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Should I stay, or should I go?


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"You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain." - Harvey Dent

Friday, 31st January 2031

And so, as I sit here in the manager's office at Boundary Park, Oldham, closes the transfer window. A quiet one by my standards, all things considered. Usually, there's nothing I like more than trying to twist an arm or two to bring in a player who'll give a much-needed boost at the end of the season, or talking someone into taking some dead weight off the wage bill.

But this time... well, this time was different.

I'll be brief: out went Johnny Cliffe, a striker who came through the ranks, with almost 200 appearances for the club but only 33 goals- that's just not a good enough return rate by my standards, and I haven't been impressed. £20k to Notts County, thank you very much. Also gone was Rolly Mabiala, who's dropped back down to League Two with York City for £10k. Not a bad lad, but try as we might, I couldn't find a way to give him games- he just didn't fit the system. 32-year-old utility man Max Parmenter also dropped down a division, spending the rest of the season on loan at Yeovil before his contract runs out. No great losses.

And coming in, two strikers on free transfers (Colin Forde, a slow but lanky Northern Irishman, and Gabriele Nicoli, a flamboyant Italian with Serie A experience) and another on loan (Matthew Turner, who signed for Leeds for £2m three years ago and has yet to debut). I'm not really expecting any of them to become major first-teamers, but a bit more depth up front can't hurt.

So why, you ask, has this been something of a quiet transfer window?

Because, frankly, it's all going pretty well. I joined Oldham last Christmas, when they were battling relegation in League One. Kept them up without too many issues- a bit of reorganising and the foundation was there for us to finish comfortably mid-table. I then spent the summer overhauling the squad whilst keeping the spine intact- the likes of Czech international Tomas Zavadil, club captain Ken Ranger and hometown boy David Snodin have been central this season.

The new recruits hit the ground running and, aside from a run of six without a win in October, we've been flying all season. The lowest we've been is 5th, and right now, we're four points clear at the top of the table and unbeaten in eight. The squad are great, and it's probably the best first eleven I've had the chance to manage in my many years bouncing around the lower leagues. They're really looking like they could go all the way- the confidence and swagger about them mean they fear nobody.

But... that's not all, and that's not the only reason the transfer window has been so quiet for us.

See, this is the problem I have- I've been here before. Things go well- better than expected- and I start to think about what comes next. If we go up, next season is going to be a struggle. We don't have the budget to compete in the Championship- we barely have the budget to compete in League One. The board are giving me £50k to play with for wages- teams like Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Aston Villa will have five or six times that at their disposal. We can't compete with that.

While I wish I could profess some great love for Oldham, for these players who are on the brink of taking the club back up to heights they haven't tasted since they were relegated to this level back in 1997... it just isn't there. I know those teams with bigger wallets and more stellar reputations are looking at me, spotting that my contract's up at the end of the season, and considering whether I'm the right one for them. Hell, I've spoken to one or two of them already, QPR and Forest, although they decided to go a different way. But importantly, they called me, and sought me out- I didn't call them.

The same thing happened at Galway United, my previous club, over in Ireland. Similar story- in my first season, I took the part-timers straight up to the Premier League- they'd finished 9th out of 10 the season before. Then, in my second season, we finished 4th, the club's highest finish since 1993, and qualified for Europe. I stayed for a third season simply to join them on that journey, and still remember the scenes when we beat FC Sion, the Swiss Champions, at home and away, 4-0 on aggregate. It remains my greatest achievement as a manager, and even though I was tempted to stay one more season over in Ireland, with another 4th-place finish promising another European adventure, when a professional, full-time club like Oldham Athletic came knocking, my dream was fulfilled. No more three-day weeks for me- after twelve years, I was a manager of a professional football club.

But now... now I don't know. My Oldham contract's up at the end of the season. We may well end up as League One Champions- from where we are now, we really should. But deep down, I know this isn't a team built to compete in the Championship, and I know the funds aren't there for reinforcements. If Oldham go up, next year will be a year of struggle- they just aren't ready for that level of competition.

Moving on, cashing in while my stock is high, would be the easy way out- swinging to another, higher branch, to try and do it all over again, fix problems and get the fans chanting my name. But this Oldham team is filled with good, honest lads. They love it here, and they've bought into what we're trying to build so quickly. Most of them are kids who are getting their first chance to shine, and who are playing out of their skin for the team, and for the faith I showed in them. Whether it's Augustine Balogun, commanding the defence after not making the grade at Spurs, Yaw Boateng, with 14 in 27 up front so far after being released by West Ham or Jamaican international Christopher Lloyd, a perennial lower-league journeyman who's having the best season of his life now he's actually able to get some games. Maybe it is time to lay down some roots and start to try and actually build something sustainable- but is Oldham really the place to do that?

I don't know. There are sixteen games left this season, and this diary is designed to chronicle them, to try and get my thoughts in some sort of order, and try and make some sort of decision: should I stay, or should I go?

					Pl	W	D	L	GD	Pts
[1] Oldham Athletic			30	20	3	7	+31	 63
[2] Bolton Wanderers			30	17	8	5	+20	 59
[3] Birmingham City			30	16	6	8	+21	 54
[4] Crewe Alexandra			30	15	8	7	+14	 53
[5] Forest Green Rovers			30	16	5	9	+13	 53
[6] Notts County			30	16	5	9	+11	 53
[7] Leyton Orient			30	15	5	10	+9	 50


Hi all, been a while since I've popped up on this forum but got the writing itch again. Dipping into my current FM19 save, documenting the second half of the season. Writing as I play, so we'll see how we go. Much love to you all.

Edited by Lawlore
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"We all try hard to live our lives in harmony, for fear of falling swiftly overboard" - "Side" by Travis

Saturday, 1st February 2031
Nottingham Forest 0-3 Oldham Athletic (Boateng 9, Owens 56, Thorn 61)

Starting Lineup vs. Nottingham Forest

				[1]	GK	Thomas ZAVADIL
				[6]	DL	Lucas BRANNAN
  11  10			[58]	DC	Augustine BALOGUN
19 8  4 72			[70]	DC	George OGUDE
6 58 70 56			[56]	DR	Roger PAXMAN		(McManus 69)
    1				[19]	ML	Christopher LLOYD
				[8]	MC	Ken RANGER (c)
				[4]	MC	Sam HIGGINS		(Lowe 45)
				[72]	MR	Liam THORN
				[11]	SC	Craig OWENS		(Turner 59)
				[10]	SC	Yaw BOATENG

Subs: Freeman, Warriner, McManus, Snodin, Lowe, Collins, Turner

If you consider that a good side can eke out a win, even on a bad day, then what do you call a side that wins 3-0 away at Nottingham Forest of all places, on an awful one?

I'm almost embarrassed to write about the match. Yaw Boateng's early goal should have settled us down, but any neutral watching will be wondering how we managed to hold the lead in the first half, let alone how we were top of the league. Forest came at us, and I haven't seen us looked so unsettled in a long time- Roger Paxman was especially off the pace, getting turned inside out over and over again. But hold on we did.

The second half was shaping up to be more of the same, until the game changed completely. Forest midfielder Petri Berg mugged Ken Ranger for the ball down by his own corner flag, then inexplicably passed it towards his own penalty spot. I still haven't worked out what he was trying to do- after all the hard work of winning the ball, he put it straight into the danger area. Our Welsh striker Craig Owens said thank you very much, and that was two-nil.

I think Craig gets too much stick, honestly. He joined us from Welsh club Barry Town in the summer, where he'd been their main outlet for a few years, but a lot of people said the step up to League One would be too great. He's got 16 in 36 across all competitions, most of which are goals of this sort of finish- lurking in and around the box, picking up loose balls and just putting them in the net. Nothing too flashy, nothing that really catches the eye, but an ability to anticipate, to put himself in the right place, to react and to keep a cool head. I do get the criticisms that he doesn't run around a lot, and he's probably not as technically sound as some of the people he's keeping out of the team. But I'm asking him to score goals, and he's scoring goals.

