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


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21 hours ago, Dong21 said:

very happy with the depth of my squad

Yes, looking good for a promotion run :thup:. Shame about Moult - hopefully you won't miss him - but Aarons should be quality at L1 level.

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Always a good read, this. Aarons should be a useful signing, as long as he stays fitter than Moult (unlucky there). The board seem to be talking nonsense about playing styles, that must definitely be a bug.

I had a similar issue to you with the loan feedback in my Oxford BETA save, but I thought maybe mine was a technicality as Saints boss (let's call him Ralph) moaned about me using Thomas O'Connor outside of his agreed LWB role. I was doing so, but often had him in the WB role of a full back rather than starting from the WB position ahead. Your issue is ridiculous, unless it relates to what role Williams was supposed to be playing in that position, rather than the position itself.

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5 hours ago, Jogo Bonito said:

I had a similar issue to you with the loan feedback in my Oxford BETA save, but I thought maybe mine was a technicality as Saints boss (let's call him Ralph) moaned about me using Thomas O'Connor outside of his agreed LWB role. I was doing so, but often had him in the WB role of a full back rather than starting from the WB position ahead. Your issue is ridiculous, unless it relates to what role Williams was supposed to be playing in that position, rather than the position itself.

I am playing them exactly in the role agreed too. So for instance I agreed that Charlie McCann would play in the deep lying playmaker role in central midfield, he has played there over 40 times this season and yet Solskjaer has confronted me about this every couple of the weeks. I am always able to placate him (he is clearly not as highly strung as Klopp!) but this is still an issue that needs to be looked at.

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February & March 2022

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Building on from our hot streak of form in January, we commenced February with two League wins. I was delighted that we bagged four goals against Accrington as I'd opted to rest my main goal provider, Hector-Ingram. After the game I received a news item advising six players had had bonuses paid out as we had avoided relegation. Symbolically, this was a satisfying moment.

The win against Accrington saw us overtake Derby, albeit only on goal difference as The Rams slipped up. This was short lived though as we went on a run of four straight draws, akin to our October form. Derby's form did not falter and after this run of draws they were five points ahead. We were only one point ahead of 4th too, which gave me cause for concern. Despite my deadline day recruits, squad depth did become a challenge. Against Wycombe I had to rest both my first choice centre backs due to fatigue and that saw us draw 2-2.

Striker Richards was named League One Young Player of the Month for February as he delivered three goals in four games.

Lincoln are a team I love to play as we always bag plenty of goals. One of Hesketh's goals was an absolute beauty from 35 yards out and it was selected as the League's Goal of the Month. After that win though we weren't due to play again for 20 days, as a game was moved thanks to international call ups. I decided to arrange a friendly against local side Altrincham to keep match fitness and morale up.

April & May 2022

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I began April with a spring in my step as takeover rumours begin to swirl. I would be absolutely delighted if new owners were to arrive. Disappointingly, by the end of the month the rumours had died down and nothing currently seems to be in the pipeline.

Showing no ring rust, after 20 days without a competitive fixture, we put four goals past Swindon. A loss to runaway League leaders Hull saw us end a run of 21 games undefeated. The Tigers proved why they were top of the league, beating us fair and square. We picked ourselves up quickly though and beat 2nd place Derby thanks to a quickfire brace from Hector-Ingram. Last time we played them they were all over us but we got a draw, this time round we were deserved winners. After that win we were 3rd, five points behind Derby and five points ahead of 4th place Wycombe.

We ended the season with two good wins against Fleetwood and local rivals Rochdale (Hector-Ingram cemented his status as a fan favourite with a hat-trick against The Dale) and a draw away at Cambridge. These results meant we finished 3rd, where we had spent the majority of 2022. We were a good distance behind the two teams who secured automatic promotion but I was very proud to finish best of the rest.

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So, this means that for the first time we enter the Play-Offs. We are in good form but these sort of games can be somewhat of a lottery. Wish me luck!

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Having finished third in League One, far surpassing the media's expectations (predicted 19th) and even my own (I was quietly confident we would come mid-table, beating my target of '"above 15th") we were thrust into the cut throat world of Play-Off football. Three (if you're lucky) games that will determine whether we will have another season of League One football or whether I will have returned the club to the second tier of English football for the first time since 1997.

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The Play-Off Semi Finals against Wycombe were reassuringly uneventful. The highlight of the first game was Bahamboula getting on the scoresheet. The star of our League Two promotion clinching campaign; it was a fitting climax to his comeback from a major injury earlier in the season. Winning away, and fairly comfortably, in the first leg gave me a lot of confidence that the tie would go in our favour. Only capitulation at Boundary Park would mess things up.

I rested Hector-Ingram (who still managed to score, coming on from the bench), McCann and Bahamboula and the lads who played sill sealed the deal. It was pleasing that replacement striker Ball scored, given his lengthy barren spell in the middle of the season. Borthwick-Jackson missed the second leg with injury and Devine had already been ruled out for two month with shin splints, just a few weeks earlier, so centre back Albert filled in. He did a solid job and justified by squad bulking signing spree at the end of January.

With a gap of 20 days until the final, I once again wanted to keep the rust of the players and arrange a friendly. I couldn't select to play another English side, I assume as they were already all on holiday, so we played our U23s and beat them handily.

League One Play Off Final

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The Final turned out to be an extremely dramatic affair. Despite our domination of possession, both us and Oxford shared a good amount of chances between us. Neither could score within 90 minutes though, so the game progressed to Extra Time. Disaster struck though, five minutes in, as Bolger hacked down an Oxford player in the box. Not only were they presented with a penalty, but we had the double punishment of Bolger being sent off. The quality Adam Idah calmly slotted away. We were down to 10 men, tired and had 24 minutes to try and score an equaliser to try and take the game to a penalty shootout.

