993/94. The Greater Manchester club did not last long at this level, falling down to League One after just three seasons. Twenty one long seasons in the third tier of English football followed, before they eventually fell through the trapdoor to the bottom division of the EFL. It is fair to say the club has been on a continuous downward trajectory for the last thirty years.

Mismanagement and a Lack of Transparency

With such poor performances on the pitch, it will hardly surprise you that there have been a number of issues behind the scenes at Oldham.

There have been 14 different managerial changes in just the last five years, highlighting an extreme lack of stability and consistency. None of the managers during this period have managed more than 40 games in charge, with the shortest tenure grabbing the most headlines; Paul Scholes lasted just 31 days and seven games before leaving his hometown club. The quality of many of the managerial appointments has been below what was required, but clearly none of them really had long enough to make their mark on the club.

Moroccan football agent Abdallah Lemsagam took ownership of Oldham Athletic in January 2018, the season that saw them relegated to League Two. Clearly the clubs troubles started before his arrival – former owner Chris Moore placed the club into administration in 2001 and Simon Corney, Simon Blitz and Danny Gazal did little more than sell the land around the stadium during their tenure, after initially saving the club from the going out of business – but Lemsagam’s ownership has been particularly controversial.

Lemsagam’s first two seasons in control saw the club primarily recruit foreign players with no prior experience of English football, with a particular focus on signings from the French lower leagues. Although not the most logical approach, this recruitment strategy could be deemed acceptable but the questionable element is the links between the signings and Lemsagam, and his brother Mo (also a former football agent and now club sporting director), many of whom appeared to be clients or former clients of the pair. This asks the question, are decisions being made in the best interests of the club or in the interest of Lemsagam’s wider business relationships?

Further issues have included the failure to pay players on time, a winding up order from HMRC, only this year, and the allegations that the owner has attempted to influence match day team selections – this was certainly strongly hinted at by Scholes in his comments after leaving the club. To summarise the state of the club, it was reported that at one point in 2019 bailiffs arrived at the ground and took out a gas supply from the main stand. As a result, staff were unable to dry the kit. Players took kit home to wash and the rest went to a launderette.

125 Year Club Anniversary

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This season marks a landmark occasion for the club as they celebrate 125 years of existence. With the club looking more likely to fall out of the English Football League than to get its act together and move back up the league, it feels like the right time for me to take on the challenge of turning things around for Oldham.

I am under no illusions that this will be quite the challenge.

The owner expects a top half finish for the first time in, what will be, twelve years with the added expectation that we play both attacking and entertaining football. This is a somewhat ambitious target, evidenced by the fact the club are currently 17th IRL at the time of writing this.

The squad have universally low morale and there is no transfer budget at all to utilise, but I am ready to put my managerial skills to the test by looking to turn Oldham into a successful club and putting smiles back on the faces of their long suffering fans at Boundary Park.

Edited by Dong21
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After being part of the forums for over 13 years I wanted to document one of my saves in the FMCU for the first time. Over the last few years I have been a regular contributor to the excellent EFL threads in the Good Player & Team Guide section, but this year I wanted to go into a bit more detail, especially as I always end up taking on long-term challenges anyway.
 

I have a history of resurrecting troubled clubs, taking on a long-term save as Charlton Athletic on FM19 and with my main save of FM20 seeing me take Bolton Wanderers from bottom of League One with their points deduction, to mid-table in the Premier League after six seasons. I have chosen Oldham as, along with the challenge it presents, I have a personal connection to them being the town my dad was born and where many of my extended family still live (my parents were even in the crowd at Boundary Park for the game they were promoted to the Premier League!). I’m hoping that members of the FMCU community take an interest in the save updates and join the conversation to make this an interactive experience!

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Thanks everyone for your kind comments and welcome to the FMCU community! Looking forward to getting stuck into this challenge and sharing the story with you all.

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@Dong21 You can be sure I will be following, having just seen this!

Great intro, nice graphics and it's already well known your writing style, detail and analysis always make for an enjoyable read. Your personal connections and reasons make it a perfect club to take on for their 125th anniversary year too.

Oldham, as you know, was the last team I managed on FM20, with virtually the 2020/21 squad via an update file. I just missed out on the play-offs, so I am intrigued to see what you do with them!

Good luck.

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5 hours ago, Peter G said:

I feel like we could challenge based on the last few years.

I was wondering which team would be the first to make a rival claim for the title of most depressing to follow :lol: At least you had a promotion and a few top ten finishes in the last ten years!

5 hours ago, Jogo Bonito said:

I just missed out on the play-offs, so I am intrigued to see what you do with them!

You've set the bar high for me mate!

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11 minutes ago, Dong21 said:

You've set the bar high for me mate!

I wouldn't go that far, I didn't even escape League 2! You'll do a grand job and take them much higher than I did - there are no boundaries to what you can do with them on the park!

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One of the most peculiar recent stories coming out of Oldham Athletic has been the treatment of last season's captain, David Wheater. The centre back, who possesses a great deal of Championship and Premier League experience, has been frozen out of first team action despite stating his desire to play for the club. 