And this goal changed the game. Suddenly, Forest were at sixes and sevens, and a great ball from Captain Ken to pick out Liam Thorn on the right left him in an ocean of space. The kid doesn't score as many as I'd like, but this was a great finish- one touch to get it under control, the second to volley it into the corner, both on the left peg. It was a sweet finish, and while I'm not sure Fulham will let us make his move a permanent one, hopefully we can keep him for another season, because he's been playing well beyond his years.

But then... we stopped, and Forest got their heads together. We basically packed up with half an hour to go, and let Forest rain down attack after attack on us. They were the better side- we were chasing them all over, defensively. But we got bodies in the way of shots, we closed down, and we did enough to keep Tomas Zavadil a clean sheet. It was a poor, disjointed overall performance, but it's the result that matters. I shouldn't moan at 3-0, which puts us now six points clear.

					Pl	W	D	L	GD	Pts
[1] Oldham Athletic			31	21	3	7	+34	 66
[2] Bolton Wanderers			31	17	9	5	+20	 60

The thing is, with my head where it is, thinking about what comes next, it's easy to dismiss a match like that. Of course we won. Onto the next one.

But that's not all the news for the day- that's not even the biggest news in the division. No- after a 4-1 defeat to Bury, Ivan Marechkov, the former Aston Villa goalkeeper, has been given his marching orders by Blackburn. He'd been in charge there for just 73 days.

73 days. Is that enough time to turn a sinking ship around? And Blackburn are most definitely a sinking ship- seeing them battling relegation from League One should be a shock to anyone. They have literally never been lower than they are now, but they were already doing that when he took over. Ivan left a secure job over at Wigan to try and keep Blackburn up, and they gave him less than three months. Hell, Wigan are still chasing promotion from League Two- they'll probably end up taking Blackburn's place, if they do go down.

The thing is, Ivan's results weren't even that bad, considering what he'd inherited. Three wins, three draws from 15 games isn't great by any stretch of the imagination, but it was no worse than what had come before. But now he's out of a job, after 73 days. They barely gave him a chance. And the thing that gets me, the reason this is worth mentioning- Blackburn's budget is going to be two or three times what ours is. They're a bigger, richer club than Oldham. And they're looking for their third manager of the season, trying to avoid dropping into League Two.

What's to say that if I do make the move to one of these Championship clubs sniffing around, if my magic wand doesn't instantly fix everything, that won't be me in 73 days time? They love me here at Oldham- the fans, the team and the board. There's just no money- it makes me think that maybe money isn't everything, that maybe I'm overplaying the teeny tiny budget I'd have if I stayed. Maybe if we do go up, get promoted to the Championship, we could give it a good go- maybe we wouldn't just be whipping boys every week. That kinda makes me want to stick around. Maybe these lads are good enough- if they can pull out a 3-0 win on a bad day against a team like Forest, maybe they can get the results to get ourselves established.

Maybe I should stay with them to find out. Maybe.

Edited by Lawlore
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"Opportunities multiply as they are seized" - Sun Tzu

Monday, 3rd February

123 caps. 80 goals.

Captain of the Austrian national side, ranked in the FIFA Top 40.

10 years at AC Milan.

277 games. 109 goals.

Two Serie A titles.

Two Coppa Italia victories.

Two Supercoppa victories.

Yes, Stefan Prügger is retiring at the end of the season.

Yes, he's pushing 36 years old.

Yes, he's lost a yard of pace since his heyday, but his mind and his instincts are sharp as ever.

And yes, the last two years at Newcastle did highlight that he wasn't quite up to the rigours of the Premier League any more.

But if he's willing to drop two divisions and play for under a grand a week, I really don't know how you turn that opportunity down. And he is, so I didn't.

He'll wear the number 60 shirt. The press are calling it a major coup for us, though I reckon it's more a major bargain- if he can come off the bench and cause a few problems for tired defences, lay a few on for the other lads, I'll be more than happy.

Maybe money really isn't everything. If this kind of top flight star is willing to play out his last few days in League One (and for far less cash than quite a few of the squad), maybe I'm overestimating the problems that our empty bank account might cause in the Championship next season. Maybe reinforcements won't be quite so hard to come by- maybe we could be more competitive than I'm giving us credit for.

And yet... the word is that the Swedish tycoons who bought Watford just last month are not happy to settle for the Championship Playoffs. Samuel Godinho's really on the brink of being shown the door- and if I somehow talked my way into that job, I certainly wouldn't have to worry about signing budget past-their-prime Austrians.


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"I'm not sure if I can swagger any more, but I can limp with the best of them." - Burt Reynolds

Saturday, 8th February 2031
Oxford United (Amadi 48, 85) 2-2 Oldham Athletic (Prügger 58, Ranger 60)

Starting Lineup vs. Nottingham Forest

				[1]	GK	Thomas ZAVADIL
				[6]	DL	Lucas BRANNAN
  11  10			[58]	DC	Augustine BALOGUN
19 8  4  7			[70]	DC	George OGUDE
6 58 70 56			[56]	DR	Roger PAXMAN
    1				[19]	ML	Christopher LLOYD
				[8]	MC	Ken RANGER (c)
				[4]	MC	Sam HIGGINS		(Sampson 69)
				[7]	MR	David SNODIN		(Prügger 45)
				[11]	SC	Craig OWENS		(Turner 60)
				[10]	SC	Yaw BOATENG

Subs: Freeman, Warriner, McManus, Sampson, Collins, Turner, Prügger

Ugh, what a load of rubbish. Oxford United were 20th, and played most of the second half with ten men. Sure, we'd lost Liam Thorn to a training injury earlier in the week, but this was essentially the first team, and David Snodin has been more than capable of filling that role- not that he did today.

Some of the local press wondered why I bothered bringing in more strikers in this transfer window when we're sitting top of the table, with three strikers in double figures. This is the simplest explanation: today, we had 23 shots in this match, 16 on target, and yet we still went in at half time level with 20th placed Oxford at their stupid three-sided stadium. And then we came out and went 1-0 down.

And for anyone doubting signing Stefan Prügger, as many in the press did: he came on as we switched to 4-3-3, got their guy the second booking, before scoring our equaliser on his debut. His presence certainly changed the game.

While they were still shellshocked from us finally getting a breakthrough, Captain Ken nodded a pretty gentle one past the bewildered Richard Westley, in the Oxford goal. Shame, because until that point, he'd actually really impressed me- as much as they'd kept us at bay, he'd performed some heroics up to that point. If they do go down, reckon they'll be hard-pushed to keep him.

And at 2-1, it became more of the same- throwing everything at them to try and get a two-goal lead and kill the game off, but a complete inability to convert.

I'll repeat what I said earlier: we had 23 shots, with 16 on target, and we somehow still only scored two goals in a mad five minute spell.

Then, with eight minutes to go, Roger Paxman got a straight red for a silly last man challenge. He's a hard worker, and he's been promoted from this division twice already, with both Portsmouth and Hull City before being released- and the thing is, I can see why. He's solid enough at this level, but mistakes like this show why he's not playing any higher.

And it was costly- we couldn't keep throwing people forward and not get caught out. It was a neat finish from the Oxford lad, Amadi, but they didn't deserve a point over 90 minutes.

Still, Bolton lost 4-3 to Swindon, so whatever, even a laboured draw like that puts us seven points clear.

					Pl	W	D	L	GD	Pts
[1] Oldham Athletic			32	21	4	7	+34	 67
[2] Birmingham City			32	18	6	8	+23	 60
[3] Bolton Wanderers			32	17	9	6	+19	 60

Hardly marching on to the Championship, is it?

Edited by Lawlore
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I’m hooked already!

As far as your Title goes, I’m leaning towards the staying camp. But I could just be talking about your presence in our corner of the Forums.

I look forward to more.

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Thanks Neil, appreciate your kind words, and happy to have you along for the ride.

"I try and live life in the right way, respecting other people." - David Beckham

Wednesday, 12th February 2031

So, Samuel Godinho is still hanging on over at Watford- they're up to 2nd place now after a win over Bradford and an unconvincing draw with Norwich. That means I'm probably staying put for a while, as the Winter wave of sackings in England appears to have passed. There are a few jobs going elsewhere that have caught the eye, although I don't think Atlético Madrid are gonna be calling any time soon. But that's the thing- even with the clubs where I may realistically be a candidate, I just don't feel like I need to be putting myself out there right now. Sure, I'm not sure about next season, but right now, everyone can see how Oldham are doing- everyone can see that we're ten unbeaten and seven points clear. Why would I want to leave that? And, of course, even if someone were interested, there's always a right way of doing things, and a wrong way of doing things.

