CLARKE AIMSTO CAUSE A STIR

Lat­ics catch­ing up fast says skip­per

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Char­lie Ben­nett

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.”

Con­ver­sa­tion

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.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

BOUND­ARY BOY: Peter Clarke made the switch from Bury. In­set, new man­ager Steve Robin­son

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