Yearning For Success PDF Print E-mail
Oldham Athletic
Written by Mark W   
Sunday, 15 March 2015 23:29

As another season comes apart at the scenes, there appears to be a growing sense of depression at Boundary Park.

At the start of the season there was little belief that this season would end up being anything other than a battle against relegation and it is beginning to look as though that is exactly how it will turn out. For a long time, however, we were in or around the play-off picture and there was genuine optimism that things were going to be different. We had a manager who said all the right things and he had the team playing better football than we had seen in several years. We were, however, only ever in the pack with ten to fifteen other clubs and a combination of factors including the demise of the manager and an injury backlog have shown talk of the play-offs to be nothing more than a pipedream.

You might imagine that the brief flirtation with the top six might have led to something of a feelgood factor but if anything it seems to have gone the other way. It seems that it has simply led to a growing realization as to just how difficult it will be for this club to achieve the promotion that the fans long for. This becomes even more apparent with the move towards the new financial fair play rules as the spending required to deliver success is to be closely linked to income and so any reduction in attendances will inevitably lead to even longer odds on success.

Much has been made of the difficulties in attracting supporters into Boundary Park these days and in particular the fact that an upturn in form tends to lead to little improvements in crowds. Last month, on Valentine’s Day the club made a real effort for the game against Colchester by reducing admission to just £5. They seemed shocked and hugely disappointed that this did not lead to the kind of uptake they clearly anticipated. I think they are missing the point though.

Whilst there are massively different expectations from supporters at different clubs, ultimately all football fans want the same thing. They want to see their team being successful and the thing that keeps them going to games, or attracts them in the first place, is a belief that success is on the horizon. It is no coincidence that I started to go to Latics when the team was successful in the late 1980s, early 1990s. Yes, I now go partly because “that’s just what I do on a Saturday afternoon” but it is that desire to see us achieve something and the belief that we might that keeps me passionate. If that belief isn’t there, what’s the point?

It is this that explains the difficulties in attracting support at Oldham and why the odd good result just won’t make a difference. To understand that you have to realize that Oldham Athletic’s recent history is not like most clubs.

To me, success relates to one of the following:

  • Winning something. Again, this will differ for different clubs with different expectations but be it the Champions League, Europa League, FA Cup, League Cup or even the JPT, that moment of glory gives the fans what they are looking for.
  • Qualifying for Europe. There are 20 clubs in the Premier League and realistically, 15 or 16 of them know that they are highly unlikely to claim the title. These teams do know, however, that a good season can deliver a European adventure.
  • Promotion. For most of the clubs in the league it is promotion that offers them the best chance of glory. Every season 72 clubs set out with a hope that they can claim a spot in the top six (or seven in League two) and grab a place in the division above.

There are other moments of glory such as a big win in the cup against higher division opposition but those memories soon fade. It is only the three examples I list above that really go down in the club’s history.

If you accept this definition of success you soon realize why I say that Oldham are out of the ordinary. In the last five years, sixty percent of league sides have had some sort of success. That means that almost two thirds have had an event that will galvanise the fan base. If you look back a bit further, all bar three of the current 92 league clubs (97%) have had success in the 21st century. The three clubs who can’t make this boast all have to go back well before the turn of the century. Both Oldham and Tranmere Rovers last tasted the sweet smell of success in 1991 whilst Coventry city have to go back another four years to 1987 for their FA Cup victory.

Looking back over that 24 year period since Oldham last won something, it is interesting to compare the demise in league position with the demise in crowds. The following demonstrates how closely the two are aligned (for demonstration purposes the graph shows league position in reverse ie. Bottom of league 2 would be 1 whilst top of the Premier League would be 92).

Oldham

Taking just the period whilst we have been trapped in League one, we have seen a 21% fall in crowds between our first season in 2007/8 and last season.

This is how that graph looks for our two most comparable opponents

Coventry

Tranmere

As you can see, the trend is almost identical. Both Coventry and Tranmere have blips in those charts but both are easily explainable. Coventry saw a spike in support in 2006 when they moved to the Ricoh Arena but that only lasted three years before they reverted back to where they were and then the support almost completely disappeared when they were forced to leave the Ricoh and play in Northampton. Tranmere on the other hand saw crowds increase in their final season in the Championship in 2001 and then witnessed another increase in 2005 when they finished third in League one, narrowly missing out on promotion. In both cases, the increases lasted just the one season before returning to usual levels.

Comparing the drop in crowds over the period since Oldham joined League one, it seems most reasonable to look at Coventry up until when they left the Ricoh and to exclude last season for Tranmere when they crashed into the basement division for the first time since 1989. From 1997 to 2012, Coventry saw a 23% fall in crowds whilst from 1997 to 2013, Tranmere also saw a 23% decrease.

