Welcome back to my journey with Oldham Athletic. In the previous post, we went through a first season review up until January, outlining results up until this point and any transfer in and out during the Winter transfer window.
In this post, we will be going through a full first season review up until May, highlighting results from January through May and a five-year plan review.
January was an extremely busy month for us with 9 games squeezed into the 31 day period, playing a game every 3 to 4 days as we challenged for silverware of 3 fronts with the League, EFL Trophy and FA Cup. Even with the hectic schedule, we managed to pull off a good run of form winning 7 of these games and losing 2, both in the League.
The month started with Notts County visiting Boundary Park in freezing and snowy conditions where home advantage prevailed and we managed to come away with a 1-0 win courtesy of an 18th-minute goal from left-back Rob Hunt. Next to make the trip were Port Vale for a FA Cup 3rd Round tie in extremely wet conditions where we were lucky to come away with the win thanks to a 90+1 minute penalty winner for Jose Baxter.
Next, we were on the road ourselves travelling all the down to Milton Keynes to meet what seems to be our bogey team of late, MK Dons. Over 3 games against the Dons, we have never managed to pull off a win, drawing twice and losing once (image below). The loss came in this particular match, where we fell to a 2-1 defeat.
Back up to Boundary Park for our next game against Forest Green. An overall poor game from us resulted in a 4-2 loss. The highlight being a brace from Sam Surridge who has been enjoying a rather successful loan period from Bristol Rovers. Back on the road again for the 5th game of the month with us visiting Accrington for an EFL Trophy 3rd round tie. Again, another poor match from us in a game we should have won easily; coming away with the win only after a penalty shoot-out.
Staying on the road for our next game, we faced the short journey down to Macclesfield for a League game. Once again – and a trend I’m not liking – we played poorly against opposition we should be easily winning again, only managing to pull off a slender win thanks to a 90+4 minute winner from Sam Surridge.
Back to back home games followed with both Yeovil and Wycombe visiting Boundary Park. We played a lot better in these games after focusing our training more on our tactical style, the team seemed to gel a lot better. Both games resulted in 1-0 wins to solidify our position at the top of the league.
The last and probably most difficult game of the month followed next. A trip to the North East for an EFL Trophy Quarter Final against Sunderland. At this point our fitness levels were horrendous and the team struck with numerous injuries due to the hectic schedule, I would not have been surprised to have come away with a heavy defeat against far superior opposition. Instead, spirited performances and a masterclass from both Sam Surridge and Callum Lang meant we managed to pull off a superb win after
February was a much less busy month with only 6 games over the course. However, the effects of January finally caught up fell to 3 defeats. Still challenging on 3 fronts seemed to be more of a curse than a blessing as the more games we were playing the more injuries we seemed to collect.
First up was Morecambe who faced a trip down to Boundary Park. An all-around good performance from the team as they managed to squeeze out a 3-2 win with goals from Callum Lang, Sam Surridge and Willem Tomlinson. Next, we faced a trip ourselves down to Crawley, where our League form began to falter as we dropped points for a 2-0 loss in a game where we were forced to play a few youth players due to injury problems.
Crewe was the next team we faced in the league. A weird, topsy-turvy game that could have gone either way. Unfortunately for us, it went the way of Crewe as they left Oldham with a 4-3 win and all 3 points. Our next fixture arrived with a FA Cup 5th Round tie versus Liverpool. I was expecting absolutely nothing from this game given the opposition as we stood no chance of even pulling off an upset. A heavy defeat duly followed with Liverpool walking away with a 5-0 win and a ticket to the next round. We were only expected to reach the 2nd Round of the FA Cup so to reach the 5th Round was an extremely good accomplishment and the team deserved all the plaudits for their miraculous run.
Staying on the road for our next couple of games as we first visited Bury and then Bradford. With a lot of the team now back from their injuries and nearly at full strength, we got back to winning ways with back to back wins. First was Bury in a League game, pulling off a 3-1 win in a very good performance in the first bit of sunshine we had seen all year. Next, a visit to Bradford for an EFL Cup Semi Final where we secured our passage to the Final and a tie against Newport with a 2-0 victory courtesy of a brace from Gevaro Nepomuceno.
With the busy few months challenging for FA Cup and EFL Trophy silverware, we had accumulated a backlog of league fixtures to be fulfilled. This resulted in 7 games to be played over the course of March as we sought to catch up with the rest of the league. 6 league games and the EFL Trophy Final to look forward too at the end of the month.
Starting with back to back wins again over Stevenage and Cambridge we cemented our position at the top of the league even though we were 5 games in games of the rest of the chasing playoff teams. The game against Stevenage was a fairly drab affair as not much really happened at all as we came away with a 2-1 win thanks again to more goals from Sam Surridge. Next up, a trip down to Cambridge in a much more entertaining fixture as the goals flew in at both ends and a good performance as we took the 4-2 win back home with us.
