Oldham Athletic’s defeat to Salford City on Saturday was the final chapter in a sorry story that saw Latics become the first former Premier League side to fall out of the English Football League.
The team’s century-long stay in the league came to a chaotic end at Boundary Park as supporters invaded the pitch in the 79th minute, protesting against owner Abdallah Lemsagam.
With fans refusing to leave, both Oldham and Salford players were escorted off the field by referee Bobby Madley with the last of the protesters remaining on the field for almost an hour.
As a result, the final 11 minutes of the game were played behind closed doors later in the evening, with the match finishing 2-1 to the Ammies.
A fourth straight loss means that Oldham, who were a founder member of the Premier League in 1992, will play in the National League next season.
“Becoming the first Premier League club to be relegated to the National League is a very Oldham thing to do,” Matt from The Boundary Park Alert System! Podcast tells FansBet.
“Having unwanted records is something we’re pretty good at so it really isn’t a surprise.
“Saturday’s result was inevitable. We were always going to go down as we just don’t have a strong enough squad and John Sheridan could only do so much.
“We’ve been saying it a long time, this owner doesn’t have what it takes, he doesn’t have the skills, the finances or connections and unfortunately relegation has been on the cards since January.
“The mood was a bit of a slow burner for a lot of us as we were expecting it to be honest, so on Saturday we were a bit blasé about it, but for a lot of people on Sunday a bit of depression kicked in.
“Then, by Monday and Tuesday, it’s been a lot more about anger at how we’ve been treated and what happens next, so trying to channel that anger into something positive is really what our intentions are about now.”
Controversial owner Abdallah Lemsagam was not in the country to see the latest instalment in Oldham’s sad demise, while the seat of his sporting director brother, Mo, was also empty, as it has been for much of the season in the Boundary Park directors’ box.
Oldham fans have been piling the pressure on Lemsagam, who took over in 2017, for much of the season in an effort to speed up a club takeover.
It’s been over three months since the Moroccan businessman appeased disgruntled fans with his pledge to sell the club after four years at the helm.
During his tenure, Latics have been on the decline, suffering relegation from League One at the end of his first season in 2018, and now find themselves out of the English football pyramid for the first time in over a century.
As well as their on-field turmoil, the role of head coach has changed hands 10 times, while this season they have been restricted by a transfer embargo for an outstanding loan that was taken out with the EFL to help them through the pandemic.
Fans had eased off the protests following the return of club legend John Sheridan and instead focused their energies on backing the team, but concerns have once again grown about the direction the club is going in.
Those worries led supporter groups to take to the pitch and tell Abdallah Lemsagam: “It’s time to go,” on Saturday.
“There’s a hope the owner will leave but we’ve been hoping that he would see sense and go for a couple of years, but he’s just dug his heels in more and more,” says Matt.
“As a fanbase, what we need to do is put more and more pressure on him financially and raise the attention to the wider public that we are up for sale and that the town and the club we are worth investing in.
“We also want to make sure that we pool our resources together and that we are very active in the community.
“I genuinely believe that we’ve got the infrastructure and the will and the energy as a fanbase to get him out of the club and rebuild bigger and better than ever.”
Oldham’s slide down the divisions began in 1994, when they matched their 1990 run to the FA Cup semi-finals but finished second-bottom after three seasons in the top tier.
Three years later, in 1997, the late-season appointment of Neil Warnock failed to yield the results they needed to stave off another relegation.
Relative stability followed, with 21 seasons spent in the third tier of English football, including chances in the playoffs in 2003 and 2007, which both ended at the semi-final stage.
But in 2018, the club dropped to League Two and four years on they will play non-league football next season.
“Oldham’s decline is just one of many clubs who have been through similar issues,” explains Matt.
“Clubs like Stockport County, Rochdale, Swindon, Blackpool, Portsmouth; there has been loads of them, so all this information needs to be pulled together.
“Our former Premier League status has given us a little bit more attention but the FA, the EFL, the Premier League and the government all need to be looking at this.
“Football is massively important to our country and pulls more people together than almost anything else so it needs to be protected.
“If there isn’t a sufficient reaction to what’s happened over the past few years then it just shows how profits and greed is more important to people than protecting important, historical institutions like football clubs.
“There’s no way these two should ever be allowed to run a football club and we’re going to vet anyone who comes near Oldham from now on.
“In future, fans need to be given all the details about a prospective owner and if they don’t want them, then they shouldn’t be allowed to come into the football club.
“The EFL has massively let Oldham Athletic down, not to mention a number of other clubs.”
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