On the eve of the 2020/21 season Oldham released a brief statement announcing that Wheater, along with goalkeeper Gary Woods, would not be playing for the first team this season. Woods was swiftly sent on loan to Aberdeen, whereas Wheater has remained in exile, forced to train with the youth team. Wheater was stripped of the club captaincy and replaced by Carl Piergianni. Rumours swirled suggesting that Wheater had refused to go on furlough, however the former Bolton legend was quick to clarify on Twitter that he had accepted furlough but had refused an additional significant pay cut. The fans quickly took Wheater's side when it became apparent it was a petty decision made by the owner of the club to punish one of their most important players for refusing to comply with his wishes. It is clear that his treatment has been an attempt to make him cancel his contract. Wheater is the club's highest earner on £3.5k per week, but has every right to see his contract honoured.  The Latics fans soon began the social media campaign #FreeWheatz.

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In early November the club released a bizarre update that completely contradicted their previous statement which said they were choosing not to select Wheater. The update listed a number of reasons why in fact Wheater had not been selected to play, with the comedic highlight being a reference to an injury sustained lifting his dog.

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Wheater quickly responded to this club statement, tweeting "Sounds like I’m free to play then cos I’ll be fit in a few days.” Nearly a month has passed, and Wheater has continued to not be selected for match day squads.

Starting with a Clean Slate

My first action as Oldham manager was to return David Wheater to the first team squad and once again appoint him as club captain, returning Piergianni to his prior role as vice-captain. Wheater is the best centre-back at the club, possesses great mental attributes and big-game experience, and therefore I see him as a real asset for the campaign ahead. At 33 years old he has little-to-no resale value so there would be nothing to gain in trying to force him out of the club.

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When Gary Woods' loan with Aberdeen ends at the start of January he will also be welcomed back into the fold.

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With the ink barely dry on my Oldham Athletic contract, it was time to get to work on analysing the squad available to me. With a non-existent transfer budget and an available wage budget of only £2k p/w (much of which will likely be used on staff appointments - more on that to follow) this season will likely see me having to primarily use the resources that are already available to me. It is therefore imperative for me to have a good understanding of the capability of the players at the club.

The club has no under-23s side and only has 10 players in its under-18s, so I will analyse all the players at the club in totality.

Goalkeepers

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The weakest area in the squad is between the sticks, with our best goalkeeper out on loan. Lawlor has just about enough quality to cover until Woods returns in January. Budget constraints considered, it doesn't seem sensible to get another 'keeper in to fix this short-term issue, but if an opportunity arises I will certainly explore it. If anything happens to Lawlor, we are in trouble, as Bilboe lacks quality. Youngster Chapman is raw but appears to have a decent amount of potential.

Centre Backs

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This is the area of our squad where we have the most depth. Wheater, Piergianni, Jombati and Clarke are four of the best players at the club. With this in mind, I have made the decision to play three at the back, supported by wing backs. I am fairly confident that any combination of these four CBs will provide a good level of cover in front of my goalkeeper. Playing a back three, I will likely keep Jameson around as cover, but if we end up switching to a back four then I will look to loan him out. Baker has the best potential out of all my U18s.

Full Backs

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Borthwick-Jackson has pedigree, having been recently released by Man United. His crossing, pace and acceleration make him perfect for the wing back role I intend to play him. There is a big drop off in quality if CBJ is unavailable. Badan is listed as a left midfielder, but I see him more as full back cover. He doesn't offer much at all defensively but does have pace. With three experienced defenders behind him, I am hoping we won't be left too exposed if I have to feature him. Winger Fage similarly has the ability to fill in at left full back if required. Barnett is a poor player who does not have the right attributes to play wing back.

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Recent signing Diarra (I'm glad I waited for the full version of the game before starting this save!) provides a lot of quality at right back. Not a wing back by trade (he is not a crosser), he will be asked to play a more defensive roll than his counterpart CBJ. Diarra can also provide cover at CB if needed (unlikely). Hamer is a capable back up - this is one of the few positions where I have a good level of cover. One of the few players who hasn't just recently joined the club and has resale value, I may be tempted to cash in on the homegrown player to invest the funds in the squad. If this happens, a replacement will be needed.

Central Midfielders

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After the goalkeeping position, this is the next biggest area of concern that I have identified. McCalmont is a classy player who is well rated by fans of his club, Leeds. Besides McCalmont though, there is very little quality. Currently the role will be contested between Whelan and Garrity, with Ntambwe providing an option if I need something a bit more defensive. This will be the area I will be trying hardest to recruit in.

Attacking Midfielders

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Following my initial assessment of the squad, my intention is to play with a 5-2-3 WB Wide formation, whilst also training 5-2-1-2 DM AM Wide as an alternative (this plan may well change over pre-season, but this is the starting point). One of the reasons I have settled on this approach is the depth of options I have in terms of wingers and inverted wingers. For my secondary tactic, many of these players have the flexibility to operate behind strikers.