A better example: two of the lads have just come to me concerned about their playing time. Understandable- the first eleven have been pretty settled this season, and I haven't rotated as much as I usually would.

The right way: Ilan Edge, a 25-year-old Welsh centre-back, who was one of my first signings on arrival here at Boundary Park. He had a bigger role last season, because the defence was basically a hole, and he had a key role to play in guiding us away from the relegation battle. This season, he's found himself pushed behind some of the newcomers, who are just of a higher standard. He was a decent stopgap, but now, it'd be difficult to justify playing him ahead of three or four of our other options. It happens. So he came to me, unhappy about being the second or third reserve for the position- he's only played 8 this season. And he felt one way, I felt another. We talked it out like men, and ultimately, while he felt he deserved more game time, we ended up agreeing to disagree. Maybe I'll see if I can give him a runout in some of those that should be gimmes, but you saw what just happened at Oxford. I was already planning not to renew his contract- if I can find a loan for him in the mean time, fair enough. He's not best pleased about things, but he's kept it in-house, and he's spoken to me directly about it.

And then, we have the wrong way: Antony Fitzgerald, a 19-year-old kid we brought in after Fulham released him without making the grade. He'd come off the bench twice for us this season, but probably isn't quite at this level yet, and so his opportunities have been limited. A couple of weeks back, he asked if we could consider a loan so he can get some first-team football, and I was more than happy to go with that- he's further back in my thinking than Edgy is, so the same applies. But we offered him about, and got no bites, so instead I suggested he went to one of our feeder clubs, Ashton United. The thinking was some first team game time, even at a low level, would be better than none- it'd give him an opportunity to get match fit and be the big fish in a small pond, showing what he can do, showing off his professionalism in cracking on with it and generally looking good. We've got a couple of other lads there, and a few down at Stalybridge Celtic, our other feeder club, doing exactly that, as well as quite a few out on loan elsewhere. I like a big squad, and I like giving people the opportunity to impress me by going out on loan, getting some first-team football and developing from that. But no- Fitzy was not having that, and went straight to the press, telling them I wouldn't let him go anywhere. What a load of bollocks. Now, I wouldn't tolerate that from a seasoned vet, let alone a kid who hasn't proved anything yet. If anyone wants him, he's free to go- and the door best not hit him on the way out.


Edited by Lawlore
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"They can't detain you, 'cos wings are made to fly" - Little Mix

Saturday, 15th February 2031

"I dunno, boss man, I ain't sure about this. This ain't my game, you know?"

Sometimes, you have to appreciate a player's honesty. Augustine Balogun has been a centre back all his career- Spurs kept loaning him out to League Two sides, and they shaped him into a Rottweiler, making up for his short stature by getting in the right place, and not letting anyone past him. Now, asking him to play as a wing back on the right, we'd hit a bit of a speedbump.

"Listen, I get it- having the ball at your feet is not something you're used to..."

"Yeah, that's what I'm saying. Bringing it forward, getting involved in attacks- I just don't wanna be caught out of position, y'know?"

"I get it. I do."

This whole conversation came about, of course, because of Roger Paxman's last man lunge against Oxford. I don't think Augustine realised he might have been talking himself onto the bench as he proposed the obvious alternative.

"Besides, you got Warren. He knows that game, he'd be well up for it, I'm sure."

Warren McManus was the more obvious option, having played wing back before, but two factors were working against him: one, he's only got a left foot, and two, we were about to play Lincoln City, a team we'd stuffed 4-0 earlier in the season. It was an ideal opportunity to try something new.

"Augustine, you're playing right wing back. Trust me on this one. You won't get caught out."

"Ok, boss man. I just want what's best for the team, y'know?"

"I know. So do I, mate, so do I."

Oldham Athletic (Balogun 32, Boateng 65, Snodin 80) 3-0 Lincoln City

Commentator: Just over half an hour gone now, Oldham well on top but still looking for the break through. Brannan whips a deep one in, Schmidt heads clear- Hunt's second header takes it out of the penalty area. Balogun beats Boriello to the ball, about thirty yards out, surges towards the edge of the box... OH, THAT IS A BEAUTIFUL STRIKE! Drilled along the ground, in off the upright, Pearce nowhere near it! Augustine Balogun with a touch of magic to give Oldham the lead!

Call it instinct.

Anyway, with Liam Thorn still injured and Stefan Prügger scoring on his debut, I decided it was worth a bit of a shake-up on the right-hand side. Lincoln City were sitting 16th in the table after a couple of recent wins, but had been mired in the relegation scrap all season. They were a team we really should just roll over, but then again, so were Oxford. So I moved Craig Owens out to the right, and gave Prügger a start, see if he could carry on with the goals.

Starting Lineup vs. Lincoln City

				[1]	GK	Thomas ZAVADIL
				[6]	DL	Lucas BRANNAN		(McManus 68)
  60  10			[5]	DC	Matty WARRINER
19 8  4 11			[70]	DC	George OGUDE
6  5 70 58			[58]	DR	Augustine BALOGUN
    1				[19]	ML	Christopher LLOYD
				[8]	MC	Ken RANGER (c)
				[4]	MC	Sam HIGGINS		(Sampson 68)
				[11]	AMR	Craig OWENS
				[60]	SC	Stefan PRÜGGER		(Snodin 59)
				[10]	SC	Yaw BOATENG

Subs: Freeman, McManus, Edge, Sampson, Snodin, Collins, Turner

And, while Prügger didn't find the net, when we took him off and refreshed the side on the hour, moving Owens back up front and bringing David Snodin on, Lincoln basically fell apart. They'd faced the same barrage that Oxford had and done OK, but started picking up bookings and losing their discipline. Yaw Boateng made it 2-0 after a great deep cross from Lucas Brannan, and by the end of it, we'd had two penalties- one scored by Snodin, another saved- and Lincoln had a man sent off.

In some of these posts, I think it sounds like I'm not grateful for where we are right now- 3-0 was a deserved result, but we could've hit five or six, and I'd much rather be sitting on this bench than on the Lincoln one. I just can't shake the feeling that next season we'll be finding ourselves in exactly that predicament.

					Pl	W	D	L	GD	Pts
[1] Oldham Athletic			33	22	4	7	+37	 70
[2] Bolton Wanderers			33	18	9	6	+21	 63
[3] Birmingham City			33	18	6	9	+21	 60
[4] Crewe Alexandra			33	17	9	7	+18	 60


Edited by Lawlore
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"Hark now hear, the Gillingham sing, while Swindon run away! And we will fight, forever more because of Ray McHale" - Gillingham fans chant

Saturday, 22nd February 2031

Despite our successes, one thing we haven't done very well this season is make the most of any free kicks we win. And, while I can appreciate the technique of a beautifully placed or swerving effort, I have to admit I'm pretty old-school, and love it when a defender steps up and blasts an unstoppable bullet into the net- the kind where the wall think twice about whether they really want to put their nuts in the way of that.

One of the first matches I saw on TV was the '91 FA Cup Final, when I was just 7 years old, and I can still picture Stuart Pearce's rocket for Forest to this day. When dad first started taking me to Priestfield, home of the mighty Gills, a few years later, it certainly didn't hurt that we had our own head down, hit it hard free kick guru, Dominic Naylor. He was my first ever favourite player- not the flashy goalscorers, not the brick wall goalkeeper and not the passionate captain- this left back who belted the ball pretty damn hard and dared the keeper to try and stop it.

Here at Oldham, we've had George Ogude basically doing that for us all season, and the limitations of that approach have become pretty apparent- he's only scored one free kick all season. That's not to say I think we've got anyone better from a dead ball situation, but it's one more thing to add to the list of shortcomings if and when Oldham try to take the step up to the Championship next season.