I rejigged the defence by moving Diarra, who had come on earlier for a tired Fran, to centre back and bringing Tunnicliffe on as a makeshift right back. We stuck with our positive mentality and went to a 4-2-2(wide)-1. With only four minutes left to play, the Latics end of Wembley went wild as striker Ball scored the all important goal that would take us to penalties. I couldn't help put pat myself on the back; by giving Ball the opportunities to start against Wycombe in the second leg and then again in the friendly game, he had managed to score himself into form. A few months prior I would never have guessed he would be a hero like this.

So we went to penalties. I had some confidence as we have already beaten Leicester and Newcastle with spot kicks this season. We had though, lost to Man United U23s on pens, and more recently.

Daniels was the hero. He saved three penalties and they put another wide. Two of my players missed too, but it didn't matter by then as McCann and Hector-Ingram had already delivered.

For the first time in 23 years and well ahead of schedule and my expectations we have secured promotion to the Championship.

Edited by Dong21
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5 hours ago, Dong21 said:

I am playing them exactly in the role agreed too. So for instance I agreed that Charlie McCann would play in the deep lying playmaker role in central midfield, he has played there over 40 times this season and yet Solskjaer has confronted me about this every couple of the weeks. I am always able to placate him (he is clearly not as highly strung as Klopp!) but this is still an issue that needs to be looked at.

Have you reported this in the bugs forum?

 

Congrats on promotion, and good luck in the Championship!

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With the dust settled on the season, I always like to take a moment to look back and reflect before diving into the transfer window to enhance the squad for the season ahead. There is a lot of value in fully understanding the players you currently have at your disposal and using this information to effectively identify areas to focus on.

Most FM players will be aware of a bug that means player match ratings have been inaccurate. I am therefore not being too critical when I look at my players average ratings for the season just gone, rather I will try and focus on how they have performed in our promotion winning campaign. The rating issue should now have been fixed now, just in time for my third season with the Latics.

So let's take a look at how my players got on in the 2021/22 season:

Goalkeepers

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No player featured in more League One fixtures across the division than Luke Daniels. His 19 clean sheets was the third most out of any 'keeper, demonstrating the important part he played in our success. His 23 clean sheets in all competitions is a new club record. After Jeadine White was sold in the January transfer window there was no suitable moment to feature young James Hillson. He remains 'one for the future' and may even be loaned out next season if I can recruit another goalkeeper. As well as Daniels did, he is 34 years old and I have to consider that he may soon start to decline, as Alnwick did last season. I will therefore be keeping an eye out for goalkeeping options in the summer.

Centre Backs

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Centre backs Bolger and Costa were clearly crucial too our campaign, playing over 50 times apiece. They were extremely consistent and luckily avoided injuries all campaign. Costa was the only Oldham player named in a League One Team of the Season, that was otherwise dominated by Hull players. His contract is due to expire in a month and I think he has earned a new deal - with promotion sealed I'm sure he will be asking for a significant uplift. Not pictured here is Rhys Williams who featured 14 times before Klopp recalled him back to Liverpool. Young prospect Drew Baker performed extremely poorly when given a few opportunities - a loan spell to see if he can start to fulfill his potential will likely be on the cards.

Cian Bolger recorded the best pass completion record in the division, with 94%, which will have contributed to us as a club having the best pass completion average, at 88%. Our team made more interceptions (890) than any other in our League.

Full Backs

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If it wasn't for the match rating bug, I think either Fran or CBJ might have had the highest average ratings at the club this season. 13 and 10 assists, respectively, is a great return from full back. You can see a big improvement in creativity at right back thanks to Fran, our top assistor this campaign, who also scored two direct free kicks. His presence seemed to have a positive impact on Diarra who last season did not contribute going forward but this year got a handful of goals and assists. Devine was often injured so did not feature much, but was brought in as understudy to CBJ in the first place.

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I was really pleased with our style of play this campaign; we had the most average possession (58%) and completed the most passes (19,495) - 2,000 more than the next team! A big contributor to this was Charlie McCann who attempted more passes than anyone else in League One (2,813). Although the stats might not necessarily indicate it, Carl Winchester also had a great season. He was the engine in the middle of the team, working extremely hard. Dabo's contract expires this summer and it is unlikely I will renew.

Jake Hesketh did well in the AM role at the start of the season. When we switched to 4-4-2 to accommodate more strikers he was somewhat of a victim, changing to a squad option for CM. He had a good season overall and scored our goal of the season. However, he didn't provide as many assists as I would of liked and this will be an area for him to work on.

Wingers

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You can see here that I used a variety of different options on the wing during the season and striker Hector-Ingram and Richards, who aren't listed here, even spent parts of the season on the left wing. The most proficient assist provider on the wings was Carvalho, although this was mostly in the first half of the season before he got injured. He will be shortly returning to Fulham. Goals and assists were spread out across the group. A group that will inevitably be trimmed as I look to bring in more quality as we step up to the Championship. Soumare's contributions were fairly impressive given his limited starts, but his contract expires and for the money he will want to upgrade his contract I will need to consider if I can get better elsewhere.

Rolando Aarons has been a disappointment since arriving on January transfer deadline day, producing very few moments of note in the final stages of the season.

Strikers

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Based off his performance in season one, I fully expected Richards to be my main goalscorer this campaign. He scored 18 and provided 5 more, which is very respectable, but it turned out to be Hector-Ingram who was the star of the show.

JHI's 32 goals in all competitions included 27 in the League, which made him second top scorer after Paddy Madden. He won our Fan's Player of the Season, Young Player of the Season and Signing of the Season awards. JHI had the highest average rating (although we know these are faulty), the most Player of the Match awards and scored more than any other player.