The squad's key men appear to be Conor McAleney and Dylan Bahamboula. McAleney can operate as either a right-sided inside forward or up front as an advanced forward. He has good dribbling, finishing and technique attributes. Bahamboula has great physical attributes, but perhaps most exciting is his combination of flair and dribbling. If he has consistency and end product, he could be a real asset to the team.

Dearnley, Keillor-Dunn and Fage all look handy options, in what will be a season of many fixtures. Grant looks fairly unimpressive. Three clubs are interested in Fage, so like with Hamer I am considering a sale for the greater good of the club. You can only include five loanees in a match day squad (we have five on loan currently) and I am already considering sacrificing Grant if I can find someone else of quality to take on loan.

Strikers

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Danny Rowe is a non-league sensation, his scoring exploits at Fylde have been very impressive. He is yet to prove whether he can cut it in the EFL, and this season is his opportunity to do so. A great finisher, but limited physically, I will likely play him in his desired role as a poacher. Blackwood was a pet project of my predecessor, and his Aussie compatriot, Harry Kewell who signed him from A-League side Adelaide United. He will get his opportunities to impress. McAleney and Dearnley are both capable of playing up top, but with only two out-and-out strikers we are perhaps a little light in this position. I will mull over whether I need to stretch the budget to try and get another body in.

Contracts

The majority of the squad are on one year contracts, which suits me as it provides me the flexibility to make changes if I desire next season. The seven players who are on two year deals are some of my better players, and are all young enough to be developed. None of the seven have inordinate wages that will present a problem for me. Given their ages, my two highest earners Wheater (33) and Rowe (31) may well depart after their contracts end - unless, of course, they perform outstandingly.

In my opening post, I wrote about how the owner Lemsagam had pursued a policy of recruiting foreign, unknown and sometimes journeyman-like players when he arrived at the club. Just prior to my arrival he appears to have taken some of the vocal fan criticism on board having recruited primarily young English players. This gives me a much more mouldable starting base than if I took over the season prior. That said, the squad was clearly put together on a budget, padded out with players signed because they were cheap rather than because they would add value to the team.

We have great defensive depth and have players of real quality on the wings. Our areas of concern are a lack of quality in goal and the centre of midfield. Overall, I am fairly happy with the squad. I hope to develop the younger players over time and add to the squad with acquisitions, where financially viable.

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Whichever club I manage, the first thing I do is assess the staff and consider whether there are ways I can make improvements. Having the right personnel influences so much of what is important to a manager, from identifying transfer targets to developing the players at club, so it make sense to dedicate a good amount of focus to this area. Even on a tight budget, there are usually options readily available that are better than what you already have. For me, staffing really does matter.

Assessing the staff at the club upon my arrival, I found that the quality was extremely poor. My faith in them was that low that I concluded that keeping them around would actively be to the detriment of the club. I agreed the mutual termination of 11 contracted staff. This cost £290k in total, a decision that didn't weigh easy on me but in the end I decided the short-term pain was worth it for long-term gain. The only staff I retained were my assistant manager, U18s manager and a physio, who I determined were serviceable but will be revisited further down the road.

Effectively now starting with a blank canvas, here are the appointments I made:

Scouting & Transfers Team

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Director of Football is an essential role, as I turn to the DOF for transfer target suggestions to complement my own scouting, an important function when you are a small club with limited scouting resource. It was therefore important to me to find someone with good judgement of ability and potential. I turned to John Ward, a man with a rich managerial history. I noticed that he also had good coaching attributes and saw this as a great opportunity to take advantage of the ability to offer dual roles (new to FM21). I was delighted when he agreed to be both my DOF and coach. Even better, this didn't take up one of the three slots in my coaching team.

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Ronny Rosenthal had a prestigious playing career and I'm hoping my new Chief Scout is able to identify players with the same attributes that took him to the upper echelons of the game. His Judging Player Ability and Judging Player Potential attributes are very good for League Two, and he had surprisingly very low wage demands.

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Rosenthal is joined by another man with great experience at the top of the game, Valencia-icon and former Spain international Vicente. Again, I couldn't believe my luck when negotiating his wages.

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The final appointment to the scouting team was the experienced Belgian Edwin Vandenbergh. Once again, he has great stats and is inexpensive. A club of Oldham's stature perhaps could survive without such a complete team but the low wage cost made it possible. Vandenbergh has a wide ranging awareness, which is complemented by the other members of the team's global expertise.

I also hired a recruitment analyst Simeon Tuohy (Analysing Data 12, Judging Player Ability 10).

This recruitment team should help us discover some gems that will help me achieve my ambitious goals for the club.

Medical Team

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Keeping key players fit at this level is very important as squad depth is generally lacking. I see the hire of Matt Brown as somewhat of a coup considering his expertise in physiotherapy. Hopefully a game changer for the season ahead.

Coaching Team

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Alongside the club's physios, fitness coaches play an important role in making sure the best players are consistently available to the manager. Stuart Vance arrived as a big upgrade on his predecessor, who had a fitness attribute of 4.