It appears that Oldham exodus of fans is exactly what you would expect to see in the circumstances.

When you look at this context, it is easy to see why much of the Oldham public responds to the football club in the way that they do. There have been many false dawns in the last eighteen years and they have all ended up in some sort of failure. We have seen countless seasons collapse after a good start, we have seen a chairman walk out on us just as we seemed to have finally got somewhere and now we have seen a manager desert us too. It is only natural that each time something like this happens, you lose a few more people who just can’t bring themselves to believe any more. Other clubs have these disappointments too but for the vast majority they have them intermingled with seasons that do deliver.

I am concerned at the moment because I am watching people walk away who I would have never imagined would do so. Not only that, I am finding my own blind faith tested like never before. If this club can’t convince people like me they really are in trouble.

I acknowledge the downbeat tone of this blog and I am well aware that I am calling out the problem without offering up any solutions. If I knew what the solution was I would certainly call it out. What I do know, though, is that as fans we need some hope. We need to be hearing the right things coming out of the club and we need to know that the owner has a clear strategy about how we might one day achieve something once again.

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Leaving without a legacy PDF Print E-mail
Oldham Athletic
Written by Mark W   
Thursday, 26 February 2015 23:41

I have been a huge fan of Lee Johnson during his 23 months in charge of Oldham Athletic yet despite being disappointed at his departure this week, I am far from devastated. The overwhelming feeling I have is one of surprise.

From everything I have heard from Lee, and said about him, I have gained the view that he is both confident and highly ambitious. The decision to leave for Barnsley, however, calls this into question.

I need to clarify that statement as it could easily be misunderstood. I am completely willing to accept the view that Barnsley are, at this moment, a ‘bigger’ club than Oldham. It you determine size based upon the average attendance, potential fanbase or recent seasons’ league positions, you have no choice but to accept it. I would never hold it against a manager to walk out on a club per se as every manager knows that he is only a bad run of results away from facing the sack. Why should a manager show loyalty when clubs rarely show loyalty to them.

In this situation, though Lee Johnson is a manager who was in his first managerial job and whilst he had got Oldham playing some decent football (on the whole) he hasn’t actually achieved anything. If you are in the early stages in your career, you need to create some kind of a legacy. Should Lee fail at Barnsley, as other decent young managers have done in the recent past, his CV is going to look rather bare.

When Lee took over in March 2013 we were 21st in League One whereas he leaves us sat in 9th. I think this has to be caveated though. We might have been 21st but we had recently beaten Nottingham Forest, Liverpool and taken Everton to a replay in the FA Cup. We might have been struggling in the league but nobody could argue that we didn’t have it within us to stay in League one. I am not taking the credit for keeping us up that season away from him but I do believe that it will be something that he will struggle to hold up as a major achievement.

Perhaps I am misreading the situation. Perhaps his legacy will be that he stabalised the club and produced significant profits on a number of players that he brought in, developed and sold on. Sadly, in this era of the undisclosed fee, we will never know and he will struggle to validate the claim in future job interviews.

I also think that despite my previous statement about clubs not showing loyalty to managers, Simon Corney has tended to show more loyalty than most. He showed this by sticking with Dickov long past the point when most would have given him the chop and the long term deal he gave to Johnson showed that he saw him as someone he would give time to.

Had Lee stayed with the club until the end of the season at the earliest, he could have genuinely achieved something. For what it’s worth, I don’t think we would have made the play-offs but even if we had finished in the top ten, that would have been an achievement in itself, certainly something that looks better than a 15th place position in your only full season in charge. Furthermore, I feel that if Lee had stuck with the project into next season he could, given support from the Board, have instigated a genuine promotion push. In those circumstances his stock would have been much more in demand than it was this week.

I like Lee and I hope for him that I am wrong. I hope that he can take the lessons he has learnt here and use them at his new club to enhance his reputation and progress to the highest level in the game. I’m not bitter towards him and hope this piece doesn’t sound as if I am. If I was a betting man, however, I would be putting my cash on him having moved to a club with a lot less patience than he is currently used to and he will be out on his ear within 18 months.

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Signing Ched Evans PDF Print E-mail
Oldham Athletic
Written by Mark W   
Sunday, 04 January 2015 20:02

It appears that my football club is on the brink of signing a convicted rapist and to be honest the thought sickens me.

A month ago it was reported in the press that Oldham Athletic were speaking to Ched Evans but after outcry from the fans the club were quick to issue a statement denying that he would be allowed to train with the club or that he would be signed. It appears that the stance has now changed.

I have supported the club for the last 25 years and right now I have never felt more distanced from them. It strikes me that whilst there may, on the face of it be some business sense for making such a controversial signing it stinks of having been made by people who just don’t understand what it means to be a fan. It may be that he can score the goals to finally fire us to promotion after 18 years in League One. I’m not sure that’s how I want us to do it though.

