Time for a Change PDF Print E-mail
Oldham Athletic
Written by Mark W   
Sunday, 20 August 2017 15:52

Things are looking grim so far, no points, just one league goal and already the dream of a League cup run has gone for a Burton. However, we are three league games into a new season, just three. You can’t judge whether we will stay up or not off three games. Many are trying to do just that, but you can’t.

Whilst you can’t write us off and start planning for relegation, you probably can come to a conclusion that it is going to be another long hard season. Teams do come back from this position and challenge for promotion, (Sheffield United did it from somewhere similar last year) but that’s not going to happen. Whilst we might be able to turn it around to stay up, that’s as good as it is getting. We are no Sheffield United.

To some extent, whether we can stay up or not, is kind of beside the point. Of course I want us to stay up and of course I fully understand the consequences if we go down. Right now, though, it is that dread of another eight months of battling for the odd result that fills me with dread without worrying about the conclusion.

I just want to be able to get excited about a season. Other fans get to experience that. You could sense the excitement of the Oxford fans at the start of this season. They believe that this could be their year. I know Bury fans and Rochdale fans who started the campaign full of expectation following closed-season strengthening. It looks like it might have been false hope for them both right now but they have both got pretty strong squads. They should be competing at the right end as we move into 2018.

We don’t get to experience that any more. Yes, there were some who seemed to think we had a decent summer and that we might be able to challenge for a top half finish. Yes, you read that right, getting excited that we might be able to finish 11th. Reality has already bit though, having a summer that is less disastrous than the last two is different from having a decent summer. We get the odd run such as under Lee Johnson where we had a few months of playing some good football where it was possible to let yourself dream. Having got ourselves into a pretty good position we opted to throw it away by failing to replace Lee when Barnsley came calling.

As a football fan, it is all about being able to dream. It’s great to win a match, but there has to be a bigger picture. It’s all about success, whether you support Real Madrid or Glossop North End, you go because you want to see your team succeed. If you know that’s not an option, what’s the point?

I know this is negative, I hate being negative. I can only be realistic though. I genuinely do not see how my football club can achieve any kind of success in the foreseeable future, and yes, by foreseeable future I mean under the current ownership.

From what I can see, we have no plan. I have heard the Board state on a number of occasions that they have a 3 year plan or a 5 year plan but in recent years I have heard nothing. We are in our 21st consecutive season in league one yet all the rhetoric from the board room is about a season of consolidation. How can you be in a season of consolidation after 21 years? Consolidation is the aim in years one and two.

I remember that the SportsDirect deal was going to allow us to compete in this division. We are into year 4 of that deal and are we competing? No, we are not.

I remember that the new stand was going to enable us to compete. We would finally have an asset that would allow us to generate revenue 365 days a year. That would put us in a position where we could compete with the better sides in League One. We’ve got the new stand. It doesn’t generate round the clock revenue because by the owner’s own admission, we are only benefitting from matchday revenue. Even that is restricted because the supporters’ bar we were promised will be available “manana”. So are we competing? No we are not.

Do we hear the owner telling us of the latest plan to make us compete? No, presumably because he hasn’t got one.

I don’t dislike Simon Corney. I have dealt with him on a number of occasions and he seems to be a nice bloke. When he and his two associates took over the club in our hour of need they had a plan and I genuinely believe that they were unlucky. They put money into the club and would probably have put in more had the financial crisis not hit at the worst possible moment. Simon B and Danny have gone now. With them went the financial clout for us to put together a promotion push. Simon Corney knows that and he has done a good job of ensuring that we don’t slip through the leagues. You can’t question that there are much bigger clubs than us who have played in League two and non-league over the last decade. It doesn’t surprise me that Simon gets miffed when fans don’t recognize that.

It’s not enough though. We need the dream, the belief that this club can achieve something. I’m sorry Simon, but you can’t deliver that.

The current structure of the club, the land, the ground, OEC, etc. makes finding a buyer exceptionally difficult. Who would purchase the club without the land and make a success of it? The answer to that is simple… Nobody. A way has to be found for someone to be able to purchase the job lot. That is up to Simon and Brassbank. The statements that we have seen from them and the open conversations that Simon has held with fans suggests they want their money back. Realistically that’s not going to happen and if that is the starting point in any negotiation it is no wonder no buyer can be found.

It is easy for me to suggest that some guys I don’t know should be prepared to take a loss. I get that. I also understand that Simon says he is ploughing significant funds into the club on an annual basis. If that is the case, it must be better for him to cut some of his losses now rather than keep going. It should also be remembered that all this money he, and other parties puts in, simply increases the debts of the club and makes finding an investor even more difficult.

I call on Simon to be open with the fans and the public of Oldham and tell us what it would take to get your hands on the club and its associated assets (I appreciate they are not the club’s assets but when TTA took over they had an option to repurchase the assets at a very fair price. I’d like to think they could offer a similar deal to our next owner).

I am grateful to the three businessmen who took on the club when we desperately needed them but I just feel that we are in desperate need once again. The continued season on season loss of fans will kill the club. We can blame that eroding of the fan-base on the growth of the Premier League or apathy within the town but the truth is, it is a lack of ambition. We aren’t just losing the casual fans, we are losing people who have shown decades of loyalty. The way I feel about the club at the moment I can’t blame them.

I recognize that losing our owner would be a risk. I, like most fans look at owners like Oyston, SISU, and Venkys and shiver. The examples of Stockport and Tranmere as teams who have suffered catastrophic failure are far too close to home. I can’t say that if we had new owners we wouldn’t see that kind of slide. Likewise, I can’t say that we wouldn’t see a rise similar to Brighton and Bournemouth. Both were clubs who we would have seen as being in a worse state than us at some point in the last decade. Even Huddersfield weren’t getting much better crowds than us not that long ago. They show what can happen to a well run club.

I’d be prepared to take the risk. I honestly feel that we haven’t got that much to lose. If we are still in this division in 5 years time, starting every campaign hoping to survive we will be doing so in front of sub 2,500 crowds which will lead to further cuts in the playing budget and the vicious circle continues.

I know this will not be a universally popular view, in fact I know that some will see it as tantamount to treason. For that I apologize, I am only saying it because I care and I am concerned about the future of Oldham Athletic.

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