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When looking at the options for goalkeeping coaches, there were other options with higher attributes for one of the three 'keeper coaching categories, but I wanted the option with the best average of the three. As Stuart Vance is the only person at the entire club covering this area it is important to me he is capable in coaching distribution, handling and shot stopping.

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Belgian Danny Boffin is lacking in motivation and discipline but his coaching attributes were too exciting to ignore. If we are successful and move up the divisions I will look for coaching specialism but at the moment, having someone who is well versed in a diverse range of coaching areas is a real asset.

I also hired Head Performance Analyst James Ryder (Analysing Data 12, Tactical Knowledge 13) and Performance Analyst (Analysing Data 6).

I elected not to replace the club's Loan Manager or Technical Director as they both fulfil duties that I am more than happy to complete myself. I wish I had selected 'do not add fake staff' when setting up the game save, it would have saved me some money in compensation!

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1 hour ago, Dong21 said:

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Whichever club I manage, the first thing I do is assess the staff and consider whether there are ways I can make improvements. Having the right personnel influences so much of what is important to a manager, from identifying transfer targets to developing the players at club, so it make sense to dedicate a good amount of focus to this area. Even on a tight budget, there are usually options readily available that are better than what you already have. For me, staffing really does matter.

I do exactly the same. Whilst not a fan of signing & hiring the same staff at my numerous EFL clubs, I have to admit that I nearly always employ John Ward as he can do a number of jobs very well at this level. I also signed physio Matt Brown at my current club. I really salute you for finding Ronny Rosenthal, I have never seen his name come up as FM staff and I like that lot. 

Given that you have slated (quite rightly) the owners global transfer policy, I wonder what will happen for you with these Belgian, Israeli and Spanish scouts. By the way, they have some ex-players that you can look up for staff positions as you progress. And on the playing front, I really want you to follow my 'Two Danny Rowes' idea if you get the chance :lol:

Best of luck, I'm really going to enjoy your save with Oldham. 

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Thanks Jogo!

21 minutes ago, Jogo Bonito said:

Given that you have slated (quite rightly) the owners global transfer policy, I wonder what will happen for you with these Belgian, Israeli and Spanish scouts. By the way, they have some ex-players that you can look up for staff positions as you progress. And on the playing front, I really want you to follow my 'Two Danny Rowes' idea if you get the chance 

I think a sprinkle of continental gems will add to the squad, it is when that is entirely the transfer strategy when it becomes an issue! My transfer business is almost complete (update incoming) and I have primarily signed British players. I actually looked into signing the 'other' Danny Rowe (I knew you would approve!) but he, rightly, prioritised an offer from Austin FC and departed for the MLS.

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I'm really interested to see what you end up with. There are so many free agents worth looking at in FM21 due to the world situation, it makes a long starting process even longer! Shame about Danny Rowe but I think he made the right move!

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@Jogo Bonito I forgot to mention earlier, I tried to get Ex-Latics player Andy Liddell to be my fitness coach but his wage demands were out of my budget. I tried to barter him down but he ended up walking away. Let me know if you know any other former Oldham players who could add value to the coaching staff? I've now filled all available roles, but useful for deeper into the save.

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Shame about Liddell, would have been nice. 

Not sure how many of these are in FM21 but Frankie Bunn, Neil Redfearn, Andy Rhodes, Andy Goram, Willie Donachie, Andy Barlow and Tommy Wright would be popular with the fans. And keep an eye on Joe Royle, who has now become active again after leaving his role as Director at Wigan. Unfortunately he is now back at Everton as a scout though, so that would be unlikely to be possible.

By the way, I just signed the other Danny Rowe (League 2, £1900 per week).

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On the eve of the new season, I have wrapped up my transfer dealings. There are still five weeks still to go in the transfer window, caused by the unusual calendar resulting from the pandemic stricken prior season. So there is still the chance that something could arise, but at present I see my transfer work as done. Before I dive into introducing my new signings, I want to touch upon something I find invaluable when it comes to recruitment...

Trialists

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When managing in the lower leagues I always take a wide selection of free agents that I am interested in on trial. I find this to be helpful for a variety of reasons; Firstly, it allows me to scout these players in an effective manner. As soon as a trialist arrives you have your assistants report and review of their ability. In contrast, scouting a player not at the club can take a couple of days, and by then the player could have already have joined another club. Secondly, you get a real opportunity to 'try before you buy' by playing them in pre-season fixtures and monitoring how they perform. Many players look good on paper, but can turn out not to suit your system. It is also a good way to weed out injury prone players - I always take players on trial for four weeks, and if they get injured during that time then I take that as a sign of things to come and often don't pursue.