It was no surprise to see Oldham being linked with Evans following his release from prison due to our signing of Lee Hughes in 2007 in similar circumstances. It is the history with Hughes, however, that to me means we cannot be the club to give Evans a second chance. I don’t want my club to be known as “that club that will sign anyone no mater of the moral issues involved”. I also know what having a universally unpopular player playing for your club means to a fan.

I was far from happy with the signing of Lee Hughes but I supported him wholeheartedly whilst he was an Oldham player. He scored goals galore for us and each one I celebrated as I would had anyone else scored. He was also abused everywhere we went and as is human nature, that simply led to the Oldham fans giving him even more support. When you have 10,000 opposition fans abusing someone you have taken as one of your own, it is difficult not to respond with adulation for the object of their detest.

Whilst I was able to justify the support for Hughes in my own mind at the time, following his departure I felt dirty for it. I don’t want to be in that place again.

I have read several arguments today referring to the fact that Evans may not have committed the crime he was convicted of. I’m sorry, but that is almost irrelevant. He has been convicted and as such I have no choice but to assume that he did it. If at some point in the future he has the conviction overturned I can reassess the situation but until that point, he is simply a convicted rapist. For those who do follow this line of argument to defend the signing, I presume they must have spent longer reviewing the case notes than the judge did during his trial.

Whilst I couldn’t feel much stronger about the fact that we should not be making this signing, I do not understand in my own mind quite where this leaves me. As I see it I have two options, I either embrace the player as I did with Hughes or I stop giving my support to the team.

I don’t feel that I am able to separate my support for the player with my support for the team. When a goal goes in, I am far too passionate to take a moment to consider who has scored it before celebrating. When your team scores that is the best feeling in football, you can’t start diluting it because of a fear of celebrating a goal from someone you don’t like.

The other thing that I don’t think the powers that be understand is that the club you support becomes part of your personality. To most people I know I am Mark the Oldham fan. It’s just part of me. Rightly or wrongly, that means that I get tarred by things that the club do. Again, I know that from the Lee Hughes days. I don’t want to spend my life trying to justify the signing of Evans.

This season has, the last month aside, been fantastic. We have been playing some excellent football and the atmosphere has been the best I have witnessed in over ten years. It seemed to be every other week that we would get home from an away game to read comments from opposition fans about how well we had played and plaudits for the ‘loudest fans this season’. We can forget about that now. Nobody will be interested in how we’ve played. People will only be interested in ‘the rapist’. I can’t criticize opposition fans for that as I would be exactly the same if the roles were reversed. The atmosphere will suffer too as there is bound to be a split amongst fans. The improvement this year has been down to togetherness with supporters getting behind the club and players. I struggle to believe that the coming weeks will not be dominated by arguments between fans around the merits of Evans. I don’t want to be sat next to people singing his name, with me wanting to distance myself from those very chants.

Whilst I am big enough and ugly enough to take it, lets also not pretend that having opposition fans screaming vile abuse in your face is a pleasant experience. It’s not and it will happen. This certainly isn’t going to help us attract more fans. If I had young children I would think twice about taking them to games to be subjected to that.

The nature of Ched Evans’ crime can’t be ignored. There is a victim of his specific crime but there are also thousands of other victims of rape who are likely to be psychologically affected by the intense media coverage of a rapist playing professional football. Every time it is mentioned on TV or in the press it will be a reminder of what happened to them. Whilst I accept that former inmates should be rehabilitised and reintegrated into society, this should not be in a way that causes further harm to victims. Whichever club signs Evans can not be held responsible for the media coverage but that coverage is inevitable and by making the signing we would be facilitating it.

I desperately hope that today’s reports are untrue and Oldham Athletic are not the club who will be signing Ched Evans but whoever it is, I hope that they think about the fans and decide to reverse their decision before it is too late. If not, I and many like me will be left to contemplate exactly what it means for ourselves and whether it changes the way that we feel about our clubs.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 04 January 2015 23:42
 
Inspiral Carpets – There’s Stories To Be Told PDF Print E-mail
Other Stuff
Written by Terry Doran   
Thursday, 18 December 2014 14:45

I first discovered Inspiral Carpets in 1985, when my Mum posted to me the Oldham Chronicle’s music page, featuring the band, together with her weekly cuttings from that newspaper about Oldham Athletic. In those days, it was difficult to keep up to date with day-to-day matters at Boundary Park, if you lived further away than the boundary of the Chronicle’s circulation area, and I was indebted to my Mum. The music page had regular articles about Oldham’s promising Inspirals and their gig venues such as The Mare and Foal pub at Primrose Bank.

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Last Updated on Monday, 22 December 2014 08:22
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Rise of The Athleticos PDF Print E-mail
Oldham Athletic
Written by Mark W   
Sunday, 05 October 2014 22:17

Having not written a blog all season, after Saturday’s trip to Peterborough I feel compelled to comment on the atmosphere and the impact of the “Athleticos”.