A poor run followed over the next 3 games as we lost 2 and drew 1 all in the league. The first loss came at Lincoln as they ran away 4-2 winners in a game they pretty much dominated throughout, we were lucky not to lose to a much heavier scoreline. A back and forth 3-3 draw at home to Tranmere came next in another game that could have gone either way. Both teams played very well and a draw was always the most likely outcome of this game.
Our first of 2 games in March against Newport – one in the League and one in the EFL Trophy Final – ended in a 2-0 loss as we made the long trip down to Rodney Parade. I rested a lot of first teamers in this game in anticipation of ensuring they were fit and ready for the EFL Trophy final as we chased our first silverware of the save. Back to winning ways followed next with a solid 1-0 win against Grimsby thanks yet again to a Sam Surridge goal in the 27th minute.
EFL Trophy Final
It has arrived. The EFL Trophy Final. Our first trip to Wembley. Our first chance of winning some silverware. We went into this game, thankfully, with a fully fit squad after resting many key players over the last couple of fixtures. Huge anticipation as this match started. I was confident and knew we had the quality to go out and grab the victory. The squad duly delivery with a quality 3-1 scoreline. Goals from Peter Clarke, Jose Baxter and Courtney Duffus cemented the win. A dominating display after losing 2-0 against the same opposition only a couple of games before as we piled on the pressure to take home the EFL Trophy. First competition win complete and another very possible to come shortly with the run in to the end of the season following. At the end of March we were sitting comfortably at the top of the League and only and incredibly bad run of form would result in us dropping down the standing.
April & May Results
After the euphoria of winning the EFL Trophy and the celebrations settled, we were back to the grind as we aimed to finish of the season strongly and hope to win the league and promotion to League One. To start April, we faced an away trip to Colchester where the confidence of previous results shined through with a brace from Gevaro Nepomuceno and a solo effort from Jose Baxter securing an easy 3-1 win on the road.
Back at Boundary Park for a tie against Swindon followed and again another easy victory as we ran out 3-0 winners with goals for the second game in a row from Nepomuceno and Baxter and another from Dan Gardner. A difficult away tie at Cheltenham came next with a draw always looking the most likely outcome throughout the game. A 2-2 result duly finished the tie with goals again from Nepomuceno and Baxter who both cannot stop scoring at the minute.
A very entertaining fixture at home to Mansfield for the fourth game of April finishing in a 3-3 draw in another game that could literally have gone either way. Goals from Sam Surridge and Peter Clarke and a fifth goal in four games from Nepomuceno to round out the game. The final game of April, unfortunately, ended in defeat as we travelled to Exeter for finish the month with a 1-0 loss. A poor display overall from both teams.
The final game of the season and the only game in May followed with Northampton visiting Boundary Park. An absolute quality final game to assert out dominance over the League this season as we cemented an incredible 5-1 victory to win our second silverware of the save and first major trophy as we won promotion to League 1! A brace from Callum Lang and a thoroughly deserved hat-trick from the revelation that has been Sam Surridge completed our incredible season.
End Of Season League Table
So, that’s it. The first year of our 5 year plan complete. With promotion being one of the key aspects of the first year plan, I am extremely happy and proud that we managed to do this via winning the league with a solid 9 point margin. Next season for League One will be even more challenging and will bring a lot of additions factors that will need to be thought about. A lot of changes are going to be needed for both playing and backroom personnel and a few adjustments made as we continue to stabilise the club.
5 Year Plan Review
Stabilise The Club
After sitting with a minus balance for the majority the season; good runs in all 3 cup competitions made for a healthier bank balance come the end of the season. This was especially in part down to reaching the 5th Round of the FA Cup which brought in the majority of the revenue for the club itself. Currently sitting at just over £1 million balance I fully expect for us to drop back into the minus at some point during the season due to wage expenditures (shown below) and other outgoings. Hopefully, more decent runs in the Cup competitions will help to stabilise the finances.
The club itself still has a net debt of around £3.75 million, however, this is not something to worry about at this time as the PIK Loan of £400k is not due until 2021 and will be paid off in one go and the other Loan of £5 million not repayable until we reach the top division which by this point I would hope that we would have enough money and/or turnover to keep up with £41.5k per month repayments until 2028.
Something I am hoping
Build A Solid Backroom Staff Setup
Building a solid backroom staff setup was one of the main things I wanted to focus on with this save. This is due to the ability of the staff of influencing and training the players to become better and better and would make the save lot easier as we attempt to become much better as a club as a whole.
We are currently doing well in both the recruitment and medical team areas however the actual coaching team needs a fair bit more improvement. Our shortfall here is being a low reputation club which is making is extremely difficult to attract the calibre of coach I’d really like to bring into the club.
Not much to write here as already covered above. Winning promotion with winning with the league also was always going to be a big ask for the club and is a tremendous achievement and shows the character of the squad as a whole as we stormed to the league title. Preparing for life in League One will be the next big test for the team.
The next post with be a big one. We will highlight a lot of changes made to the club. This will include backroom staff changes, transfers ins and outs, tactical update and training update.