Thirdly, it is great for planning and cash-flow management. Sometimes when you are operating with an extremely tight budget, it is like a game of chess balancing incoming and outgoing funds. By having players on trial you almost have a foot in the door with negotiations without committing the funds to a bid until the moment is right (often after a player sale and you can hit go on deals). Having them on trial, in the squad and playing friendlies, they remain front of mind in your plans, which can stop you over-committing. Finally, I have found over the years that this is an extremely effective way to save money. When a player joins the club on trial their wage demands fall. I've also found that if they stay at the club for a few weeks, their wage demands can begin to fall further. I assume that as they begin to develop a relationship with the players and myself, the appeal of staying permanently grows.

Above is a snapshot of a selection of trialists that I had at the club at one point during pre-season. There were others too. The players highlighted are the ones I ended up signing - demonstrating that it wasn't a high proportion that made the cut. Observing the players at close range allowed me to eliminate many of them from my recruitment process, for a mix of reasons.

My signings were predominantly free agents, with a smattering of loans. This is because there was no transfer budget, but even if I had one I would only look to the free agent list as there is such a depth of options that it just does not make sense to consider buying players. In 2020 there are more quality players without clubs than ever before. So, who did I bring to Boundary Park?

Goalkeeper

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I mentioned in my squad assessment that the goalkeeping position was one of the weakest areas, but that I would only move for a 'keeper if the deal was right as exiled Gary Woods would soon be returning from loan in January. Experienced Ben Alnwick was available on a free and was a big improvement on current incumbent Lawlor. When Woods returns I can terminate Lawlor's loan and Alnwick and Woods can fight it out for the number one spot. The signing of Alnwick is a good example of the economic benefits of bringing players in on trial. Approaching him before joining the club he wanted £2k p/w, when on trial this dropped to £1k p/w and I was able to negotiate him down to £800 p/w. 

Somewhat disappointingly you can see that his attributes have already started to decline in a short period of time, and he has fallen from a 3.5 star player to a 3 star player. He is still the best goalkeeper at the club and I am sure will do a fine job. 'Keepers usually play into their mid-to-late 30s, hence the surprise that this has happened to him having just turned 33.

Full Back

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I took the difficult decision to sell the club's only homegrown player, Tom Hamer, to Peterborough for £55k. There is no longer a requirement to include a player homegrown at club in an EFL match day squad so this was no longer a consideration. Player development purists may bemoan me for selling a graduate of the club's academy who had potential to develop, but I simply have to balance the books. The transfer fee for Hamer has allowed me to invest in a number of other positions across the pitch, which should hopefully assist us in achieving our long-term goals.

Hamer was not first choice RB anyway, that is Diarra. Hamer was a solid RB, however I am playing a back five with wing backs. His replacement, and understudy to Diarra, is a pure wing back. Ex-Arsenal graduate Tafari Moore was signed primarily for his positional preference and athletic nature.

Jordan Barnett is a poor quality player. I loaned him out to Maidstone as I have no intention of playing him before his contract expires in January.

Centre Back

With a dearth of options at centre-back, I loaned out 17 year old high potential prospect Drew Baker to Gateshead to continue his development.

Central Midfield

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You will recall that I only had one central midfielder of any quality (McCalmont) and this was my main focus area for the transfer window. After a few weeks on trial I managed to save up the funds to bring in classy French operator Diaguely Dabo on a free. I'm sure the Oldham fans were slightly worried the 'French Lads' transfer strategy was returning to the club, but they would have been relieved to see the former Stevenage man was the only man who fit the owner's former recruitment criteria.

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Man Utd's Ethan Galbraith has rightly had an attributes upgrade from FM20 and I feel privileged to be able to get him on loan for the season. The best part? United didn't want a penny. The only downside is that as a Northern Ireland full international he will sometimes miss games for us - for example, the first two games of the season.

Carruthers.thumb.png.cc69d557944c7939b7ce0564f069f122.png

I now have a pool of four quality centre mids as I was also to get former Sheff Utd player Samir Carruthers in on another bargain of a contract. The versatile Irishman can also play AM, which is handy for when we switch to our alternate 5-2-1-2 formation.

I terminated the loans of Ben Garrity and Bobby Grant once I had secured these superior options. I probably have a few too many CMs still but it is very difficult to shift players who have only just joined the club (which applies to all of the squads) - I will address this in January.

Attacking Midfielders

Along with Hamer, the other player in my squad where there was transfer interest was Dylan Fage. He wasn't in my strongest eleven, and in fact wouldn't even make the bench, so I decided to cash in here too. Many clubs were interested, but it was moneybags Peterborough (again) who sealed the day, signing the young Frenchman for £51k.

1925524978_Soumar.thumb.png.305232a747c7d30202bb9455bba4a04c.png

After the two player sales I had a little more budget, so decided I would look to strengthen my wing options. I offered a few contracts and lost out to other clubs, but in the end I was successful recruiting Mohamed Soumaré. This could potentially be considered an extravagant signing as he probably doesn't trump my star wingers Bahamboula and McAleny - you can never have too much quality though and free agents often have good resale value, if they are the right side of 30.