In the summer, I heard about the group of fans who were calling themselves Ultras and had an aim to improve the atmosphere both at Boundary Park and at Latics away games. I didn’t really know what to think. To me, the atmosphere is a massive part of attending games. I want to be able to go and not only see a successful team, but to fully participate vocally in the day. There is nothing I like more than Oldham fans, be it 100 or 6,000 of them, out singing the opposition and the team responding to that support. At the same time, my experience is that the best atmospheres are generated spontaneously.

I have watched the development of the group of fans with interest from a distance over the first couple of months of the season. They arrived on the scene with a number of new songs which appear to have received a mixed reaction from the rest of the supporters. They are songs which are seen very much as Athleticos songs rather than Oldham songs. That’s going to take time and a number of them are starting to be adopted.

They have had a hard time at home games. The were based in the Rochdale Road End but appeared to spend more time having a running battle (not literally) with the stewards than getting behind the team. A decision appeared to be made very early that they would not be allowed to stand at games and that was only ever going to lead to conflict. Before long they were re-located in the Chaddy End where it seems that standing is more acceptable. The problem with this is that whilst from the Rochdale Road End we can see them jumping up and down and singing, we can’t actually hear them. I know there is a lot of debate about the acoustics but as someone with no bug to bear, I can assure those in the Chaddy End that we just can’t hear you.

I haven’t been to as many away games as I would like to this season but at Peterborough I found myself right in front of the Athleticos. Upon seeing the drum I was tempted to move. I am of the opinion that musical instruments are more of a hindrance to an atmosphere than an accompaniment. I stayed where I was though and was so glad that I had.

There were less than 400 of us at London Road but the atmosphere was exceptional. I am not saying that it didn’t have lulls but we pretty much sang at full voice for the whole game and the Athleticos (and their drum) were key to it. There was a great mix of both the new songs and the Oldham classics throughout the match. There was also a positivity that has been missing in recent years. Obviously the Peterborough manager received the stick he deserves but this was mixed in with songs for the team and individual players with an appropriate balance. The drum helped keep the atmosphere bubbling without trying to dictate what was being sung.

What impressed me more than anything was that the singing did not just come from the newly formed group. There were at least three groups of singers spread out across the stand which meant that most fans got involved. The cliques I worried would be generated just weren’t there. When the Athleticos started songs the other fans joined in and when songs were generated from other areas of the stand, the Athleticos were only too keen to get involved. So often when a group like this exists they are anxious to be seen as the atmosphere generators meaning that they will not acknowledge, let alone join in with, others who also want to create some noise.

I drove to the game at Posh meaning that I was watching the game sober for once. I thoroughly enjoyed it though and it was the atmosphere that made it. Lee Johnson commented on Twitter after the game about how much noise the fans made showing that it is appreciated by the manager and recent Tweets from the likes of George Elokobi suggest it means something to the players too.

I still don’t like the label of “Ultras” but I have come round to the opinion that they have genuinely added something to the atmosphere at Oldham games. If Saturday is an example of what is to come, I think that I will be doing more games than I had planned this season. Watching Oldham is enjoyable again and not just because we have a team that has both promise and commitment.

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Response to the FA Chairman's England Commission PDF Print E-mail
England
Written by Mark W   
Thursday, 08 May 2014 22:53

A response to the FA Chairman’s England Commission Report

In his foreword to the report issued by the FA Chairman’s England Commission, Greg Dyke urges people to ‘balance the specific, narrowly defined concerns of their particular club or league with what will be of the most benefit to the game overall, to the development of young English players and to the success of the England team’. He is right in this. It is easy to read the report from a perpective of a supporter of a League one club and ignore the bigger picture.

The scope and objectives of the FA Commission must be remembered when reading the report. The objectives were not to identify what is best for Football League clubs, or indeed Premier League clubs. The objective was to identify what would be most beneficial to the England national team. That said, Greg Dyke is the chairman of the FA. He has an over-riding responsibility to do what is best for the English game of which the national team is just one aspect.

When the Commission was launched a little over six months ago, I listened to what Mr Dyke had to say and to be honest I found it refreshing. I had my doubts about whether he was the right man for the job but he certainly said the right things and gave the impression that he was prepared to unset the apple-cart to deliver what was required to give our national team what they needed to have the best opportunity to succeed.

He’s certainly shown that he’s prepared to be controversial but in his key proposals, he has simply got it wrong.