Speaking of Gillingham, today's match was against their biggest and most hated rivals, Swindon Town, aka The Swine, aka The Scum. I hate Swindon, as all Gillingham fans do, and I'm sure the feeling's mutual- I remember running back to the car park, chased by a bunch of their yob supporters after we'd stole a late win, and my dad having to dive over a wall to get away. Bunch of Neanderthals in their sad grey concrete dump of a town.

Oldham, on the other hand, don't really give a toss about Swindon- they're just another team in the division, like Barnsley or Luton. But for me, this was a must-win. They're just the sort of bellends who'd come and spoil my party, who'd decide out of nowhere to end our unbeaten run. I don't know if the lads picked up on my slightly-more-intense briefing before the match, or whether they really understood why I kept urging them to keep their boots in a second or two longer than usual, but I've never pretended to be a rational man.

Oldham Athletic (Owens 39, Snodin 64) 2-1 Swindon Town (Some Muppet 75)

Yeah, that felt good.

With Sam Higgins suspended, I went with Dan Sampson in the middle, who's a bit more defensive-minded than the other option, Liam Lowe. What we lost in the familiarity between Captain Ken and Lieutenant Higgins, we gained in Dan's ability to run around and kick people hard. I'll let you guess how I felt about that.

Starting Lineup vs. Swindon Town

				[1]	GK	Thomas ZAVADIL
				[6]	DL	Lucas BRANNAN
  60  10			[58]	DC	Augustine BALOGUN
19 8  76 11			[70]	DC	George OGUDE		(Warriner 58)
6  58 70 56			[56]	DR	Roger PAXMAN
    1				[19]	ML	Christopher LLOYD
				[8]	MC	Ken RANGER (c)
				[76]	MC	Dan SAMPSON		(Snodin 58)
				[11]	AMR	Craig OWENS
				[60]	SC	Stefan PRÜGGER		(Turner 68)
				[10]	SC	Yaw BOATENG

Subs: Freeman, McManus, Warriner, Lowe, Snodin, Collins, Turner

I'm surprised we only came out with five bookings, including two for Captain Ken, getting himself sent off right at the end. I'd usually be quite hard on him, but if he was gonna go out swinging, I'm glad it was this one he did it in. Ogude's free kicks were as ineffective as ever, but despite a late rally from the Scum, the close-range volley from Craig Owens and first-time belter from supersub David Snodin (two in two from the bench for him now) were enough to see us through.

					Pl	W	D	L	GD	Pts
[1] Oldham Athletic			34	23	4	7	+38	 73
[2] Bolton Wanderers			34	19	9	6	+22	 66

[6] Notts County			34	17	6	11	+11	57
[7] Forest Green Rovers			34	17	6	11	+9	57
[8] Luton Town				34	17	6	11	+8	57
[9] Nottingham Forest			34	16	5	13	+9	53
[10] Swindon Town			34	15	5	14	+6	50

Three points for us keep us seven clear at the top, and none for the Swine puts a real dent in their Playoff chase. All together now: "Let's all laugh at Swindon, let's all laugh at Swindon, la la la la!"

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"When I die, don’t bring me to the hospital. Bring me to Anfield. I was born there and will die there." - Steven Gerrard

Thursday, 27th February

Reading that last entry back made me realise something about loyalty in football. In the time since I started working in football, I've managed teams all over Europe and beyond- baby steps at Chinese side Dalian Transcendence, a couple of stints with varying levels of success in each of Sweden and Ireland, and, of course, that weird six months I spent at the helm of Indian side Minerva Punjab. But I've always been called back home to England. Even there, clubs come and go. But there's always one- that one consistent team. The team you actually support, the team that you grew up with, that you'd take that pilgrimage to go and see every other Saturday, rain or shine, win or lose. For me, I was born a Gillingham fan, and I'll die a Gillingham fan.

In recent years, they've been having a real rotten time. Stuck down in League Two since 2025, they've faced relegation scraps that could've seen them drop out of the league for good- something that hasn't happened since well before I was born. In the 27/28 season, they finished 22nd- one place lower, and they'd have become a non-league club. Last season, they finished 21st.

Without getting all UKIP about it, the last three Gillingham managers have all been from completely different countries, none of them English. They didn't have any real ties to the Medway area, they didn't know Gillingham as a place to live, and no matter their successes, they couldn't feel the same way about the club as someone who had it running in their veins. Croatian Josip Juric had a decent CV at Hull City and Wigan before stepping down to Gillingham. Austrian Dominik Kiss was a manager to watch who just as easily slid in from Aldershot to the much bigger Gillingham for a year, before climbing another division and taking the Shrewsbury job. And now, with the Great Dane Mathias Olesen in charge, he'll be the same- sure, he'll try his damnedest to bring glory to the club, but when he leaves, he'll just as easily do the same with whoever his next club is.

And, the thing is, I feel the same. I'm not really criticising them- they're just an example, because Gillingham is the club I love, but I could be talking about any manager, at any club. And I've said before, this job is just a job to me- Oldham Athletic have given me an opportunity to turn pro, and for that I'll be forever grateful. But I'm not an Oldham fan. Galway United gave me some amazing memories when I was there, those European nights I'll never forget and probably never replicate, but I don't look out for their results. I'm not a Galway United fan. And despite how great it felt lifting my first trophy, the Munster Senior Cup back in 2022 with Cobh Ramblers, I couldn't honestly tell you what division they're in right now, or how they're doing. I'm not a Cobh Ramblers fan.

If the Gillingham job came open now, would I go for it? Probably not. Sabotaging my own career for sentimentality is a fool's errand- dropping down a division to a struggling side, when my current one are firing on all cylinders and I'm attracting the attention of clubs with six-figure budgets, would be a step backwards, despite what my heart might think.

The other thing that's got me thinking about all this, about loyalty, is David Snodin, our right-winger. 23-years-old, and this is his eighth season with the club. He was born in Oldham. He made his debut for Oldham three years ago. And now he's become a key part of reminding the team what Oldham is all about. I can't do that. I'm not from Oldham. I can't talk about the textile industry on which the town was built, or the theatrical tradition it is so proud of. Before coming here, my knowledge of the club didn't extend much beyond them getting thumped all season back when the Premier League was first founded.

But David Snodin signed a new contract today, to keep him here another two years. He was thrilled- he looked like he'd won the lottery, and then won it again. And although he's breaking into the first team now, starting to show what he can contribute, I can't help but think that if- when- the team go up, he's going to find himself shuffled to the back of the pack. He's not a big earner, and he helps us with the Home Grown requirements, but the club's success is coming a bit early for him. He needs the chance to improve by playing regularly, and while he's seeing more of that this season, I don't see it remaining true with promotion, be it under me or any other manager.

He won't want to leave, and I don't think anyone wants him to leave. He's part of the furniture- there's even an old picture of him as a ballboy on the reception wall. But there's a real risk that despite his love, his loyalty, and the Oldham Athletic blue running in his veins, if the club keep moving forwards, they might have to leave him behind.

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From hence, ye beauties, undeceived,
Know, one false step is ne’er retrieved,
And be with caution bold.
Not all that tempts your wandering eyes
And heedless hearts, is lawful prize;
Nor all that glisters, gold.

- Thomas Gray

Crewe Alexandra 0-2 Oldham Athletic (Boateng 10, 90+3)

I have to admit, going into this game, I was looking at it as a potential banana skin. Crewe had been doing well this season, in and around the playoff places before their boss, Neil Prescod, was poached by Hull, and had been eleven unbeaten themselves until Forest Green Rovers ended it last week. Granted, there had been quite a few draws in that run, but since it's clear their new gaffer, Kaloyan Kirov, had hit the ground running. Kirov had been the Assistant Manager here at Oldham until he got the opportunity to step up to the top job at Colchester- we missed each other by about two weeks, with him leaving just before I arrived. He'd clearly got Crewe playing.

That was also coupled with our midfield having a bit of a B-team vibe about it. With Ken Ranger suspended after his red against Swindon, Sam Higgins pulled up in training earlier this week after twisting his knee. Couple this with the news that Liam Thorn wasn't yet ready to come back on the right wing, and I figured we couldn't be quite as cavalier as we had been in the last few games. Craig Owens moved back up top, and David Snodin came in as a more natural right winger, to support our second-choice CMs, Liam Lowe and Dan Sampson.