Strikers

Richards.thumb.png.3bdfb57a24e8f508e48dfa73a6f9810e.png

I only had two strikers at the club, but did have wingers who were capable there, so was tentatively exploring the option of recruiting here but with not pressing urgency. I took a few strikers on trial but none impressed. When reviewing the loan market I discovered Rodel Richards at Spurs was only on £350 p/w wages and therefore would be an absolute bargain. My scout quickly confirmed he would be the best forward at the club and the deal was done.

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Managing EFL clubs at this level often brings up the same names on different saves (e.g. Moore), but I've only ever signed one of those (Richards for Grimsby - he did well IIRC). The Frenchman doesn't look too bad, neither does MoSo. The removal of the HGC rule is really helpful this year (although Hamer may not think so). The allowance of five subs from seven will also be useful. Best of luck for the new season.

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10 hours ago, Bigpole said:

few english free agents for you to look - Matt O'riley (AMC), Richard Nartey (DC), Nathan Tormey (AML/AMR), Andre Green (AML/ST)

Thanks for the suggestions, three of these players are a little out of my league at the moment unfortunately. They wouldn't entertain dropping to League 2 and even if they did, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to afford them sadly. Matt O'Riley ended up at Blackburn (I had a fun save with Fulham a few years in which he developed into a great player), Andre Green is at Barnsley and Richard Nartey is at FC Nurnberg. Tormey remains available as a free agent so I'll take him on trial and have a look at him - I may already have enough wingers but if he impresses and doesn't want too much money, I may well bring him in.

EDIT - Moments after I post this, Tormey rejects my trial offer as he has agreed to join League One's Rochdale instead. Alas, it wasn't to be!

3 hours ago, karanhsingh said:

Vanderbergh is definitely an FM favorite :lol: can do a job both as coach and scout too.

Yes I think I had him at Charlton on FM19 and Bolton in FM20 :lol: Good point about his coaching attributes, perhaps I should have offered him a dual role like I did with John Ward...

7 hours ago, AllyJoseph said:

I came here ready to argue with you if you hadn't started as Bolton from your title...then I saw you were starting as Oldham and now I just want to apologise.

:lol::applause:

Thanks @Jogo Bonito & @abulezz :)

Edited by Dong21
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1692950194_OldhamTemplateBanner-Post7.jpg.ea30c819b0b6d2fec804caef3963da61.jpg

 Having assessed the strengths and weaknesses of my squad of players, I had a pretty good idea of the formation and system I would utilise to get the best out of them. For each of my transfers I carefully considered whether the new player would compliment my desired system. Pre-season was the time to experiment and make tweaks to the tactic. Going into the season the tactics I have settled upon are as such:

664499682_TacticA.png.c9d42dbd6dc856cbbdce16e2b145dea1.png

Our strongest pools of players are our centre backs, our wingers and (following the transfer window) our central midfielders. This set-up, I hope, plays to all of these strengths. Our mentality will generally be positive, in part to satisfy the demands of the owner, but our style will be built around the principles of counter attacking, in particular quick transitions.

You will note that the tactic includes a desire to play for set pieces. With three big centre backs in the team, this appears to be a competitive advantage we should capitilise upon. I have taken time to design attacking corner routines that will hopefully pay dividends during the season.

Our alternative tactic, also practiced during pre-season is as follows:

1056845813_TacticB.png.7016af52bc6b0e95a81ca231d33da7e7.png

With the same back 5 and midfield 2, it is not far removed from our first choice approach. They key difference is a move away from wingers, and forwards cutting in, to adding another striker in the centre. This approach will see us employ more direct passing and will rely on both wing backs covering a lot of ground on the flanks.

We also have practiced a third formation 4-2-3-1, so that if a more significant shift in approach is needed we have something we are familiar with. For now though, I don't intend to use that much.

Pre-Season Friendlies

Pre-Season.png.fc85997b2754b1c1fd87697e60423f32.png

The results are not essential for me during pre-season, it is more about building fitness, tactical familiarity and team cohesion. That said, morale is also a significant factor. When I joined Oldham the player's morale could be defined as abysmal. Through a combination of pre-season victories and uplifting signings, that has turned around in the lead up to the season commencing. Big wins against Stalybridge and Curzon Ashton were encouraging, as was a high scoring draw with League One Gillingham. Our final fixture was an interesting test against a good Man United U23s side that featured Pellestri, James, Hannibal and Fosu-Mensah. Although we didn't score we did play well, a good sign for the season ahead.

Now it is time to get started with competitive fixtures - wish me luck!

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11 minutes ago, Dong21 said:

1692950194_OldhamTemplateBanner-Post7.jpg.ea30c819b0b6d2fec804caef3963da61.jpg

 Having assessed the strengths and weaknesses of my squad of players, I had a pretty good idea of the formation and system I would utilise to get the best out of them. For each of my transfers I carefully considered whether the new player would compliment my desired system. Pre-season was the time to experiment and make tweaks to the tactic. Going into the season the tactics I have settled upon are as such:

664499682_TacticA.png.c9d42dbd6dc856cbbdce16e2b145dea1.png

Our strongest pools of players are our centre backs, our wingers and (following the transfer window) our central midfielders. This set-up, I hope, plays to all of these strengths. Our mentality will generally be positive, in part to satisfy the demands of the owner, but our style will be built around the principles of counter attacking, in particular quick transitions.