Positives

I will start with the positives. It will be the proposals for the introduction of B teams and Strategic Loan Partnerships (SLPs) that will take all the headlines but much else of what he says is very sensible. He has identified that current rules regarding importing non-EU players just don’t work. There are rules in place which should limit the number of mediocre non-Europeans moving to the English Leagues but the appeals system makes them toothless. 79% of appeals by clubs are successful. That’s 8 in 10 of players who fail the test to come to this country who are let in anyway. The proposals to tighten this up and to completely stop the recruitment of non-EU players by teams below the Premier League is sensible and should be rushed through. I appreciate that this may not be in the best interests of my football club in the short term but if a player is only good enough to move the League one he should not be being granted a work permit to potentially take the place of a young English player.

Proposals to increase the number of ‘home grown’ players to be included in a matchday squad can, also, only be beneficial. At present, only 8 home grown players are needed in a 25 man squad. The proposals would take this to 13. The definition of home grown players means that this would not guarantee that the additional opportunities would go to English players but it is a huge step in the right direction.

Some very important issues on grass roots football are also considered within the report but bizarrely not really addressed. It is recognized that there are issues both with grass root facilities and the quality of youth football coaching. To me these are the issues which need to addressed if we are to genuinely understand why the number of English players making it through to top flight football and in turn the national team are not what we would desire. There are no proposals within the report as to how this can be addressed. Instead there is simply a pledge to look into it further. Sorry, but this is not good enough. The publication of this report should have been a springboard for making changes at grass roots. The fear is that we will hear no more about it.

I don’t think I can steer away from the main proposals in this report any longer. I will do exactly as Mr Dyke requests and look at this from an England perspective and not from an Oldham Athletic perspective but will then look at them separately from a practicality and wider footballing perspective.

B Teams & SLPs – The England view

The proposals for the inclusion of Premier League B Teams and changes in league rules to allow for the use of SLPs are two very different issues but are intended to lead to similar consequences.

The over-riding message throughout the report is that young English players do not have enough opportunities in the key years of their development between the ages of 18 and 21.

It is argued in the report that the use of the current loan system is flawed and not popular amongst Premier League managers. I can understand the reasoning behind this. I can see that if you are a manager that likes to play a passing game you will not be happy to send a young player out on loan to find that his new club plays a more direct style and that he is receiving coaching which is contra to what you would be trying to instill in him. The facts just don’t back this up though. Managers tend to send players out to clubs that they know will provide the player with the kind of footballing education which fits in with their own philosophy. If they don’t do this, they are failing themselves and their players. We are told that managers don’t like the loan system because they lose control of the players. If that’s the case, why does the report tell us that 32% of all Premier League players aged between 18 and 21 went out on loan during the 2013/14 season. That’s a very high percentage if managers don’t believe in the system.

Furthermore, if the issue that managers have is that current league rules restrict their ability to have control over players whilst they are on loan at football league clubs, why during the 2013/14 season wasn’t a single English player within this key age range sent out on loan to a non-British club? A number of Premier League clubs have very close link with foreign clubs where the rules are not so strict. Surely if this was the concern, they would be sending players to these clubs where they could carefully control what happens with them whilst they are there.

The introduction of Premier League sides into a new League 3 might solve the control issue but the competitiveness of this league must be called into question. Premier League clubs have wound up their reserve teams due to apparent non-competitiveness. I am struggling to believe that they are going to feel that League 3 is of an appropriate level. A player moving to what is effectively the conference is not going to then be ready to move to the first team the following season meaning that they would still need to have additional time on loan at a club higher up the football pyramid. And remember, we are supposed to be coming up with a solution which avoids managers having to resort to this ‘disliked’ loan system.

The use of SLPs is simply a half way house, giving some control but significantly less than through a B team. I do not understand why a club would choose to use this.

I acknowledge that players are clearly struggling to break into their Premier League club’s first time as early as would be ideal for their development but I do not see how these proposals really assist with this. The emphasis should be on trying to find a way of getting them more time on the pitch (ideally with their parent club) not on trying to create new clubs for them to turn out for at an even lower level than they can currently get through the loan system.

The argument against using the newly formed Premier League U21 league to blood these youngsters appears to focus on competitiveness and atmosphere. Managers want players to get used to the feeling of playing in ‘real’ matches. For me, Premier League managers can make those U21 teams whatever they want them to be. The Premier League brand is second to none in the footballing world. You are not telling me that they couldn’t get decent crowds at U21 games with the right marketing strategies. I think they might get a bit of a shock if they think that atmosphere’s will be significantly better at some of the smaller Conference sides. Crowds against the B sides would suffer from a lack of away fans as they are likely to be playing at the same time as their ‘parent club’ and fans would shirk away from paying full league prices to watch their reserve team.

There are also some wide assumptions included in the report with little or nothing to back them up. On a number of occasions the figure of 15 English players per B team is quoted. This is nothing more than an estimate. There is nothing within the proposals that forces the use of English players.