Starting Lineup vs. Crewe Alexandra

				[1]	GK	Thomas ZAVADIL (c)
				[6]	DL	Lucas BRANNAN
   11 10			[58]	DC	Augustine BALOGUN
19 55 76  7			[70]	DC	George OGUDE
6  58 70 56			[56]	DR	Roger PAXMAN
    1				[19]	ML	Christopher LLOYD
				[55]	MC	Liam LOWE		(Warriner 70)
				[76]	MC	Dan SAMPSON
				[7]	MR	David SNODIN		(Prügger 57)
				[11]	SC	Craig OWENS		(Collins 77)
				[10]	SC	Yaw BOATENG

Subs: Freeman, McManus, Edge, Collard, Warriner, Collins, Prügger

Any concerns I had were quickly allayed- Lowe and Sampson seemed eager to prove that they were up to the challenge of replacing Ranger and Higgins, and an early strike from Yaw Boateng calmed any nerves. The lads settled down nicely, and it became a bit of a nothing game. Crewe seemed content to stifle our attack and try and steal a draw on the counter, but shots were few and far between at both ends.

The only other thing of note was a moment of magic right at the end- sub Danny Collins had come on to take up the attacking right winger role that Owens had been playing the last couple of games, and where he'd been moved after Stefan Prügger came on. Collins is a frustrating one- a striker on loan from Burnley who clearly has bags of ability, but his work rate and performances just haven't been there, despite chipping in 10 goals. This was a nice reminder of what he's capable of- taking advantage of tired legs, he picked up the ball in his own half, carried it forwards 30 yards, and sent a peach of a curling pass into the path of Boateng. The angle was still tight for the shot, but the ball fell perfectly- enough on it to give Boateng a yard on the defenders, but certainly still finishable. And finish he did. It was a really decent ball- worthy of a being played in a higher division.

					Pl	W	D	L	GD	Pts
[1] Oldham Athletic			35	24	4	7	+40	 76
[2] Bolton Wanderers			35	20	9	6	+24	 69
[3] Birmingham City			35	19	6	10	+21	 63

As nondescript a match as it was, that's thirteen unbeaten now, and still seven points clear with eleven to play. This is easily the best run of my career, and these lads- even the ones stepping in and stepping up- are making it look easy. So why am I still umming and aahing about signing a new contract?

Well... before the match, I saw that Sky Sports took a look at League One. They were nice about us, of course, but their main focus was on "fallen giants". According to them, both Nottingham Forest (10th) and Derby County (12th) are both ready to show their Christmas-appointed bosses the door after disastrous starts. Both teams with more history, more pedigree and- ultimately- a lot more money than we can boast. Teams that could potentially not only survive a rung up the ladder- if someone can get them there- but who you'd have to think would want to look even higher and establish themselves back in the Premier League. What the hell are they doing in midtable in League One? How are they below teams like Oldham and Crewe? And- most importantly- why couldn't I be the guy who uses their fortunes to change their fortunes?

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"Guess who's back, back again" - Eminem

Saturday, 8th March 2031
Oldham Athletic (Sampson 62, Collins 79) 2-0 Exeter City

Aside from the return to the side of Captain Ken and Liam Thorn (finally), there really wasn't a lot to say going into this one. Exeter were one of the few sides who'd defeated us this season, kicking off that poor October run of six without a win, but both teams fortunes had turned around dramatically since then.

Starting Lineup vs. Exeter City

				[1]	GK	Thomas ZAVADIL
				[6]	DL	Lucas BRANNAN
   11 10			[58]	DC	Augustine BALOGUN
19  8 76 72			[70]	DC	George OGUDE		(Warriner 55)
6  58 70 56			[56]	DR	Roger PAXMAN
    1				[19]	ML	Christopher LLOYD	(Prügger 62)
				[8]	MC	Ken RANGER (c)
				[76]	MC	Dan SAMPSON
				[72]	MR	Liam THORN
				[11]	SC	Craig OWENS		(Collins 72)
				[10]	SC	Yaw BOATENG

Subs: Warriner, McManus, Lowe, Higgins, Snodin, Collins, Prügger

Despite a first half where we didn't take our chances, this result didn't really look in doubt- Exeter were struggling to hold us at bay. And while taking the lead wasn't a surprise when we finally did, the scorer was- Dan Sampson's goal was his first for the club since he joined us on loan from Cardiff. As I think I've mentioned before, he's much more of a gritty, bite-your-legs midfield terrier than someone pinging smooth passes and hitting end-of-season highlight reel goals, and his strike reflected it. Although it was from twenty yards, there was a definite scuffed quality about it, which probably caught the keeper out- he was positioned to stop a much better strike, so was off-balance when it unpredictably squirmed into the corner.

Danny Collins made it sure, just seven minutes after coming on as a sub, with a decent two-touch strike. It was as route one as you can get- Tomas Zavadil pumping it forward, the first touch knocking it past the weary defender, the second sticking it confidently past the keeper. I'm not sure where this mini-resurgence for Danny has come from, but the timing's not bad. He may yet force his way back into the starting XI.

This match shows why we've done so well- it's a team that scores goals. Both of our strikers today were off the boil- indeed, most of our usual attacking impetus were. And yet, from a first-time scorer and a substitute, we've come away with a comfortable victory, and a clean sheet.

All together now: seven points clear, fourteen unbeaten, ten games to go, and with Birmingham drawing, that brings automatic promotion that much closer. Though I'm wary of setting unnecessary targets, it is worth noting that at this rate, we could still hit 100 points...

					Pl	W	D	L	GD	Pts
[1] Oldham Athletic			36	25	4	7	+42	 79
[2] Bolton Wanderers			36	21	9	6	+27	 72
[3] Birmingham City			36	19	7	10	+21	 64


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"It’s the way it is, you know? Everything must come to an end, the drip finally stops." - Herb, Bojack Horseman

Tuesday, 11th March 2031
Chesterfield (Woods 14, Dean 29, Atkinson 46) 3-1 Oldham (Lloyd 87)


Bolton 1-1 Oxford
Swindon 2-0 Birmingham

					Pl	W	D	L	GD	Pts
[1] Oldham Athletic			37	25	4	8	+40	 79
[2] Bolton Wanderers			37	21	10	6	+27	 73
[3] Birmingham City			37	19	7	11	+19	 64

Oh, never mind.

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"Beware the Ides of March" - "Julius Caesar" by William Shakespeare

Saturday, 15th March 2031

Earlier in the season, we had a spell of six games without a win: Exeter City, Chesterfield, Notts County, Mansfield Town, Bolton Wanderers and Leyton Orient. Two draws, with Mansfield and Orient, the other four were defeats, caused chiefly by an inability to score goals. We have only not scored in one league game since then.

Now, we find ourselves midway through that same run of games, and although we got a measure of revenge on Exeter, of course Chesterfield have just inflicted that unlikely defeat. They'll still be relegated, I'm sure, but the fact remains that they've taken six points from us this season.

And now, Notts County have too.

Notts County (Roberts 9, 13, Cole 57, Kane 72, Patterson 80) 5-3 Oldham Athletic (Collins 38, Owens 62, Prugger 90+1)

Starting Lineup vs. Notts County

				[1]	GK	Thomas ZAVADIL
				[6]	DL	Lucas BRANNAN
   73 10			[5]	DC 	Matty WARRINER
19   8    7			[3]	DC 	Ilan EDGE
    76				[56]	DR	Roger PAXMAN		(McManus 45)
6  5  3  56			[76]	DMC	Dan SAMPSON
     1				[19]	ML	Christopher LLOYD	(Owens 60)
				[8]	MC	Ken RANGER (c)		(Prügger 60)
				[7]	MR	David SNODIN
				[73]	SC	Danny COLLINS
				[10]	SC	Yaw BOATENG

Subs: Freeman, McManus, Fitzgerald, Lowe, Thorn, Owens, Prügger

Although there are identifiable reasons, the simple fact remains that there are no excuses. Since that poor run earlier in the season, we have got by on outscoring opponents- always making sure we put the ball in the net a few times. We did that. Three times. And yet, from the 9th minute all the way through to the final whistle, we were behind in this game.

