John Sheridan returned to Oldham Athletic for his six spell as manager a month ago, and the legendary Irishman looks to be repeating his heroics at Boundary Park already.
Sheridan, who ended a lengthy playing career in 2004 with six years at the club, twice took temporary charge of the Latics in a player/caretaker manager role before returning as permanent boss in 2006.
After a steady three-year spell ended, Sheridan once again returned to take the reins at Oldham with the club’s League One status in doubt, steering them to safety in both the 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons in two separate spells.
Now, in his fourth permanent stay as Latics’ boss, we could well be witnessing another ‘Shezurrection’.
When the 57-year-old returned to the hotseat, the Lancashire club were bottom of League Two and seven points adrift of safety, but a five-game unbeaten run has already lifted them out of the drop zone.
“What he’s done in five games is absolutely staggering,” says Matt from The Boundary Park Alert System Podcast.
“We’ve won three and drawn two and he’s lifted us out of the bottom two after being devoid of hope at one point.”
That point is not too much of a distant memory, with Oldham’s 3-0 defeat away at Harrogate Town just over a month ago a particular low point according to Matt.
“It was a really toxic atmosphere in the away end. It really was as low as it’s ever been for us and hopefully as low as it gets.
“Oldham fans are brilliant on the road but there was nothing there: no hope, no chanting. Every travelling fan had given up, the players had given up and the coach was inexperienced at best.”
Selim Benachour, Sheridan’s predecessor and the 10th man to take charge of the Latics in only four years, was in the dugout that day.
In seven matches as interim boss following Keith Curle’s dismissal in November, the former Tunisia international won only three points in charge as Oldham slipped to the foot of League Two.
“It appeared that the chairman had no intention of bringing in a new head coach before the end of the season, having recently bowed to fan pressure and agreeing to sell the club,” notes Matt.
“Selim is a personal friend of Mohamed Lemsagam (Oldham’s Sporting Director and brother of owner Abdallah Lemsagam), so it seemed that we were stuck with his passing out from the back, post-match on-pitch team huddles and criminally bad white hooded gilet until our inevitable relegation was confirmed.
“Mohamed’s influence and over-involvement in first team matters has long been criticised by fans and fans groups, who repeatedly put pressure on Mr Lemsagam to sack his brother rather than the head coaches.”
Although the Harrogate result marked a harsh and dark day in the history of Oldham Athletic Football Club, it appeared to spark the change and a lifeline that Latics so desperately needed.
“The reality of the situation seemed to finally hit home and Sheridan’s offer to try and help keep the club in the EFL was finally accepted.
“Part of the deal was that brother Mo would stay out the way and let Shez do what he does best and thank God, it seems to be working!”
🗓 The last time Oldham went on a five-match unbeaten run was January 2020.
— FansBet (@FansBet) February 19, 2022
Although Sheridan is not regarded especially highly in previous jobs like Swindon Town nor Wigan Athletic, in this part of the world, he’s revered.
“We had him as a player and he was superb, he’s been the youth team manager, he’s taken us to the play-offs – where we’ve only been twice in our history – and he’s saved us from relegation twice… so far.
“He loves the club and the fans, and we love him. You get what you see with Shez. He’s honest, he says it as he sees it, he’s a fighter and is at his best when there’s a scrap to be had.
“He’s like one of us and we seem to bring the best out of each other.
“We’re all fully behind Shez and the team and we’ve taken the spirit of our club back. It feels incredible at the moment, so let’s just hope it continues with a massive win away to Colchester on Saturday.”
There is light at the end of a long, dark tunnel for Oldham off the pitch, too, with news that owner Lemsagam has indicated a willingness to sell the club.
“Many fans were protesting the ownership by staying away, but since he’s agreed to sell and Shez is back, the atmosphere and attendances have gone through the roof.”
This lift in morale will surely boost Oldham’s chances of retaining their EFL status, having been part of the Football League for the last 115 years.
“We have a chance now – a few weeks ago we didn’t. If we maintain this form, we’ll stay up, but the squad is still fragile.
“New centre forward signing Mike Fondop went off with a head injury after 20 mins on his debut, came on as a sub against Newport, scored two and is now out injured for up to six weeks.
“Junior Luamba, who came back from injury and scored the winner at Scunthorpe, is likely out for the season. So it’s going to be tough, but Shez has transformed these players and the fans have responded in appropriate fashion.”
Oldham needed a hero and, in timely fashion, Sheridan has turned up once again like a knight in shining armour and Matt thinks the gaffer will go down in Latics folklore.
“If he keeps us up this time, you can expect to be stood in the Shez End at some point in future. The guy is an Oldham Athletic legend.”
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