The wider football view

There is arrogance in this report. It purports to be about improving the England side but it is about doing what is best for the Premier League teams without due consideration for the damage it does lower down the pyramid. On page 65 of the report we are told ‘by creating spaces within the current footballing pyramid, no club would be displaced by this system’. How does that work. There will be clubs who are currently 4 divisions below the Premier league who following the implementation of these proposals would be 5 tiers below the Premier League. I am struggling to see how they have not been displaced.

There is much to dislike about football these days but there is a integrity and independence that we should be proud of. The ownership rules ensure that whilst there may be unofficial alliances between clubs we should never get to the position where one club can have undue influence over another. These proposals end this position in a heartbeat.

The proposals state that all Premier League clubs in the 2015-16 season would have the option of setting up a B team to move into the league the following season. There is no reference as to what happens when these clubs are relegated from the Premier League or when other clubs get promoted to the Premier League. There is no logic for having an arbitrary cut off with those teams getting B teams while no other club ever can. If you allow other teams to enter B teams when they are subsequently promoted to the Premier League, the number of B teams in the football league could easily get out of hand. B sides cannot get promoted beyond League one so what happens when Man City B go on to win League one in 2020? Presumably promotion goes to the sides in 2nd and 3rd with 4th to 7th entering the play-offs. If it is Liverpool B, Arsenal B and Chelsea B sat behind the champions you can soon get to the ridiculous situation where a bottom half finish can be enough for a promotion. The report tells us that this has not happened in Europe but that doesn’t mean that it won’t happen here.

This brings me to a crucial oversight. There are a lot of references to how successful this set up is in Europe. I would personally question that but even if we take it as read, I feel we are comparing apples with pears. The English league is unique. Lower league football as we know it just doesn’t exist on the continent. There are conference sides in England with higher average attendances than top flight reams across Europe. There is no logic for saying what happens there would work here.

The argument about what happens if the B teams congregate at the top of League one is simple to solve compared with some of the consequences from the introduction of SLPs. Each Premier League and Championship side can have 2 SLPs but no connected clubs can play in the same division. This makes all promotions and relegations potential minefields. The ‘lower’ club will be receiving significant financial support from the ‘higher’ club and so if they look like they are going to get promoted to the same division as their partner, it may not be in their best interests to do so as in doing so they would be enforcing a ‘divorce’ and an end to the funding. Integrity may well go out of the window. Also, if say Oldham and Bury had a partnership with Blackburn and Bury were promoted to League one, would Blackburn have to decide which of the clubs to cut ties with? And then if Bury were relegated again the season after, could they be taken back on?

The report suggests that ‘significant financial settlement from the Premier League should be made to the clubs in the lower divisions of the Football League’ for agreeing to the proposals. If anything tells you who Greg Dyke recognizes is the prime beneficiary of these proposals, that does.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I am very disappointed that an opportunity to discuss improving the England national team has been wasted by producing an ill-conceived idea which simply benefits the Premier League whilst causing significant damage to the clubs who are still the life-blood of English football.

It won’t happen as I don’t see who is going to give these proposals the support that they would need to make such a fundamental change to the structure of the game.

I would imagine that Mr Dyke will quit claiming that he did his best but lacked support from his colleagues at the top of the FA and so couldn’t force through what he believed to be the answer.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 08 May 2014 22:55
 
2013/14 Season - Unofficial Awards PDF Print E-mail
Oldham Athletic
Written by Mark W   
Sunday, 04 May 2014 22:37

With the Official End of Season Awards due to be announced on Tuesday I thought I would take the opportunity to announce the unofficial Ernieflag rewards for the 2013/14 season.

Player of the Season

I don’t think this is an easy call this season. The most consistent player has been James Wesolowski but I don’t think that necessarily makes him player of the season. If we are looking for the player who kept the season bearable when we were struggling to either win games or score goals after Christmas, you would have to say that Gary Harkins wins it hands down. On the other hand, the key player who has made the difference between us staying in League one or failing to beat relegation is  Adam Lockwood. Adam and James Wilson provided the strong defence that we had been lacking all season which was ironic considering they only came in to replace probably our best technical player as Tarky headed South.

If I need to call out one player I am going to go for Harkins as I do like a flair player.

Game of the Season

Probably the easiest award to decide on. The Peterborough game at Boundary Park will live in the memory for many years, both for those of us who were still there at the end and also those who’d disappeared at half time. I have my sympathy for those who left, not only because the first half performance was abysmal, but because it was bloody freezing that day. I’ve never left a game at half time but I think I would have to say that this was probably the only time I have genuinely been tempted.

The difference after the break was unbelievable and the atmosphere once we got back into it was electric.  The players piling into the Chaddy when our 5th hit the back of the net was something I can’t remember seeing too may times down the years.