It would be easy to place the blame at the foot of the defence, especially with our two regular centre backs absent (George Ogude through suspension after ten yellow cards, Augustine Balogun through a training injury). But their replacements have both played regularly at the back for the club: Matty Warriner has 25 appearances to his name this season, and was starting regularly before Balogun joined in November, while Ilan Edge was a first-team starter last season, only pushed down the pecking order by Ogude's loan signing in the summer. Both are good enough to perform at this level, and neither was any worse than their team-mates in this match.

No, this was a performance that very few of the team can really be proud of- I'd tried to ring the changes, but this was a collective failure. Yaw Boateng up front squandered chances that on another day would've seen him hit a hat-trick. Roger Paxman was simply terrorised by County's Bram Cole, and made to look completely inadequate. Captain Ken failed completely to take the game by the scruff of its neck, as well he can, and was largely anonymous. And in goal, Tomas Zavadil was far below his usual standard, despite not being any more exposed than usual. We spent 85 minutes chasing a match, and just couldn't catch up.

That's not to say there aren't a few green shoots to recognise. Dan Sampson showed an admirable level of grit and determination, trying to hold everything together and running himself into the ground in the process despite not being quite up to it. Danny Collins showed another flash of what he can (but doesn't often) do, with a great strike. And the two subs, Craig Owens and Stefan Prügger, each managed to grab a consolation goal, having both gone a few games without scoring. Hopefully that'll give them a bit more confidence and get the goals flowing again.

					Pl	W	D	L	GD	Pts
[1] Oldham Athletic			38	25	4	9	+38	 79
[2] Bolton Wanderers			38	22	10	6	+33	 76
[3] Birmingham City			38	20	7	11	+20	 67

And this defeat- particularly in the context of this run of games- throws a whole other question into the spotlight.

This whole diary- the whole conundrum of staying at Oldham Athletic or moving on to greener pastures- has been based off of the idea that we're probably getting promoted this season. But mathematically, we can still finish as low as 10th, and that gap between us and third place and a playoff lottery is now back down to 12 points, with a six-pointer against Bolton not too far off. What if these two defeats are just the start of us bottling it completely? What if we don't go up at all this season?

From the position we've been in, it's something that hadn't really occurred to me, but this match has been a real reminder that nothing is in stone yet. There are still games to play and plenty of points to win- or lose. So, from this point onwards, a new leaf: enough of this speculation about the future- let's try and get focussed back on the now, shall we?

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"You have a meeting to make a decision, not to decide on the question." - Bill Gates

Monday, 17th March 2031

"Right, lads, remember, team meeting in after this afternoon's session. Shouldn't take more than 10, 15 minutes- just want to sit down and make sure our heads are all in the same place."

Usually I'd expect a bit of dissent at arranging a meeting for immediately after training- most of the lads want to go off and do their own thing. But today, there seems to be very little by way of complaint- there's an unspoken agreement that after two defeats there may be a few things we need to discuss.

I leave the coaching team to it for the day, as usual, but keep a closer eye than I normally would from my office. It's clear one or two heads have started to drop, particularly from those who weren't so hot against Notts County- Matty Warriner and Yaw Boateng seem especially determined to prove their commitment to the cause. It's good to see them bounce back like that, and it speaks volumes of their professionalism and ambition.

And then, on the other hand, there's Roger Paxman. Signed in the summer on a free from Hull City, with our surprisingly strong league performance this season, he's had a bit of an easy ride at right wingback, with little competition from others for the position. He's played at this level for years, and been promoted from the division twice, only to be released.

Now I'm starting to see why- now that results have started to slip, now that we're having to actually defend, his weaknesses are becoming more apparent, and it's leaving us more exposed. Prior to being tied in knots in the County game, he'd been the one at fault in the Chesterfield game for the early penalty, and didn't seem to be able to recover his confidence for the rest of the game. In this training session, he's not at all looking like a starting player in a team that are sitting top of their division.

And if his performances can slip that far at this level, what'll happen if we do go up? With another year on his contract, I wonder if he's feeling a sense of impending deja vu...


"Ok, boys, thank you all for sticking around- I'll keep this brief as I can, but I also want this to be an open forum- it's no good if it's me just talking at you."

Despite this, there wasn't massive amounts of interaction. I knew that the big hitters in the squad, the ones who had potential for influencing others and who would speak up to debate and dispute stuff, were all squarely in my corner- the likes of Captain Ken, Tomas Zavadil, Yaw Boateng and Christopher Lloyd. They'd been playing games, we'd been getting results, they'd been enjoying their football and they had fully bought into what I was selling.

"Look, we're fortunate to be in a position where two back-to-back defeats haven't caused us to drop down the table. But that fortune wasn't due to luck. That was due to you working hard, and getting results, to give yourselves that leeway. You have been top of the table since the start of this year, and you started playing with a confidence that made winning easy.

You're not suddenly different players after two defeats. We're not playing a different way, and I'm not asking different things of you. But neither of those defeats were flukes- we were beaten by sides who got their noses in front, made us chase the game, and then punished us. We let them play the game their way, at their tempo. We lost our shape, we lost our focus- we stopped doing the things that we've been doing all season that put us in this position.

We had built that cushion earlier in the season to allow us those two defeats. That's fine. But that cushion is now gone- we've used it up. And while I can sit here and tell you how you deserve automatic promotion, or how you even deserve to be Champions after sitting top of the table for so long, at the end of the day, you are not promoted, you are not Champions, until that final whistle of that last match, and the table says you have enough points.

There are eight games left, guys. Mansfield are up next- they've just started to haul themselves out of the relegation scrap. When we went to their gaff, they defended for 95 minutes, we didn't find a way through, and it was 0-0. Well, this is a prime opportunity to reset, refresh and renew our challenge. I'm expecting three points from this one. They don't have anyone worth writing home about- they're still parking the bus, trying to sneak wins and draws, but still can't score goals. There will be some changes to the team sheet- I want to use this week of training to show me why you should be in that first eleven, demonstrate what you bring to the table as if I were brand new, and show me how hungry you are to take Oldham Athletic up into the Championship."

The usual suspects capped it off with "come on boys, we got this", led by Captain Ken, but it was difficult not to notice some of the more subdued reactions. Matthew Turner- one of those who I'd have considered giving another shot to in the shakeup, seemed uninterested, presumably counting down the days until he returns to Leeds. Dan Sampson seemed a bit put out at being included in the doom and gloom- and to be fair to him, if anyone has stood out in the last few games, it's him, seizing his opportunity in the first team. And, disappointingly, Roger Paxman, who skulked out of the meeting looking like someone had eaten his lunch. Maybe he'd heard that pep talk once or twice before- and maybe he figured he was one of those about to get shaken out.

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"Stay calm and hold your nerves. That's the best way to win the battle." - Rishav DebRoy

Saturday, 22nd March 3031
Oldham Athletic (Boateng 45+1) 1-0 Mansfield Town

Well, the shake-up came, although not quite as much as I'd liked. With Stefan Prügger and Christopher Lloyd going off on international duty, I figured we'd give Gabriele Nicoli a chance out on the left. He's been way down the pecking order since signing at the end of January, but actually has shown a bit of potential in retraining out wide. There may have been more natural options to fill in for Lloyd, but he earned his chance to start, and he was certainly lively in trying to make the position his own.

At the back, young Warren McManus came in for Roger Paxman, but with Augustine Balogun still injured and George Ogude still suspended, I didn't have a whole lot of choice but to keep Matty Warriner and Ilan Edge as the back two. Ultimately, it didn't last long, and threw us into a bit of a crisis- with Warriner going off injured just before half-time, left-back Lucas Brannan ended up in the middle, with McManus switching to the left and Paxman on the right. Brannan actually did a decent job in the middle, to be fair, but it made for an uncomfortable second half, knowing that it's not really a position he's ever played before. Against a better team, we'd have been punished.

