Bringing the Supporters (and Manager) Back Down to Earth – the Oldham Athletic Way

When Oldham cruised past Cambridge United on November 17th and followed that up with credible draws against Tranmere and Lincoln. Latics fans started to believe that the team had put the poor early season form behind them and, were intent on pushing for a place in the top seven.

Beating Bury at home cemented those beliefs and there have been plenty of people who believed that 6 points from the three Christmas and New Year fixtures, would be a decent springboard with which to approach the second half of the season.

With two of those fixtures still to be played, those six points are still up for grabs but there has been a huge spanner in the works in the shape of a 6-0 defeat at Carlisle. Having suggested previously that Latics need to bolster their options in defence during the January transfer window, that now appears to be advice which needs to be heeded.

All teams suffer the odd defeat of 3 or 4 goals in a season but conceding 6 after having let in only 26 in the previous 23 league games suggests something resembling a hiccup or a deeply troubled playing staff. With the three conceded against Exeter last weekend, however, it is little wonder that Oldham fans were questioning whether Frankie Bunn was the right man for the job.

Whatever their views were, the decision was taken to relieve Bunn of the manager’s position 24 hours after that 6-0 defeat. He becomes yet another managerial casualty, the 9th in League Two this season.

In the post-match interview, Bunn was unable to offer any reasons for the size of the defeat other than to indicate that there was a reluctance by some players to get back quickly enough into defensive positions. There was much shoulder shrugging from Bunn and those who study body language closely, perhaps noticed a man resigned to his fate.

There was no mention of an apology to the supporters, who made such a long trip on a Bank Holiday which would have gone a long way to placating them. However, it is perhaps now obvious that the Chairman had his mind on other matters.

Given that Oldham had conceded only 7 goals in the previous 11 away games, the ‘blip’ excuse looked feasible. The defence hasn’t been rejigged or tinkered with and goalkeeper Daniel Iversen hasn’t shown any signs of being unfit for the job. Indeed, on numerous occasions, he has shown himself to be more than capable of playing at League Two level and despite rumours to the contrary, he was definitely on the team bus that left for Carlisle.

Despite the angry howls on social media at the 6-0 defeat, the side picked for the game cannot have been much different had it been picked by the supporters.

A simple fix for players, staff and supporters alike would have been for the side to bounce back as quickly as possible. We now face Port Vale on Saturday and Notts County at home on New Years Day, not knowing if youth team coach Pete Wild will be picking the side or someone new.

The game of football has changed beyond all recognition over the past 20 years, with even the most accomplished of managers facing calls for their heads should they lose three games in a row and as someone quite rightly pointed out on the club’s forum “On Saturday leading 2-1 against Exeter , the team was in the play offs. Sacked on the following Thursday.”

There are plenty of Oldham fans who will be glad to see the back of Bunn but, I wonder if they will be as pleased to discover that the ‘experienced’ manager they desire might not want to have anything to do with the club that is fast becoming a laughing stock.