No player in the league had more shots that JHI. We scored the most goals in League One, which was mainly due to JHI and Richards. Ball made a couple of important contributions, but I will be letting him go now his one year deal is up.

Personal Accolade

I was delighted to be recognised as the League One Manager of the Year for the 2021/22 season. Oldham were also named as the biggest overachievers in the end of season summary.

Edited by Dong21
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Posted (edited)

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Time to take stock of the progress made in this career to date.

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When I reflect back, we have achieved a lot of my goals for this save in a shorter space of time than I anticipated. I am still hoping for the departure of Abdallah Lemsagam and his board, but unfortunately that is outside of my control. The gap in quality between League Two and League One isn't that huge, but there is a relative gulf when you step up to the Championship. Some of the wage and transfer budgets of the bigger clubs alone is staggering. The media are predicting we will finish 20th.

I have been presented with a £1.48m transfer budget and wage budget of £75k p/w to try and battle to retain our Championship status. This is a huge pot of money compared to what I have been used to, but I have already seen a large chunk of that taken up through new contracts demands from players at the club, who expect their pay packet to reflect the fact they are now Championship players. Most of the transfer budget will be converted into wage budget and I will once again look towards the free agent market and the loan list.

I told the squad at the end of the season that I would strengthen the squad to try and stay up and was pleasantly surprised that this was well received.

I had an opportunity, at the end of the season, to discuss the club vision. I tried to remove the conflicting expectations surrounding our style of play that I have discussed previously, but the board refused to accept this. They would not even remove one element. In fact they added in an additional expectation that players should have a minimum of two years on their contracts. I do worry that all these complex requirements will come back to bite me if this is a season of struggle and that they may be used to cause to remove me if things aren't going great. I really don't know if this is a bug or if I just have really bad owners - it easily could be either option.

I appear to be popular in Wales as I have just been offered job interviews at both Swansea (just been relegated to League One) and Cardiff (still in the Championship). I rejected both clubs as my Oldham adventure is not over yet.

Edited by Dong21
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Championship will be tough, especially with the limited finances. But if you can hang on to your better players and upgrade a couple of the weaker areas you should do fine. As I always say, you only have to be the fourth-worst team in the division :lol:

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  • 2 weeks later...

Dong, as an Oldham fan this has been a great read. If it's any consolation, we all share your frustrations with our beloved owner and yes - it's been a miserable few years, so thank you! How did you get on in the Championship?

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  • 2 weeks later...

@RogerPalmer Glad you've enjoyed reading my updates, thanks. Having taken the time to look into all about the problems at the club, I really feel for Oldham fans for what you've had to endure.

You may have already seen it, but there was an article in The Athletic just this weekend focusing on the mismanagement of the club over the last few years. A lot of the content I had read before elsewhere but good to have it compiled in one place and for whats happening at the club to receive some mainstream coverage. The revelation / allegation that I hadn't seen until now is that Abdallah once gave Mark Moisley a bag with £20 notes, totaling £48k, to use to settle wages. Nothing dodgy about that...

The article is here although The Athletic is subscription based so you'd have to get a free trial or sign up to read it.

On 21/01/2021 at 17:12, RogerPalmer said:

How did you get on in the Championship?

I decided to take a break after winning promotion. I knew that rebuilding the squad to get us ready to try and stay in the Championship would take a lot of effort. That quick break accidentally became 3 weeks! I got quite into an FM Online save with two friends that left me quite distracted. The good news is that I started playing the save again this weekend, so updates will be incoming this week.

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It has been nearly a month since I last posted an update on this managerial career so I thought the best place to start was to set to the scene - to refresh my memory as much as yours!

In the 2021-22 season we finished 3rd in League One and secured promotion to the Championship by winning the Play-Offs.

We were joined in promotion by league winners Hull and runners up Derby.

As most will be aware, the Championship is quite a step up in quality from League One. The league is littered with high earners, deep squads and full internationals. The relegated teams joining from the Premier League are Brighton, West Brom and Nottingham Forest. Both Brighton and West Brom had fire sales that brought in over £100m each, but they also both spent over £50m this summer, so they remain strong contenders. In fact they may be better off as they still have quality players, but less of them carry the battle scars of relegation.

It was sixth placed Birmingham that won the Championship Play-Offs, following Sheffield United and Aston Villa to the promised lands of the Premier League. Brentford were extremely hard-done-by only missing out on automatic promotion due to goal difference. You would expect them to be strong contenders for promotion once again, along with fourth and fifth placed sides Watford and Stoke.

Contract Renewals

As is often the case following promotion to a higher division, the majority of my key squad member knocked on my office door asking for a new contract and, of course, a significant pay rise. With funds limited, it was in my best interests to stick with some of the players that had got us promoted and it would also satisfy my erratic owners latest demand;  Minimum two-year contracts for first team players.

First I addressed my star men. Jamal Hector-Ingram got a new two year deal worth £7k p/w, Carl Winchester got a two year contract at £7.5k p/w and Fran will be paid £7k p/w over the next three years. Contract negotiations for Jake Hesketh broke down because he wanted £8.5k and I thought this was too much money. He handed in a transfer request, but later in the window he was willing to re-enter negotiations. Eventually I was able to secure him on a £7k p/w three year deal. Strangely, when the transfer window closed, he complained I hadn't sold him. I had took the new contract to mean that saga was over. We will see how things go but if his negativity continues, at least I should be able to cash him in for a good fee thanks to his contract.

Other players who I decided merited new deals were Cameron Borthwick-Jackson (3 years, £5.25k p/w), Robert Costa (2 years, £4.2k p/w) and Raph Diarra (2 years, £2.4k p/w).