Starting Lineup vs. Mansfield Town
				[1]	GK	Thomas ZAVADIL
				[6]	DL	Lucas BRANNAN
   73 10			[5]	DC 	Matty WARRINER		(Paxman 44)
59				[3]	DC 	Ilan EDGE
   8  76  7			[23]	DR	Warren McMANUS
6  5  3  23			[59]	AML	Gabriele NICOLI		(Vukicevic 70)
     1				[8]	MC	Ken RANGER (c)
				[76]	MC	Dan SAMPSON
				[7]	MR	David SNODIN		(Snodin 78)
				[73]	SC	Danny COLLINS
				[10]	SC	Yaw BOATENG

Subs: Freeman, Paxman, Vukicevic, Thorn, Lowe, Turner, Owens

But, as they did in the reverse fixture, Mansfield were playing for a 0-0- unadventurous, unambitious, park-the-bus football. They probably would've got a point, too, as we struggled to break them down- the only goal of the game came just as people started to switch off for half-time, with Yaw Boateng prodding home a fumbled header by keeper Kieran Rock as everyone waited for the whistle.

The only other thing of note was the return of 35-year-old Serbian legend Dragan Vukicevic from the bench, back after a second long spell on the sidelines this season. Unfortunately, it was probably his last game for us- as much as he wanted to be involved, he was just way too far off the pace. We knew he was retiring when we signed him, and let him come on to get some coaching experience as well as winding down his playing career, but the injuries have really done for him. It's a shame- we took a gamble on someone who moved for over £10m just two years ago, from West Ham to Swansea (and even for £21m back in his heyday), but now he's just a shadow of his former self. He might sit on the bench a couple of times more, but I don't see playing him again unless in a real emergency. A sad way to bow out.

					Pl	W	D	L	GD	Pts
[1] Oldham Athletic			39	26	4	9	+39	 82
[2] Bolton Wanderers			39	22	10	7	+32	 76
[3] Birmingham City			39	20	8	11	+20	 68

Still, a win's a win, and the other results went our way- a shock defeat for Bolton ahead of our match with them next week, and a draw for Birmingham. The numbers are pretty simple: we need eight points to guarantee promotion- and if we beat Bolton, we'll be nine clear at the top. The squad's starting to wear a little thin, the team is starting to get patched together in the run-in, but let's hope this was enough to break the streak of defeats and keep us on track to the title.

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Thanks tenthreeleader, really appreciate your words.

"I'm tired of rumors starting
I'm sick of being followed
I'm tired of people lying,
Saying what they want about me" - "Rumors" by Lindsay Lohan. Sue me.

Monday, 24th March 2031

It's funny- you wait and wait for a realistic job opening to come available, and then two come along at once. And, while their current circumstances are similar, the two clubs would represent very different next steps.

At 11am, Reading, currently sitting 12th in the Championship, confirmed the departure of their manager, Sergio Tejada. The Spaniard had been front runner for the Real Sociedad job since it came open a few weeks ago, with it being no secret that he was looking to return home after cutting his management teeth in England. It wasn't a surprising departure- Reading had been Tejada's seventh club in nine years, but each one had represented a progression from the last, and he'd taken each one forwards.

It would be a cushy seat for someone to fill- in many eyes, the Royals had been underperforming since the high-profile takeover two years ago, with Thai Chairman Thanapat Bureerat ready and willing to spend big to take the club back up to the Premier League. On both of the occasions that the club had been promoted before his takeover, they were sent straight back down, and the fans were ready for someone to come in and help them shake off that Championship tag and actually establish them as a top flight club.

At midday, Adam Barrett was unveiled by sixth-place Burnley as their new manager, leaving Sunderland, who sat just five points and four places to below. To swap between two playoff clubs at this time of the season is bold, to say the least- and he did it after the clubs had just drawn 0-0 with each other in their previous fixture. He may as well have got on the Burnley coach back with them- I suspect Barrett may not get much of a warm welcome next time he's at the Stadium of Light.

The thing is, I don't remember when Sunderland weren't "a club in turmoil". Hopelessly adrift from the Premier League since their relegation in 2017 (that would be thirteen years ago), I remember how the downfall of the club was documented so passionately in that "Sunderland Til I Die" documentary. It baffles me that someone could leave Sunderland for Burnley, although the state of the club behind the scenes is still extremely well documented- despite the devoted fanbase, the big player sales and the sometimes insane promotional stunts, the money just isn't there. And yet, as ever, there's rumours and talk of a consortium ready to come in, take the club off of Lemarchand's hands, inject much-needed funds and restore the glory days- but by now, they've heard it all before, a hundred times over.

And, by 2pm, the rumour mill was starting to swirl, with all kinds of names starting to get thrown out as potential successors. Was former Rangers boss Gary Forbes really seen on a train down to Berkshire? Could Ricardo Salvetti really be set for a shock return to England at Sunderland? Or how about William Rivas, now out of work after being sacked harshly by Burnley? It was, of course, far too soon for anyone to have any concrete idea about who'd be in the running.

Which is why, at 4pm, I got a call from Football365's Jay Bates. They were linking me with Sunderland, asking what I thought about potentially working in such a chaotic and financially unstable environment. And I told them the truth: nothing to do with me, guv.


Edited by Lawlore
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"Where would his torture be, indeed, if at every step the hope of succeeding upheld him?" - Albert Camus

Saturday, 29th March 2031
Bolton Wanderers (Fletcher 12, Gooden 51, 54) 3-0 Oldham Athletic


This is exactly the problem.

This is exactly why I think that if we go up this season, next season we will struggle game after game.

And, frankly, it's been the problem all season- if we fall behind, we don't get back into games.

Starting Lineup vs. Bolton Wanderers

				[1]	GK	Thomas ZAVADIL
				[6]	DL	Lucas BRANNAN		(Paxman 45)
   11 10			[58]	DC	Augustine BALOGUN
19  8 76  7			[70]	DC	George OGUDE
6  58 70 23			[23]	DR	Warren McMANUS
    1				[19]	ML	Christopher LLOYD
				[8]	MC	Ken RANGER (c)
				[76]	MC	Dan SAMPSON		(Collins 45)
				[7]	MR	David SNODIN
				[11]	SC	Craig OWENS		(Prügger 57)
				[10]	SC	Yaw BOATENG

Subs: Freeman, Paxman, Edge, Thorn, Nicoli, Prügger, Collins

We've hidden it really, really well, by getting out of the blocks quickly, and scoring first. Against most of the teams in this division, that's enough to secure at least a point, and more often than not, three. But if we find ourselves in a position chasing a game, needing to score, then suddenly the shape goes, the attacks become frantic and the ball stays out of the net.

Don't get me wrong- we weren't slow out of the blocks against Bolton. They were just good enough to weather the early onslaught, and flipped the script on us. We looked more composed, more together in that first ten minutes than we did at any other point, but while Kevin Fletcher's strike was a great one, we afforded him way too much space on the edge of the box to line it up.

From that point, we just couldn't find a way back into the game. With the changes we made at half time, we threw everything we had at them and yet our strikers were not up to the challenge of putting the ball in the net. Not one of them.

I don't think it's unfair to say the scoreline flatters Bolton, as Gooden's two strikes were both from dead ball situations- one a free kick, the other a penalty. We gave as good as we got to Bolton- the difference is that they took their chances, and we absolutely did not. Even after they played most of the second half with ten men at 3-0, they adapted, and they were matching us.

If we go up, it will be a lot harder to race ahead, because at the moment, if we go behind, we lose. That needs to change.

					Pl	W	D	L	GD	Pts
[1] Oldham Athletic			40	26	4	10	+36	 82
[2] Bolton Wanderers			40	23	10	7	+35	 79
[3] Birmingham City			40	21	8	11	+23	 71


Edited by Lawlore
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"You can't win anything with kids" - Alan Hansen

Monday, 31st March 2031

In the midst of all the league drama comes a sharp reminder that mine is not the only contract due to expire at the end of the season. Today's the day to be brutal- to decide whether players get a new offer or not.

