With a new ownership at the helm of the club and a first ever foray into National League football underway, to say it’s been a period of change at Oldham Athletic in the past few months is a major understatement.
And a busy summer in which local businessman Frank Rothwell replaced the controversial Abdallah Lemsagam and 17 new arrivals joined Latics has now been followed with further change in the dugout.
David Unsworth has been tasked with securing a return to the Football League for one of the Premier League’s founder members following their relegation from League Two last season.
The ex-Everton defender and academy boss replaces the outgoing John Sheridan – a legendary figure at Boundary Park, who leaves Oldham following a sixth spell in charge.
Unsworth made 350 appearances across two spells for the Toffees and lifted the FA Cup in 1995, and now will be reunited with former manager Joe Royle, who is on the Oldham board along with Royle’s son and Latics chief executive Darren.
He has twice taken caretaker charge of Everton’s first team and has overseen the development of the likes of Tom Davies, Anthony Gordon, Mason Holgate and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
And Unsworth’s track record in this area is just one of the factors as to why fans are excited as the club continues to embark on an optimistic new era at Oldham Athletic.
“I’m really happy with the appointment of Unsworth,” Matt from The Boundary Park Alert System! Podcast tells FansBet.
“He’s got a lot of pedigree, a lot of experience and a lot of contacts; he’s also got a proven record of working with young players and a vision that’s very much aligned with the current board.
“He’s been signed on a three-year deal, which is a real sign of commitment from the club and I think it’s a real statement of intent from the board.
“It’s a rebuilding project and it says to me that he’s someone who doesn’t want to leave at the first chance of getting a better job and he’s committed to getting the wheels in motion at Latics.
“He now needs time to get all the new infrastructures in place, get the staff in place, and to help build a winning mentality.
“There needs to be a new energy throughout the club and I think he’ll bring that.
“He also needs the backing of the board and the backing of the fans, which I think he’ll get, and he needs to win matches, it’s as simple as that really.”
Following a 3-0 defeat at Woking on Tuesday, it was announced that John Sheridan’s sixth spell in charge of Oldham would come to an end after Saturday’s game against Eastleigh, giving fans the opportunity to show their appreciation.
And it was a fitting farewell as Charlie Wellens’ first senior goal secured a late 3-2 win for Latics, who took an early lead but ultimately had to come back from behind to secure the three points.
Following the final whistle, Latics supporters rose to salute “Shez” who conducted a lap of honour, leaving the 57-year-old – and not to mention many of those in the stands – visibly emotional.
“I think the decision to part ways with John Sheridan was correct,” explains Matt.
“He’s lost some of the fire and the drive. In his post-match interviews he appeared really down and dejected as, at the end of the day, he’s a fan and loves the club.
“He used to be angry, but the anger has gone. He’d be hurting and he’s still hurting at some of the performances, but that fire had gone and I think we needed a fresh start.
“He was a servant for a long time and a brilliant player, head and shoulders above anyone else, so fans loved him for that.
“Then he was youth team manager and then first team boss and he was part of the fabric of the club; he was there for the club when it needed him and people appreciate that.
“People appreciate his honesty and openness – he’s very much like an Oldham fan in that he says it as it is, he’s from this part of the world and it’s a relationship that’s built up over time and respect.
“It’s not always about winning things, some things are deeper than that, and that’s what it is with John and Oldham Athletic.”
Oldham were taken over by local family and business owners the Rothwells in July, following the deeply unpopular reign of Dubai-based former agent Abdallah Lemsagam.
In that time, late wage payments, tax issues and 10 managerial changes pushed fans to breaking point, with Lemsagam even threatening the more outspoken ones with bans for ‘spreading dislike’ over his ownership.
But now Frank Rothwell, the town’s Business Ambassador for Oldham Council, is the new chairman at a club that has suffered two relegations in four years – and his appointment has ushered in a fresh sense of optimism for many long-suffering supporters.
The club has seen season ticket sales surge, with more than 10,000 expected for the visit of high-flying Wrexham for Unsworth’s first home match, following this weekend’s trip to Bromley.
So what do Latics fans make of life under their new owners and how have they adapted to life outside of the EFL?
“What’s probably surprised most of us is the quality of the football we’ve seen in this division,” reveals Matt.
“We’ve played Dorking Wanderers and Wealdstone – the two part-time teams – and both of them had a real go and we were beat by Wealdstone.
“Most of us realised it was going to be tough and we got points on the board early, which we’ve not done for the last few seasons.
“Losing and poor starts have become such a habit at the club, so to be 14th with a long, long way to go, I’m happy enough to be honest.
“It’s clearly chalk and cheese under the new ownership as Frank Rothwell is very much a frontman and a personality that’s well connected within the local area – none of those things applied to the previous chairman.
“On his own without the backing of the board, he couldn’t do it, regardless of his personality and desire to achieve.
“You need a proper board of directors behind you and you’ve got to give him credit, that’s what he’s assembled.
“The previous regime had three directors by the end with one or two making the decisions, while Frank has put a team together around him which probably counterbalances his own personality.
“There’s loads to be positive about but this is going to be a really tough test and the board will be proven over time, but all the early signs are really encouraging and there’s a totally different perspective and outlook at the football club now.
“There’s a positive future and we didn’t even have a future six months ago.”
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