You will note that the tactic includes a desire to play for set pieces. With three big centre backs in the team, this appears to be a competitive advantage we should capitilise upon. I have taken time to design attacking corner routines that will hopefully pay dividends during the season.

Our alternative tactic, also practiced during pre-season is as follows:

1056845813_TacticB.png.7016af52bc6b0e95a81ca231d33da7e7.png

With the same back 5 and midfield 2, it is not far removed from our first choice approach. They key difference is a move away from wingers, and forwards cutting in, to adding another striker in the centre. This approach will see us employ more direct passing and will rely on both wing backs covering a lot of ground on the flanks.

We also have practiced a third formation 4-2-3-1, so that if a more significant shift in approach is needed we have something we are familiar with. For now though, I don't intend to use that much.

Pre-Season Friendlies

Pre-Season.png.fc85997b2754b1c1fd87697e60423f32.png

The results are not essential for me during pre-season, it is more about building fitness, tactical familiarity and team cohesion. That said, morale is also a significant factor. When I joined Oldham the player's morale could be defined as abysmal. Through a combination of pre-season victories and uplifting signings, that has turned around in the lead up to the season commencing. Big wins against Stalybridge and Curzon Ashton were encouraging, as was a high scoring draw with League One Gillingham. Our final fixture was an interesting test against a good Man United U23s side that featured Pellestri, James, Hannibal and Fosu-Mensah. Although we didn't score we did play well, a good sign for the season ahead.

Now it is time to get started with competitive fixtures - wish me luck!

Your Oldham team looks really strong. I think that team would do well in the Championship if I am honest. Some really good players.

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I hope your ideas work out well. In the second tactic, what made you feel your left-footed central defender should not be selected? Also, you might get exposed with attacks moving in to the spaces behind each WB, as your central defenders aren't blessed with pace and agility (I speak from experience both IRL :kriss:and with Oldham in FM :lol:).

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@Jogo Bonito The screenshots were more to show the tactic than the selection - don’t worry, I do intend to start Piergianni on the left side of the back three. Yes the lack of pace is a concern! :lol: The lower defensive line is with that in mind. We shall see how it works out! 
 

I am fairly happy with my squad, but I certainly don’t think it will be all plain sailing. 

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Ah, sorry I was thinking too literally.

I agree, I think you do have a squad that can compete. I think you might make top seven (I can't forget your first season with Bolton including points deduction), but there's no pressure or expectation and certainly no rush. The best thing about Oldham is you can build it up over time. But when you take each step up, you have the stadium, facilities and fan base in place (not to mention some history).

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397266198_OldhamTemplateBanner-Post9.jpg.8f0c589b975b9b021c455b2261027ae6.jpg

With transfer dealings I was happy with and a solid pre-season under our belt, it was time to commence my inaugural season as Oldham Athletic manager.

The objective was simple: achieve a top half finish for the first time in 12 seasons.

September 2020

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The season unusually commenced with two cup fixtures; first up was the League Cup in which we had received a relatively kind draw against Harrogate and then the Football League Trophy where our first group game saw us play a relatively unknown quantity in Wolves' U23s. Both games couldn't have gone much better and Bahamboula was terrific in both. 

Full of confidence, the league campaign began. I was gutted; we played poorly and lost to Leyton Orient. Reality set in that, as I'd told myself in pre-season, this won't be easy. Including the signings made at the club before my arrival, 26 new faces had arrived and perhaps I need to account for the fact they need time to gel. A full strength Burnley beat us comfortably at Turf Moor. I was fine with this, I just hoped it didn't damage morale. A draw with Stevenage was at least a point on the board.

Our third game of the league campaign was against Stevenage and it was a big one as the club had declared it a fan day. Put in a good performance and the attendances could grow, defeat would mean a loss of credibility in the community. I am keeping a close eye on attendances, hence its inclusion in all results screenshots. Boundary Park can accommodate 13,500 but average attendances in the 2019/20 season were just 3,465, the lowest in 30 years. At their peak, during the Premier League years, Oldham had averaged 12,800 per game. The potential is there in this football loving area of the country. Luckily, the game went well. A bumper crowd of 5,383 saw us score four goals and win the match. The game saw strikers Richards and Rowe both get on the scoresheet for the first time.

October 2020

884539542_October2020.png.f628db24158484a73741901ff16ff1b0.png

That Crawley win commenced a four game winning streak that filled me with confidence, and included a scalp against a good Bolton side. A concern, however, was that we were not keeping clean sheets.  Our form dipped as we drew twice, before losing to Southend. The Carlisle game was a strange one as we dominated but had to rely on an own goal to grab a point. We ended the month on a high though as we beat Salford away, in what is probably the closest thing to a derby for Oldham in this division, with a late winner from substitute Rowe.