Goal of the Season

Goal of the Season came on the opening day but it appears that we are not allowed to mention that. I was at the real Old Trafford watching Kevin Pieterson’s last ever century for England but that run from Montano would have been enough to win goal of the season on its own. The was he finished it with the cheeky flick which I thought was only possible on FIFA 2014 removed any element of doubt.

There were other contenders such as Kory Smith at Orient and Carl Winchester’s screamer at Boundary Park but for I can’t take it away from the unmentionable one.

Best Moment of the Season

I have already mentioned the 5th goal against Peterborough and it is difficult to look much further for this award.

Worst Moment of the Season

There are two contenders here. Waking up one Sunday morning to find that the club’s name was being dragged through the mud by Montano was going to take some beating. How one player can be so stupid is beyond me. Whether he actually tried to get booked against Wolves is irrelevant. To start showing off to your mates about doing so is bad enough but to do it while being covertly filmed… I give up. For what it is worth, I was at that Wolves game and noticed nothing out of the ordinary. I certainly feel I would have noticed if the kind of tackles referred to in the now infamous video had been flying around. If he didn’t do it, it just makes the fact that he has thrown his career away even more frustrating.

It doesn’t win the award though. That ‘honour’ goes to the JPT exit against Chesterfield. I honestly thought this was our year in the JPT. I know a lot of people think it is a waste of time and effort but I believe winning a trophy of any kind is something which can be the spur we need to put in a promotion challenge. At that point in the season we were playing great football but still not getting the results. A Wembley trip would have, I believe, improved results and more crucially given the belief that the players need for next season. It should be remembered that when we last got promotion in 1991 it came on the back of the cup runs the previous season which showed just what this football club was capable of.

Disappointment of the Season

There are a number of players who failed to produce this season. Albert Rusnak came with a big reputation but refused to accept not being an automatic choice.

I’m sure that most people would give this award to Adam Rooney. The excitement was palpable when we managed to secure his signature as the season was about to kick off yet neither his performances or goals tally lived up to the hype. To make matters worse, once the decision was made to let him go he suddenly started to score for Fun up in Aberdeen. I’m not going to give it him though. I accept that his performances were not what we wanted on the whole but I didn’t think he was that bad and he did score a fair few goals (admittedly boosted by those he got from the spot. For me I would have liked to see us stick with him and see if he would come good next year but it wasn’t to be.

I am going to give the award to Jon Stead. I was genuinely excited on deadline day when Stead came in. I thought we had found our goalscorer. Not only that, he said all the right things about wanting to prove that he is worthy of a starting place in the Championship. In his month at the club I saw absolutely nothing from him. I was actually pleased to see that when we played Bradford he was just as bad for them. At least it wasn’t that he was not trying for us.

Best Away Trip of the Season

There have been some great away trips this season including the final trip to Carlisle but for me, one was head and shoulders above the rest. It had been a few years since we had been to Bradford and the return certainly didn’t disappoint. An easy train journey, plenty of blues drinking in the city centre. Drinking the pub dry up by the ground. Songs for Andy Clark, A superb atmosphere in the ground. A great victory. I’m not saying it quite lived up to Forest last season but it will do for me.

Supporter of the Season

I’m not going to pick any individual on this. I will share this award between anyone who has been to every game and managed to stay positive throughout. I have done less games this season that I have done at any point in the last 25 years. I have so much admiration for anyone who has dedicated the time to going to all or even most games, visiting grounds they have been to umpteen times before. If you have done that and got behind the lads on very occasion I take my hat off to you.

With the Official End of Season Awards due to be announced on Tuesday I thought I would take the opportunity to announce the unofficial Ernieflag rewards for the 2013/14 season.

Player of the Season

I don’t think this is an easy call this season. The most consistent player has been James Wesolowski but I don’t think that necessarily makes him player of the season. If we are looking for the player who kept the season bearable when we were struggling to either win games or score goals after Christmas, you would have to say that Gary Harkins wins it hands down. On the other hand, the key player who has made the difference between us staying in League one or failing to beat relegation is Adam Lockwood. Adam and James Wilson provided the strong defence that we had been lacking all season which was ironic considering they only came in to replace probably our best technical player as Tarky headed South.

If I need to call out one player I am going to go for Harkins as I do like a flair player.

Game of the Season

Probably the easiest award to decide on. The Peterborough game at Boundary Park will live in the memory for many years, both for those of us who were still there at the end and also those who’d disappeared at half time. I have my sympathy for those who left, not only because the first half performance was abysmal, but because it was bloody freezing that day. I’ve never left a game at half time but I think I would have to say that this was probably the only time I have genuinely been tempted.

The difference after the break was unbelievable and the atmosphere once we got back into it was electric. The players piling into the Chaddy when our 5th hit the back of the net was something I can’t remember seeing too may times down the years.