Four seventeen year old with high potential in our academy were also given two year contracts; Morne Dlamini (ST), Michael Ryan (GK), Ronnie Webber (RW) and Paul Townley (RW).

Squad Redesign

To make things more challenging, this is the year of the Qatar winter World Cup. The season starts in mid-July to allow for a break from the 5th November through to the 28th December. This meant less time than usual to play friendlies and make signings for our first campaign at this level.

David Ball, Mohamed Soumaré, Louis Moult, Laurence Wootton, Diaguely Dabo and Davis Keillor-Dunn were all first team players released in the summer. They weren't good enough to get in my starting eleven in League One, so there was no merit for giving them new contracts now we are in the Championship.

Four of the five loanees who had been part of the squad last season returned to their parent clubs. This lead to a squad that was thin in nearly all areas and, after all the contract renewals, very little money to improve it. I was going to have to get creative to be able to assemble a squad for the new season.

With only a relatively small squad remaining, I did still manage to make three player sales. The funds from which were instantly transferred into the wage budget to enable us to make free transfer signings - the most effective way for us to operate. Conor McAleney did not deliver to the level I had expected, therefore I was happy to receive £210k from MK Dons. Dylan Bahamboula was undoubtedly our star man when we won promotion from League Two in our first season, but a lot can happen in a year. After a long term injury he was never quite the same, so when he came demanding a new large contract, I decided a sale would be more beneficial. Polish side Arka paid £500k for the Congolese international and he left with my good wishes. However, my finest piece of business was my final deal. Signed on January transfer deadline day as an emergency back up centre back and he only featured three times, I therefore couldn't believe my luck when I was able to get £165k from MK Dons for Josué Albert, his caps from French Guiana securing his work permit.

Even after player sales and converting all funds (the 75% the chairman allows us to retain, up from 60% the season before) into wage budget, we still started the season with the lowest wage bill in the Championship. In an upcoming post I will introduce my new signings, and preview our squad ahead of the new season.

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With limited funds and a lack of depth all over the pitch I decided, with marginal gains theory in mind, to at first focus on strengthening the defence. My logic here was that defenders and goalkeepers are cheaper that attackers and midfielders, therefore I could improve the quality of an area of my squad at a lower cost then if I focused elsewhere. I should also note that this decision came after a thorough analysis of the transfer market - there were certainly better options available and willing to join for a reasonable price.

Additionally, I knew that a potent strike force could make a real difference at a higher level. I had retained the services of Jamal Hector-Ingram ('JHI') who provided 32 goals last season, but I knew one player would not be enough. So it was decided that strikers would be my second focus area after defenders.

During the early stages of the transfer window it became apparent to me that we would not have enough funds left to bolster both our central midfield and wing options, after we had finished with the defence and up front. This is when I pivoted and decided to play with formations without wingers. McAleney and Bahamboula were sold and deals for wingers I'd be lining up were cancelled.

We had won promotion to the Championship using a 4-4-2, however in my first season I had started with a five defender formation. It was not particularly a success but I think this was mainly because we had three aging and slow centre backs and only played one striker up front who could be isolated. When analysing the free agent market I was confident we could get together a pool of talented centre backs, wing backs and strikers to be able to play a 5-2-1-2 formation. My mind was made up.

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Above are the primary and secondary tactics we will be commencing our season with. Both will have a direct counter attacking style. Key to both will be attacking wing backs who will be the primary supply line to our two centre forwards. These will primarily be an advanced forward and a pressing forward, but this will be tweaked to suit the styles of the strikers selected to feature. The second tactic is clearly very similar to the first, but has an additional level of cover for when playing tougher opponents. This tactic will see one or two industrious box-to-box midfielders utilised to bridge the gap between midfield and my strike partnership.

Pre-Season

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Pre-season began in June meaning several players who featured in our first game only had two days remaining on their contracts. The second friendly came when we had a vast number of players on trial as I assessed my transfer options, so the team was predominantly trialists who had met each other the day of the game. The two losses were concerning, even if there were extenuating circumstances.

To stop the spiral of negativity I went back to basics and only played contracted players against Droylsden and the positive impact was immediate. It helped that they were a poorer opposition than our previous two. You will see that it was against Oostende where the tactical approach was changed to 5-2-1-2, still early into the transfer window.

The final, and obvious, thing to point out is the prolific form of JHI. Continuing on from his red hot last season, he scored in every pre-season game he played in, including a double hat-trick against Golcar. I hope he can continue this form in the league!

Loans

Last season I encountered an unusual situation whereby whenever I offered out my higher potential youngsters, no team was interested in taking them on. This time I had more luck as Yeovil took James Hillson (GK) and Tom Sams (CB), and Cheltenham took both Drew Baker (CB) and Stanley Asomugha (ST).

Affiliate Club

The final update required to set the scene before I preview my squad is that I am delighted to have been able to secure a senior affiliate. I had completely run out of funds, but still had a lack on central midfielders and had no players I was able or willing to sell to raise further funds. So I had the idea to see if I could secure a feeder club, as this would allow me to acquire loanees with zero contributions to their wages. I went into the meeting with the owner full of trepidation as he has never accepted one of my requests before. I was pleasantly surprised when he said yes, perhaps because this request wouldn't cost him anything.

A week or so later I was presented with three options; Bournemouth, Chelsea or Wolves.

I was faced with a tough choice between Chelsea and Wolves - both have great academies full of talent and bags of cash to keep throwing at producing more. Bournemouth were swiftly ruled out. When weighing up the decision I had balance my short term need for central / attacking midfielders and the long term consideration of overall talent they produce. I looked long and hard at both their U23 squads. I was tempted  by Wolves particularly because Connor Ronan appeared to potentially be available, but in the end I decided Chelsea had the greater depth of talent. The Blues also offered the most cash per annum and the option of lucrative friendlies and I always need to consider the balance sheet when managing Oldham.

