CLARKE AIMSTO CAUSE A STIR
Latics catching up fast says skipper
OLDHAM ATHLETIC were a sight for sore eyes over the summer, with a new manager yet to settle and just five players under contract at the start of pre-season.
But, out of those ashes, skipper Peter Clarke insists something special is now stirring at Boundary Park.
The club were in dire straits when manager John Sheridan (pictured below) left for Notts County, a club who reportedly offered him more money and a bigger budget to spend, before 14 players also found new homes.
New manager Steve Robinson had to evaluate the merits of 18 triallists on day one, in the hope of unearthing a hidden gem.
Eventually, signings started to roll in from a range of clubs, including Motherwell, Bradford Park Avenue, Crystal Palace and Bulgarian side PFC Cherno More Varna, while Clarke himself came from Bury. The centre-back has seen it all before, having spent a year at free-falling Blackpool, but he insists the difference between those clubs could not be starker. “I was at Blackpool when there were just six players a couple of years ago,” he said. “The longer you play, the less surprised you are by things that come up each day. It has brought the group closer together and there is a great spirit between us because of it. The timing of the squad being assembled means that, realistically, we are behind the rest.
“Other teams have had time to gel and find each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We are now seven weeks in and learning all the time – someone is going to be on the wrong end of a few goals soon.”
Latics started the campaign with a 3-0 defeat at Millwall and did not win until success at Bury three games later.
Though points, goals and victories have been hard to come by – Oldham were 18th heading into the weekend – Clarke says an adjustment period was always inevitable after the disruptive summer.
“I came in part-way through. All you can do in those situations is make it work and that means working hard, getting your head down and learning quickly,” he added.
“Lots of hard work on the training ground is what we have been willing to do and I think that will bear fruit soon. It is a great base to build from.”
Clarke, 34, is a veteran of League One after stints at Southend United, Huddersfield Town and Bury.
He jumped at the chance to join Oldham after a conversation with former Motherwell assistant Robinson – who, at 41, he believes has one of the best young minds in the game.
“I played 50 games at Bury and won the Player of the Year award, but the club wanted to go a different way,” he said.
“As soon as I learned of Oldham’s interest and spoke to the manager, I knew it was something I wanted to be part of.
“There were other options and offers but this was always the right one for me. I am enjoying it.”
Oldham’s defence has been impressive, considering it was thrown together in July, and has kept five clean sheets in the first eight league games.
If they can find form at the other end, the Southport-born defender thinks the team can go far.
“Young or old, everyone has a big appetite to get better,” said Clarke. “If you have that, there is a chance to get up there.”
BOUNDARY BOY: Peter Clarke made the switch from Bury. Inset, new manager Steve Robinson