November 2020

318018007_November2020.png.d44f01ec89132a8a76e11e789f2c91c9.png

We began November with a comfortable win against bottom of the table Cheltenham. I was disappointed to exit the FA Cup, but the league is unequivocally our priority. We were 2-0 down at 65 minutes and looking out of it, before we surged to peg Exeter back to 2-2. I was certain we would go on to win in extra time as momentum was on our side, but we were suckered by a 119th minute counter attack. With qualification for the Football League Trophy knockouts already secured, I played a fully rotated side and was in fact fairly pleased we only lost 1-0 to League One Donny. After a couple of cup losses, a win against Scunthorpe was important. We won, but didn't play particularly well and lost Diarra to injury. The month ended poorly, we lost to Exeter in a game we didn't really turn up for and threw away a 2-1 win to draw with Barrow.

833611576_Table1.thumb.png.8ed43189ed5df547ef18942699faa337.png

So after the first three months of the season we sit 8th, just outside the Play-Offs, and if we win our game in hand we could be 4th (we have a game in hand because I postponed a game when McCalmont, Gailbraith and Bahamboula were all on international duty). I'd have snapped your hand off if offered that prior to the start of the season, but overall I feel disappointed with how we have started. Thinks haven't quite clicked and we are not fulfilling our potential yet. Bahamboula has performed well, but the other players have not shone. It is a long old season at this level and I am hoping we can slip into a higher gear soon.

Edited by Dong21
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Good job so far....but be aware that streaks are very potent in this year's FM. Losing Streaks seem much harder to break. In my current save My teams always start out great for first 10-12 games a season and then ALWAYS a losing streak, Almost always during the losing streak Xg says we should be scoring more and out performed our opponents. During our winning streaks its the opposite most of the time. (beware confirmation bias)

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12 hours ago, Dong21 said:

So after the first three months of the season we sit 8th

That's not bad at all! How are your team cohesion and tactical familiarity looking? Should be OK by now, but with so many new signings and (I'm guessing) a bit of squad rotation there might still be room for improvement.

Just keep repeating to yourself: Top half finish! :p

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6 hours ago, Hootieleece said:

Good job so far....but be aware that streaks are very potent in this year's FM. Losing Streaks seem much harder to break.

Thanks - I'll keep an eye out for that and report back on whether I am affected in the same way!

5 hours ago, warlock said:

That's not bad at all! How are your team cohesion and tactical familiarity looking? Should be OK by now, but with so many new signings and (I'm guessing) a bit of squad rotation there might still be room for improvement.

Team cohesion is listed as 'average', so still a way to go before they are truly clicking as a group.

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1751961294_OldhamTemplateBanner-Post10.jpg.41fab992f1cc144227ef51b87428e3cf.jpg

Having just three months ago (save months, not real ones) wrote about the importance to me of restoring David Wheater to the Oldham first team, I didn't think I would now be writing an update titled 'Wheater Out'.

Wheater has sustained a hip injury that will see him ruled out for three months.

1486215838_WheaterInjury.png.928ae631d68a3a02bc1260a9edccc12f.png

This is a real blow as Wheater has performed really well up until now. Although the defence has been leaky, he has been a shining light amongst my defenders. I played him as a no-nonsense stopper and he clearly relished the opportunity to get his head on everything coming our way, with 64 key headers and an average of almost 8 interceptions per game. His average rating of 7.14 is the highest at the club after Bahamboula. At his age, I think this will take a hit to his attributes that he might not be able to recover from.

Our back three approach was in many ways designed to be built around Wheater. With this long-term injury I am thinking a switch to a back four is on the cards. Watch this space.

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Great updates. Up and down results, but as has been acknowledged to be 8th and with a game in hand is very decent. The games you lost have been tight, so nothing to be alarmed about (and you are a master of the long game usually). Dylan seems to be doing well, but the loss of Wheater will be testing. I agree that a back four might be worth it, but I am sure you'll adjust correctly. How would you assess Danny Rowe so far?

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18 hours ago, Jogo Bonito said:

How would you assess Danny Rowe so far?

I only play one up front and Rodel Richards has been my first choice. Richards' pace at this level is very effective. Rowe has only started 7 games but has made 12 substitute appearances. He has 5 goals and 2 assists so far which is not too bad.

17 hours ago, Chrisofclubs said:

Loving this so far. Great start with some great signings! 

Thanks Chris!

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On 02/12/2020 at 22:38, Jogo Bonito said:

Dylan seems to be doing well, but the loss of Wheater will be testing. I agree that a back four might be worth it, but I am sure you'll adjust correctly.

Quick update on this front - I have just (mid-December) signed a free agent CB to replace Wheater as he's out for so long. Spaniard Costa is ex-Getafe and scouts rate him the best CB at the club. I did switch to a back four and it has been going well, so I think I'll stick with that but integrate Costa.

1507320008_CostaSigning.png.d4722884b2f426205dce7f1dca30c264.png

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