Goal of the Season

Goal of the Season came on the opening day but it appears that we are not allowed to mention that. I was at the real Old Trafford watching Kevin Pieterson’s last ever century for England but that run from Montano would have been enough to win goal of the season on its own. The was he finished it with the cheeky flick which I thought was only possible on FIFA 2014 removed any element of doubt.

There were other contenders such as Kory Smith at Orient and Carl Winchester’s screamer at Boundary Park but for I can’t take it away from the unmentionable one.

Best Moment of the Season

I have already mentioned the 5th goal against Peterborough and it is difficult to look much further for this award.

Worst Moment of the Season

There are two contenders here. Waking up one Sunday morning to find that the club’s name was being dragged through the mud by Montano was going to take some beating. How one player can be so stupid is beyond me. Whether he actually tried to get booked against Wolves is irrelevant. To start showing off to your mates about doing so is bad enough but to do it while being covertly filmed… I give up. For what it is worth, I was at that Wolves game and noticed nothing out of the ordinary. I certainly feel I would have noticed if the kind of tackles referred to in the now infamous video had been flying around. If he didn’t do it, it just makes the fact that he has thrown his career away even more frustrating.

It doesn’t win the award though. That ‘honour’ goes to the JPT exit against Chesterfield. I honestly thought this was our year in the JPT. I know a lot of people think it is a waste of time and effort but I believe winning a trophy of any kind is something which can be the spur we need to put in a promotion challenge. At that point in the season we were playing great football but still not getting the results. A Wembley trip would have, I believe, improved results and more crucially given the belief that the players need for next season. It should be remembered that when we last got promotion in 1991 it came on the back of the cup runs the previous season which showed just what this football club was capable of.

Disappointment of the Season

There are a number of players who failed to produce this season. Albert Rusnak came with a big reputation but refused to accept not being an automatic choice.

I’m sure that most people would give this award to Adam Rooney. The excitement was palpable when we managed to secure his signature as the season was about to kick off yet neither his performances or goals tally lived up to the hype. To make matters worse, once the decision was made to let him go he suddenly started to score for Fun up in Aberdeen. I’m not going to give it him though. I accept that his performances were not what we wanted on the whole but I didn’t think he was that bad and he did score a fair few goals (admittedly boosted by those he got from the spot. For me I would have liked to see us stick with him and see if he would come good next year but it wasn’t to be.

I am going to give the award to Jon Stead. I was genuinely excited on deadline day when Stead came in. I thought we had found our goalscorer. Not only that, he said all the right things about wanting to prove that he is worthy of a starting place in the Championship. In his month at the club I saw absolutely nothing from him. I was actually pleased to see that when we played Bradford he was just as bad for them. At least it wasn’t that he was not trying for us.

Best Away Trip of the Season

There have been some great away trips this season including the final trip to Carlisle but for me, one was head and shoulders above the rest. It had been a few years since we had been to Bradford and the return certainly didn’t disappoint. An easy train journey, plenty of blues drinking in the city centre. Drinking the pub dry up by the ground. Songs for Andy Clark, A superb atmosphere in the ground. A great victory. I’m not saying it quite lived up to Forest last season but it will do for me.

Supporter of the Season

I’m not going to pick any individual on this. I will share this award between anyone who has been to every game and managed to stay positive throughout. I have done less games this season that I have done at any point in the last 25 years. I have so much admiration for anyone who has dedicated the time to going to all or even most games, visiting grounds they have been to umpteen times before. If you have done that and got behind the lads on very occasion I take my hat off to you.

Club to make the flag most welcome

I hate to say this but I think I’ll have to give it to Peterborough. There were a lot of negatives about going to the home ground of the wife beater. Getting charged £28 to watch League one football is nothing short of disgraceful and the closure of the terracing behind the goal is a huge loss. That said, the stewards were great. They allowed fans to stand and create a great atmosphere and they went out of their way to help with the flag, taking it into the closed terrace, tying it up and then delivering it back all folded up. For once you got the impression that they were happy to have us there.

Most ridiculous decision of the Season

It would be harsh to put this one down to Lee Johnson and his signing of Terry Dunfield or indeed simply the number of players that he has used and the lack of a consistent line up for the first three quarters of the season. I think that Lee has got a lot of potential and I think we are lucky to have him at Boundary Park but he has made a number of mistakes that he needs to learn from if he is going to take the club forward.

I’m not going to give the award to Lee. I am going to give it to the FA. The decision to play the FA Cup replay against Wolves the same night as England v Germany at Wembley was ridiculous. The international was arranged to celebrate the FA’s 150th anniversary. How can you possibly sanction the playing of a match in your organisation’s premier competition at the same time as the flagship game to celebrate your anniversary? I appreciate that a lot of fans do not care about the national side but there are a lot who do. I know of several people who had to make a decision about which game to miss that night. You should never be asked to choose between your club and country.

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