I was rejected by Conor Gallagher and Trevoh Chalobah, who understandably chose Kobenhavn and Hamburg ahead of us. More unusually Lewis Bate chose just to stay in their U23s rather than play for us every week in the Championship. We did, however, bring in two of their players who I will introduce in a future post.

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Having previewed the change in tactical approach undertaken in advance of our third season, it is time to begin to introduce the players who have been recruited and profile what the squad now looks like after another summer of change.

Goalkeepers

In my end of season summary I noted that Luke Daniels had performed admirably for us in our promotion campaign, however this season he will turn 35 and therefore it would be prudent of me to recruit a new first choice goalkeeper.

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Former QPR 'keeper Joe Lumley had been released after just one season at Luton. I brought three goalkeepers in on trial to consider during pre-season and he stood out as the best option, so I swiftly agreed a three year deal for the Englishman. I am confident he is a decent improvement on Daniels.

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Young Hillson is out on loan playing regularly in League Two which is great for his development. If anything were to happen to our two goalkeepers we could turn to the talented Ryan in our U18s. There is, as well, the option of an emergency loan or free transfer signing.

Centre Backs

Cian Bolger and Robert Costa were two of our most consistent performers, but with the switch to a three centre back formation, reinforcements were certainly needed.

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I wanted to bring in a left footed centre back to add balance to the defence and soon identified Sean McLoughlin as my man. Somewhat surprisingly he had been a peripheral figure at Hull for the past two seasons - I think he has all the key attributes I was seeking.

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Like McLoughlin, Frankie Kent meets the profile of player I am focusing on signing; in their mid-twenties with potential to improve but not too much of a rough diamond that they are not ready for the Championship right away. Kent had been released by QPR in the summer. He specializes in a cover role and therefore I expect him to be my first choice for the central role of the back three. This leaves Bolger and Costa to fight it out for the third and final slot in the back line.

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I also recruited one for the future, released by the nearby Man City youth academy. Only 18 and joining on a youth contract, Callum Doyle already nearly has as much ability as my first choice centre backs and with bags of potential I am tempted to give him game time. Again, the fact he is left footed and has pace appealed to me.

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Raph Diarra is primarily a right back, but he has proven himself in prior seasons not to be a good contributor going forward so the tactical switch to wing backs does not play in his favour. Luckily he is versatile and can play at centre back too. The club captain is popular in the dressing room and so it made sense to keep him around. He will add to the cover options at centre back but could be called upon to return to the right if needs be. We now have six players covering three positions, which I am very happy with.

Right Backs

Fran was one of my favourite performers last season, but I couldn't sit back and think that was this position sorted, it was important to bring in good competition for places.

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The full backs are intended to be attacking threats who provide plentiful opportunities for my forwards, so the crossing ability of Josh Hare really appealed to me. He had delivered 9 assists in all competitions on loan at Fleetwood in League one last season.

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Signed from Norwich's youth set up, Ola Okeowo's technical attributes suggest he is not yet ready for first team football. He will start life in our U23s and I will soon seek a loan move to aide his development. His physical stats, coupled with his determination, give me hope that he can develop into a quality wing back in later years.

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Left Backs

Similarly to Fran, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson ('CBJ') had been a significant contributor to our promotion campaign, but he has also acquired competition for his left wing back role.

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First choice left back for Sunderland for the last two seasons, Dan Butler relished the opportunity to take the step up to the Championship with Oldham. Again, he was selected as compared to the other free agents I had on trial, his attributes most aligned to the wing back role.

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This concludes my defensive reinforcements, I hope I have built sufficient cover for what will be a long campaign in which we come up against a series of talented forwards. This will be the base for which we build from as we seek to achieve survival in the Championship and then build upon in the coming seasons.

A preview of my midfielders and attackers shall be posted shortly.

Edited by Dong21
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I intend to play with either two central midfielders and one attacking midfielder or simply three centre mids. There is no longer a requirement for wingers.

Central Midfield

With players set for release and loans ending, as we were coming to the end of June we were set to only have two central midfielders. These were the industrious Carl Winchester and the more defensive, squad option, Ryan Tunnicliffe. I therefore decided to renew the loan of Charlie McCann from Manchester United.

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McCann had a good season for us alongside Winchester, so it seemed a no brainer when we were able to acquire his services once again.

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I took a number of central midfielders on trial, but they all seemed to want around £10k p/w in wages, despite only being slightly better players than Winchester and McCann. This was one of the deciding factors in dedicating my transfer budget primarily to improve our defence and our attack. I was confident I would be able to improve the centre of the park on the cheap.

Ethan Gailbraith did not set the world on fire when we had him for a season in League Two, but a year in Man Utd's U23s seem to have done him good as my staff now rate him a four star player. When I saw that United were willing to loan him to me for no wage contribution I jumped at the chance. I am assuming the fact I gave him 40 games, to aide his development previously, helped my case.

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Welshman Robbie Burton has had an interesting career. The Arsenal academy graduate chose to move to Dinamo Zagreb to further his career back in 2019. When searching for loan options I noticed that he is on only £400 p/w wages and therefore I could afford to cover 100% of his wages, something I am not able to do with most Premier League youth players. He is extremely versatile, comfortable in a number of central roles, so will add depth to the squad.

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When playing top of the table sides, I wanted to have the option of playing a ball winning midfielder. Tunnicliffe can fulfill this role but I wanted to see if I could find an upgrade. Xavier Simons was the first arrival from Chelsea after we agreed our affiliate agreement. A top class player for zero cost. This feeder club agreement is already looking like a masterstroke.

Attacking Midfield

Jake Hesketh was effectively our only option for the AM role. Gailbraith could do a job there, but it's not his natural position.

