Old­ham stuck in third

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - CONTENTS -

THE name Pine Villa makes me think of a hol­i­day lodge in the Alps but it is in fact the name un­der which Old­ham Ath­letic were founded some 122 years ago.

The club from the greater Manchester town of Old­ham, most fa­mous for its In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion his­tory in cot­ton pro­duc­tion, were found­ing mem­bers of the Premier League in 1993 but have now been in League One for a re­mark­able 21 years!

To put that into some per­spec­tive, when the Latics were rel­e­gated into League One in 1997 the in­ter­net was dial up speed, DVDs were the new must-have in en­ter­tain­ment and peo­ple still cared about what Tony Blair had to say!

But why have a side that Joe Royle took into the English top flight stag­nated so badly over the last two decades? Well, the ob­vi­ous an­swer is money.

To get a club pro­moted from any di­vi­sion in Eng­land, you more of­ten than not need at least a de­cent amount of fi­nan­cial back­ing.

Old­ham have had sev­eral new own­ers over the past 21 years but have never had one that has had ei­ther the fi­nan­cial clout or will to get them back to their former glo­ries.

It could be ar­gued that the Lac­tics have found their level in League One if you base it on their sup­port base but there is still huge po­ten­tial at the club.

The Royal Era

To me, Old­ham will al­ways be Joe Royle, Ian Mar­shall, Craig Flem­ing, De­nis Ir­win, Mike Mil­li­gan, Graeme Sharp and Earl Barrett but now the club need to move on from an era that still casts its glo­ri­ous shadow over a muchchanged foot­ball land­scape and a club that have lost some of their clout in an area sat­u­rated by de­cent sides from the Greater Manchester sprawl.

I watched those FA Cup semi-fi­nals against Manchester United and was shocked by the en­deav­our and abil­ity of a team that I had never re­ally heard of.

It is one of my favourite early foot­ball mem­o­ries, along with the ex­ploits of a cer­tain un­kempt Ian Mar­shall, but un­for­tu­nately it did not last long.

The Latics were only in the top flight for three sea­sons be­fore be­ing rel­e­gated back to Di­vi­sion One and they strug­gled to re­cover after Joe Royle left.

Graeme Sharp took over the reins but at the end of the 1996-97 sea­son they were rel­e­gated again, this time into Di­vi­sion Two (now League One) where they re­main to this day.

Di­vi­sion 2 . Early Days

Like most teams that fall down the di­vi­sions quickly, ex­pec­ta­tions re­mained high and Neil Warnock was the man given the reins and job of get­ting the Latics up at the first time of ask­ing. It was a sur­prise then that Old­ham only man­aged to fin­ish 13th and Warnock re­signed, hand­ing over the job to Andy Ritchie, but, again, no pro­mo­tion push ma­te­ri­alised with 20th and 14th­place fin­ishes. There was a medi­ocrity about the club and the days of play­ing in the Premier League were drift­ing into dis­tant mem­ory. Mick Wadsworth had no bet­ter luck but there was new own­er­ship in the form of Ox­ford­based busi­ness­man Chris Moore. Moore made the time old mis­take of an­nounc­ing am­bi­tious plans of a Premier League re­turn within a rel­a­tively short time­frame and when Iain Dowie took over as man­ager in the sum­mer of 2002 things be­gan to look up. On the pitch, the team were look­ing like pro- mo­tion con­tenders for the first time since fall­ing into the third tier and with the goals of David Eyres, 16 in the league, they man­aged to fin­ish fifth.

Only Crewe, rel­a­tive to their size, had a bet­ter sea­son. In the top six that year were Wi­gan, Crewe, Bris­tol City, QPR, Old­ham and Cardiff! The Latics’ dreams of pro­mo­tion were ended in the play-offs, los­ing 2-1 on ag­gre­gate to QPR.

It was dis­ap­point­ing but many ex­pected the club to kick on and go for an­other pro­mo­tion charge.

How­ever, Moore de­cided to pull out, leav­ing the club in debt and be­ing forced to sell their best play­ers. Dowie left after be­ing un­paid for sev­eral months and the club looked as though it would go out of busi­ness.

The League One Era . Present

Buy­ers were even­tu­ally found in the form of Si­mon Cor­ney and two oth­ers but the fi­nances were in a sorry state and ex­pec­ta­tions were ad­justed ac­cord­ingly.

The EFL changed the name of Di­vi­sion Two to League One but the nov­elty of play­ing in a di­vi­sion that sounded a notch higher up the league lad­der was short­lived and Old­ham con­tin­ued to strug­gle on the pitch, fin­ish­ing 19th in 2004-05.

Things im­proved un­der the man­age­ment of Ron­nie Moore and then John Sheri­dan with the club reach­ing the play-offs in 2006-07 thanks to 22 goals from Chris Porter.

The play-off semi-fi­nals again proved to be the ceil­ing for the Latics as they lost 5-2 over two legs to Black­pool, who went on to beat Yeovil in the fi­nal. Old­ham man­aged an eighth place fin­ish in 2007-08 and have never fin­ished in the top half since 2009 when they fin­ished 10th.

If stag­na­tion hadn't al­ready set in, then it cer­tainly has now. Hopes of an­other play-off tilt are about as re­al­is­tic as Lionel Messi find­ing out that his grand­mother was English and de­cid­ing to change na­tion­al­i­ties!

More and more, the team are look­ing over their shoul­ders rather than at the teams above them.

The start of this sea­son saw the team light in num­bers, es­pe­cially in for­ward po­si­tions, and ru­mours of takeovers did not help dur­ing the trans­fer win­dow.

On dead­line day, man­ager John Sheri­dan man­aged to bring in four player, in­clud­ing Eoin Doyle on loan from Pre­ston. Old­ham haven’t had a striker score 20 league goals in a sea­son since Porter in 2007 but Doyle does at least come with a bit of pedi­gree hav­ing been pro­lific at this level with Ch­ester­field.

How­ever, it has been a hor­ror start to the cam­paign. After ten games, Old­ham were sec­ond from bot­tom and the ex­pe­ri­enced Sheri­dan had de­parted.

As the club wait for pos­i­tive news off the field, the re­al­ity at the mo­ment is that 21 years of League One foot­ball are more likely to come to an end through a rel­e­ga­tion than pro­mo­tion.

Right now, the fans would no doubt set­tle for an­other year of third tier foot­ball.

Check out: Twit­ter @d3d4­foot­ball, web: www.d3d4­foot­, email: info@d3d4­foot­

Bun­dles of fun: Old­ham cel­e­brate scor­ing against Manchester United in the FA Cup semi­fi­nal in 1994

Boss: Joe Royle

Goals: Eoin Doyle

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