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I therefore returned to Chelsea once again, this time to acquire the services of Myles Peart-Harris. Albeit he prefers to play as an inside forward or inverted winger, his attributes make him perfectly suited to play as a more central attacking midfielder.

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We finish the window, admittedly, with probably too many midfielders. Eight players competing for three positions. But four of them are effectively costing me nothing, so I don't really see the harm. We have plenty of options and this enables tactical flexibility.

I hope in future seasons I am rewarded with more funds, which is when I can then look to build a more permanent midfield.

Strikers

One of my most important players over the last two seasons has been striker or inside forward Rodel Richards. He has provided 43 goals for the club over that time, whilst on loan from Tottenham. His Spurs contract was coming to an end in the summer, but I was fairly certain we would be gazumped by a larger club when looking to bring him in on a permanent deal. I therefore was delighted when I was able to secure him on a three year deal. He is our highest earner with £8k p/w but I think he is worth every penny and should only get better.

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I am excited to see what the strike partnership of Richards and JHI can do together in the Championship this season.

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With intentions to play two up top this season, we needed more than two strikers. Christian Doidge appealed to me as he is a completely different style of forward to JHI and Richards. His wage makes him the sixth highest earner at the club, which I guess may make signing him somewhat of an unusual decision as I see him as my third choice striker. There are a lot of games in the Championship though and I envisage rotation and substitutes making a big impact. It was a signing I needed to make.

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My other striking signing was quite unplanned. I had a selection of forwards on trial during pre-season (including Joel Asoro, Ivan Saponjic and Jonathan Afolabi) who I were considering for my fourth and final forward berth. Late in the window however, a scout alerted me that Sam Smith was available and interested. He had good attributes and was a good age - he seemed the perfect fit. He had barely featured for Reading last season, but the year prior he had bagged 30 goals for Tranmere in League Two, so I knew a goalscorer was in there. He was quickly snapped up as the final piece in my squad puzzle.

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Rolando Aarons is left as the odd-man-out, the remnant of a formation I no longer wish to use. He did not put in many performances in the latter stages of last season, so I don't feel much guilt. He remains at the club as a utility option, and will be called upon to fill in up front or as an AM in the case of extreme emergency. It is likely I will look to sell him in the next transfer window and if I can get anything near his reported £2.4m valuation, I will be delighted.

A New Season Commences

With our squad finalised, we will now commence our first campaign in the EFL Championship. Our board expectation is to bravely battle against relegation - I will be targeting not being relegated.

Wish me luck for the season ahead!

Edited by Dong21
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The deals you manage to pull off without spending a penny on transfer fees never ceases to amaze me!

Good luck for the season ahead, going to be tough!

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No updates for a month and then five come at once - I am well and truly back up and running at Boundary Park!

I have played the first few months of the campaign so it's time to provide an update on how we have adapted to life in the Championship.

July 2022

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The fixture list threw up a tough start for us as we took on Nottingham Forest, who were playing their first game returning from the Premier League. It was a tightly contested affair and I was pleased to start the campaign with a draw. Most pleasing was a brace for JHI, continuing his form from League One and pre-season.

Next up were League Two Mansfield in the Carabao Cup. I played a strong side, with a view to building up some form ahead of our next league fixture. Things did not go to plan though, and we were a little shell shocked when Mansfield played the better football. They scored a 94th minute winner and with that, we were out of the cup. League survival is our priority but I was still very disappointed due to the manner in which we played.

The loss against Huddersfield was frustrating as the winner was a tame direct free kick that Lumley palmed into his own net. At this early stage in the transfer window we were yet to recruit Peart-Harris, Burton or Simons so our bench only consisted on defenders and strikers.

Due to the World Cup enforced winter break, games come thick and fast this season with a fixture nearly every single Wednesday and Saturday. This clearly benefits the sides with bigger squads. I mentioned previously that we had the smallest wage budget in the league - to put it into context; our wage bill is £110k p/w and Crystal Palace are spending £800k p/w.

August 2022

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We picked up our first win of the season against Hull. This was a good barometer of the improvements made to the squad as they were the runaway leaders of League One last season, and we lost 2-0 last time we played. The media informed me that this win was our 30th game undefeated at Boundary Park - it was a near certainty this would end the next time we played there.

We followed up the win with two very credible away draws against Bristol City and Reading. We were the dominant force against The Royals so this felt like dropped points. Unfortunately Fran sprained his ankle ligaments in this game and was ruled out for five weeks.

After a run of three good performances I thought this might once again be a season of unexpected over-achievement. What followed grounded me - four losses out of five. I'm almost pleased that this is the case (perhaps that perverse to say?) as there needs to be adversity to enjoy success. If a save is all plain sailing, I won't enjoy it as much as if there is an element of struggle to overcome. I want to scrap and fight for points as they will then mean more when they are acquired.

Although we lost it was always by fine margins with no thrashings. Portsmouth are having a great season, but the defeat to them was gutting as both the goals conceded were soft. First the 'keeper should have saved the shot and second he palmed a good shot back into the path of another striker to tap in. This did cast doubts in my mind over Lumley. To add further anguish, Smith missed an open goal that would have seen us draw. You have to be clinical at this level.

September 2022

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After playing 5-3-2 throughout August, we reverted to 5-2-1-2 in September as identified games against fellow strugglers where we could be more attacking. This decision paid off as we secured three crucial wins against Sheffield Wednesday, Charlton and Cardiff. We had to be resolute against Charlton as Butler went off injured after I'd made all our subs, so we had to hang on for 13 minutes with just ten men. Sandwiched in between was a 5-2 loss against Brentford, who I had highlighted pre-season as a major threat. In a strange turn of events, their centre mid Downes got a hat-trick. Lumley and Kent were poor in that loss but I took comfort in the form of my strikers. Four in four for JHI.

We ended the month with two more defeats. Against Boro we hit the post and had a goal disallowed for being just offside. Again, fine margins. Brighton are league leaders so avoiding a heavy loss could be seen as a success. JHI had a late miss that could have easily made it a draw too. Overall three wins out of six makes September a good month for us.

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For some reason, seemingly due to resolution issues, I can only ever display 23 out of 24 teams when viewing league standings. Incentive to reach the Premier League just to make screenshotting easier! Brighton sit top of the table with 34 points.

JHI (8 goals) and Gailbraith (5 assists) have been the top performers so far. Doidge has performed well in recent games and will see more game time too, alongside JHI. Meanwhile, Kent has underperformed which is demonstrated by his average rating of 6.47 after 13 games. I have perservered with him but it might be time he sat out of the team.

After 16 games we are in 18th position, eight points ahead of the relegation zone and eight points below the Play-Off places. So far, so good.

Edited by Dong21
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Great updates as usual, nice to see you back (I thought you had run away from The Latics). A tough start but those occasional wins are enough to keep you safe. I also like the fact that your attendances are good, which was something Oldham always had the ability to do if they returned to this level.

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Thanks @Jogo Bonito, a short break but couldn’t resist keeping going.

Yes I also like to keep a close eye on attendances - those three home wins in September won’t have done any harm! :brock:

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  • 2 weeks later...

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October & November 2022

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We switched our tactic up slightly at the start of October, dropping a DM in effectively between the two forward-thinking wing backs. We got creditable draws against Derby and West Brom, needing a last minute goal to secure that, but then lost to Stoke. We conceded in all three games so I concluded that the tactical tweak provided us with no extra defensive cover, so switched back to our favoured 5-2-1-2.

After no win in five, I decided it was the right time to to hold a team meeting and rally the troops. The positive effect was evident as we convincingly beat both Millwall and Luton. Unfortunately centre back Bolger broke his arm in training and had to be sent to a specialist for 7 weeks. JHI had a great October, with his four goals seeing him named Championship Player of the Month.

We finished off with three draws before the winter break. The Huddersfield game was particularly frustrating as we led 2-0 but then ended up drawing.

During this period I found myself a man in demand. I rejected job interviews at both Blackburn and Sheffield Wednesday, and denied press speculation linking me to the West Brom job.

World Cup 2022

The season was paused due to the Qatar World Cup. It felt quite unnecessary as (you'll be surprised to hear!) none of my players departed for the tournament - but I am sure many of the bigger sides in the division were impacted, therefore this was the fairest outcome.

The World Cup was lifted by Belgium, who overcame Italy in a thrilling Final that finished 3-3 and was settled on penalties.

England exited at the Quarter Final stage, losing 1-0 to Holland. This saw Dick Advocaat lose the England job and subsequently be replaced by Sean Dyche.

Winter Break

There were 53 long days between the Nottingham Forest game and my next fixture.

I didn't want to to be a complete waste of time so I set myself a small project to review and enhance my staff. At the beginning of the season when some staff's deal were expiring, I took the opportunity to replace them where improvements were readily available. It was not, however, a large scale overhaul. Now we are in the Championship we have more prestige so it would be remiss not to take the opportunity to upgrade my staff.

In prior seasons, as we were a League Two and then a League One outfit, I was happy to just not have certain staff to save costs. Now we are in the Championship I decided it was time to hire staff for the U23 team and grow the U18 coaching team in an attempt to set us up for the future.

Coaching Departures

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Firstly, here are the staff that departed in the summer. Some of them I hired myself, but as our stature has grown so has the quality of candidate. They all would have wanted pay rises after promotion, so the better quality alternatives were in most cases the cheaper option. There is no room for sentiment here.

Coaching Arrivals

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As you will see the arrivals are numerous (we have 50 staff now) so I won't showcase their attributes individually. I think it is important to keep evolving all areas of the club, not just the playing staff.

There was also one October transfer arrival to report as I brought in former-Liverpool academy graduate Oakley Cannonier. At just 18, he has been added to the U23 squad to develop.

Club Improvements

At the start of the winter break I asked the board if we could upgrade our youth facilities. To my complete surprise they accepted - this was one of the only requests they have ever accepted. It will cost the club £350k and the work will conclude in October 2023. It seems my careful financial management of the club has garnered me some trust.

  My optimism was short-lived however, as they soon returned to their unambitious ways. They rejected my request to improve our training facilities, wouldn't increase the wage limit for any of the staffing roles and decreased the percentage of transfer revenue I can retain to 55%.

The owner remains 'happy to stay' - here's hoping someone eventually makes him an offer he can't refuse.

Edited by Dong21
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With 53 long days between fixtures, I decided to arrange a mini pre-season before the league campaign restarted. The three local sides selected posed no significant threat, they were purely chosen so we could build both fitness and morale. I noticed that the other Championship sides had not elected to do the same, therefore potentially providing us with a competitive advantage.

As well as sorting out my staff (as detailed in my post above), I used this lengthy period of time without fixtures to study and upgrade both my training schedules and my tactics, with particular attention given to my corner routines in a quest to seek any fine margin that could provide us with an uptick in form. We did pre-season specific training schedules, which included team bonding and community outreach sessions.

At the start of the winter break striker Richards tore his hamstring, ruling him out for 3 months. The only positive was that due to the break he would miss less than a month's worth of games.

In mid-December we signed 22 year old ex-Brighton goalkeeper Thomas McGill on a free transfer. My current backup 'keeper Daniels is 34 so this is to give me some more youthful cover. I decided to keep Daniels around as third choice until his deal expires in the summer.

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I was invited to a recruitment meeting in mid-December that turned out to be a complete waste of time. The transfer suggestions provided were either far too expensive (we don't have any budget left) or, in most instances, have no chance of getting a work permit. I understand that as we are a small club the quality of my staff / owners isn't the highest and therefore I won't get the best suggestions but you would expect them to have a basic understanding of the work permit rules. I'm really not sure if this is intentional or a bug that needs reporting.

I also received an underwhelming news item regarding our next youth intake. This indicated that other than a good goalkeeper, there is nothing to look forward to. The enhancement to our youth facilities can't come soon enough.

December 2022

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Pre-season was going smoothly until JHI went off injured in the first minute of our final friendly. He was ruled out for a month with a back strain. This meant that going into the restart we were down to just two first team strikers.

I had taken Jack Marriott on trial during the break to check him out. He had been in good form for the U23s and his fitness was coming along well. I tried to offer him a contract but I was only able to offer him reduced terms as we have no budget, this pissed him off and it ended badly. I therefore decided to promote home-grown prospect Ronnie Webber from the U23s. Probably more naturally a winger, he is capable of playing up front and was added to the bench for our return game against Hull. I feared a tough return as they had 'new manager bounce' potential, with it being Slaven Billic's first game. It turned into a fairytale though as Webber came off the bench, was chopped down in the box and won us the penalty which McCann converted for the win.

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Webber has gone on to make four substitute appearances since that game. He is still raw and I hope I can help him fulfill his potential in the coming seasons.

Lumley was ruled out of the FA Cup game with a knock, so McGill made his debut vs League Two Crawley. We had 24 shots but only 4 were on target. We comfortably kept a clean sheet, so it was 0-0 and penalties. Young Webber scored his, but CBJ missed and Crawley converted all four to knock us out of the competition.

I can now add Palace to the list of team's who's jobs I have rejected. Cardiff have now been rejected twice.

January 2023

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January has undoubtedly been our strongest period at Championship level. In the initial months of the season our defence appeared to be letting me down, but all that has changed - this can be demonstrated by the run of six clean sheets we achieved following the restart. Our new challenge has become goalscoring.

We dominated high flying Bristol City, had 13 shots, but couldn't score a goal. Striker Smith hasn't scored in ten games by this point. We trained chance creation and conversion all week and were able to beat Reading 2-0 but then went back to dominating but not scoring against Portsmouth (15 shots!). Even though JHI and Richards were due to return from injury soon, I decided to bring in a new striker to freshen things up. The board had recently allowed me to upgrade expectations from 'attempt to avoid relegation' to 'avoid relegation' giving me a small boost in wage budget, so I could now afford to pay 70% of the wages of Arsenal youngster Dale Taylor.

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Taylor made his professional debut in football against Preston and scored in his first game! He then got his first assist, providing for one of Doidge's brace against QPR. He hasn't scored since but the positve results have continued. We now have five good quality strikers to choose from. This is probably too many but with the injury challenges we've faced it might be a necessary precaution (for example Kent was ruled out for 6 weeks with a sports hernia prior to the Preston game, McCann out for two weeks and Bolger out for four weeks after Palace loss and Winchester out for 5 weeks after Sheff Weds match).

The Palace loss was disappointing but we played okay and picked ourselves straight back up to get two hard fought wins against Watford (2nd in the table) and Sheff Weds. 19 year old centre back, match winner vs Watford, deserves a shoutout. After a shaky start he has been ever present since the restart and has put in some really solid performances. He came 2nd in the January Championship Young Player of the Month awards and 3rd for Player of the Month. A few clubs came in trying to loan him on deadline day, but I rejected them.

Other than the Taylor deal, the only other January business was the sale of Ryan Tunnicliffe to Hamilton for £40k. Austin FC had bid £1.3m for Hesketh which I gladly accepted (great money!) but he rejected their contract.

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So at the end of January we sit 13th in the Championship table, closer to the Playoffs than the relegation zone. There will be no complacency though, I know how tight this division can be. A few good or bad results and the table can look very different. 12 games remain to see out the season.

Edited by Dong21
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Going really well so far and the additional of Taylor looks shrewd, pace at any level of the game is killer.

Loving the titles of each section too, nice to see a different chapter header with each post.

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With things going smoothly at Boundary Park and the owners pleased with my performance, despite their numerous conflicting expectations, my job stability had not crossed my mind.

I was therefore surprised, at first, to see a news article circulating that was speculating on the next manager of Oldham. It then dawned on me that I only have 5 months left on my contract and therefore it was rational for speculation to commence!

What makes this particularly newsworthy is the reported candidates for the job.

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I was not at all surprised to see John Sheridan linked with the job. With a rich playing history for the Latics and three separate managerial spells here already under his belt, it is almost inevitable that Shez will once again be making a trip down Sheepfoot Lane.

David Adams is also a reasonable candidate, having recently left Reading.

Where my surprise and bemusement occurred was when I saw Mikel Arteta linked with the job!

His last job was at Arsenal in the Premier League. How was he being linked with a club that was recently in League Two?

With a respectable 52% win percentage at Arsenal, it wasn't that his reputation was in tatters and he needed to rebuild. All I can conclude is that I have built Oldham's stature to the level that top manager's are interested in taking over. He mustn't have heard about the owners :lol:

New Contract

I swiftly crushed Arteta's ambitions by asking the board for a new contract. They were more than happy to offer me a new two year deal and the ink was dry on the contract less than a few hours after the subject was raised. Maybe next time Mikel...

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In my GF38 save Arteta was fired by Arsenal and has become a "Journeyman" spending a season or two, and NOT reviving any Team....Last Seen at RC Strasbourg in Ligue 1.

You are doing great work....tell the Press to ***S Off!

 

 

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