The thing is, for us to be where we are now, even competing for promotion places, an overhaul of the squad was necessary last summer- and it's proved very successful. The flip side of that is we've had a lot of people who just weren't in the plans this season, who have been sent out on loan to various places to try and get some game time and prove their worth. Most of them 22 or under, many having never featured for the first team. We're going to release 18 players at the end of the season, four of whom are youth players. I could list them all, but I won't have mentioned the vast majority before now, and the chances are many of them won't get picked up by other clubs. The only familiar name, the only one close to the first team, is Stefan Prügger, who is the biggest earner of them, and who's retiring anyway. By my calculation, that should free up about £6.5k in the wage budget.

There were two names I decided to offer an extension to. Billy Amankwah is a 20-year-old centre back currently on loan out at Crawley, playing in the National League. I signed him for about £4k last season from Hemel Hempstead Town, of all places, although he came through the system at West Ham, and there's no denying the kid's got something about him. We just couldn't give him the game time to get it out of him- he was too far down the pecking order. But he's done well at Crawley, and has come on leaps and bounds. If we're promoted, he might find himself back out on loan, but if we do somehow end up staying in League One, I'd expect him to be challenging for a place in the team before too long.

The other is a central midfielder who can also play up top named Mark Tucker, also currently playing in the National League, at FC United. He's someone I've gone back and forth with- he seems to want to be someone who runs around and gets involved in everything, but technique-wise, he's not quite there... except when put in front of a goal. He's a weird mess of a not-quite-good-enough, easily bullied midfielder who should really be a tricky, capable striker. At 19, a new contract will give him a couple more years to try and find his position and get some consistent form going on, but he's a work in progress.

But, of course, players aren't the only ones whose contracts are coming to a close, and some of the demands made by the staff are nothing short of scandalous. I think the turnover might shock a few of them- we're losing our Chief Scout and Under-23's Manager, although both will be replaced by internal promotions. One of our physios will also find his contract not renewed, with his pay demands just not acceptable for a club of our size. And, of course, it'll probably be goodbye to our Director of Football, Darren Young- there just hasn't been a lot for him to do, and if a few more quid can be saved, then so be it.

The thing is, it's not just departures that need to be thought about now- now is the time to start thinking about next season. A tricky thing to do if you're not sure if you're even going to be around yourself, but even if I do move on elsewhere, I'm determined to leave the club in a better place than when I arrived. Of course, the first team are already leaps and bounds ahead of where they were, but I've taken some time to get our scouts looking for the next diamond in the rough- a few trials, a few extended scouting missions, and even the odd discussion about end-of-contract moves. With any luck, we'll be looking at the following coming on board sooner or later:

Keith Maslen-Jones, a 17-year-old centre back released by Man City, has agreed terms. Bags of potential, and with George Ogude's loan ending and both Ilan Edge and Antony Fitzgerald looking to move on, it's an area where he could get some quick first-team exposure.

Sean Sharrock-Peplow, a pacy 18-year-old striker at Birmingham has joined us on trial for a week. I'm concerned he may be a bit of a one-trick pony, but if that trick is scoring goals, then how many more does he really need?

Çağdas Oktay, an 18-year-old Turkish-Belgian attacking midfielder we're taking on trial from Club Brugge. He's creative, he's dynamic, and he can pick a pass- we don't tend to play with an attacking midfielder, but if he comes in and develops into a useful creative outlet, that could be just the change we need at a higher level.

Eduardo Gomez, a 17-year-old left winger from Spain, has agreed to join us when his Man City contract expires at the end of the season. He's got legs and he knows what to do with the ball at his feet, which frames him as a potential understudy for Christopher Lloyd, especially when the Jamaican is off on international duty.

And finally, the big one, Montenegrin central midfielder Matija Pavicevic. Reading want him, Stade Brestois 29 want him, and I think we've been put onto a good one here- a hard worker with skills and technique far beyond his age. At just 17, he's already a full international, and his contract demands reflect that. I'm not thrilled about the £425k release clause his agent insisted on, but it goes to show how bright his future is anticipated to be.

Of course, whether I'll be here to see any of these lads develop is another question entirely- although Sunderland haven't called despite the rumour mill, a few headlines were written when Reading's board refused to deny that I was somewhere on their list. With them now down to 13th in the Championship, it sounds to me like they're looking for just the kind of overhaul that has served me so well here at Oldham.

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"At the moment, if we go behind, we lose. That needs to change." - Lawlore, two posts ago.

Saturday, 5th April 2031
Oldham Athletic (Ranger 18, Collins 88) 2-4 Leyton Orient (May 2, Daborn 7, Henry 45, Gough 90+3)

Let me just repeat that quote at the top, in case anyone skipped those italics.

"At the moment, if we go behind, we lose. That needs to change." - Lawlore, just two poxy posts ago.

We were 2-0 down in the first ten minutes. Against Bolton, we were quick out of the blocks but they were able to hold us at bay. Today, we were 2-0 down before half the team had even touched the ball.

Now, this probably requires some context, because Leyton Orient are not known as a titan in footballing circles. They finished 5th last season, losing in the playoffs, and coming into this match, they were sitting 4th. Sooner or later, they will go up to the Championship, one of these season. They also came into it with three straight wins, and three consecutive clean sheets. What I'm saying is, we knew we were gonna be up against one of the better sides in the division.

And we went 2-0 down in the first 10 minutes.

Starting Lineup vs. Leyton Orient

				[1]	GK	Thomas ZAVADIL
				[6]	DL	Lucas BRANNAN
   11 10			[58]	DC	Augustine BALOGUN
19  8 76 72			[70]	DC	George OGUDE
6  58 70 23			[23]	DR	Warren McMANUS		(Paxman 45)
    1				[19]	ML	Christopher LLOYD
				[8]	MC	Ken RANGER (c)
				[76]	MC	Dan SAMPSON		(Collins 45)
				[72]	MR	Liam THORN
				[11]	SC	Craig OWENS
				[10]	SC	Yaw BOATENG		(Prügger 62)

Subs: Freeman, Paxman, Edge, Snodin, Lowe, Prügger, Collins

Part of me- the sulking part- doesn't want to give the match much more of my time, and if I say the result flatters Orient, I'm gonna start sounding like a broken record. But, what I will say, at 2-0 down, the lads started to dig in and fight back- and that's something that I haven't seen much of this season. Ken Ranger pulling us back to 2-1 from the penalty spot came after a sustained period of pressure, and it looked for a lot of the first half like we could draw level.

In the Orient goal, Norwegian international Tobias Hogmø was playing a blinder. He was being let down by his defence quite often, but he was stopping everything. On loan from Stoke, he as much as anyone has been responsible for their promotion challenge this season, and no matter what Craig Owens and Yaw Boateng threw at him, he kept it out.

Then Tony Henry was left unmarked at the far post, and, on the stroke of half-time, it was 3-1. Warren McManus was at fault- nowhere near where he was supposed to be, and he'd been responsible for the first goal too, failing to cut out a cross which he really should've dealt with. It's a real difficult call with him- in training, he's top of the class, week-in, week-out, which for a teenager is mightily impressive. He's hungry to play, and he's earned the starts. But this isn't the first game where an error on his part has cost us dearly- in this case, it put us in at half-time two goals down. He had to come off. It wasn't his day.

And then, the second half happened. We continued to knock at the door, Hogmø continued to shut everything out. Stefan Prügger and Danny Collins came on to try and mix things up, but... well, I don't want to say too much, because I've already been told the FA are considering my post-match comments. 77 minutes, Liam Thorn hacked a long one forwards, Craig Owens nodded it down, and Collins ran onto it to fire past the keeper. And then, with celebrations aplenty and Orient starting to line up for kickoff, the linesman decided he was offside.

I... disagreed, to put it politely. I've seen the replay, plenty of times, from plenty of angles, and I still disagree. When the ball was released, he was in line with the defender, and the officials got it wrong. I'd say "these things happen in football" and "it all evens out", but when it costs you like this, it really, really hurts. Being 3-1 down on 77 minutes is not the same as being 3-2 down on 77 minutes. With 3-2, you can see a point in the distance- you have something to chase, and the opponents start to get nervous. The way we were going, the missiles we were launching, we were rolling and ready to equalise.

But no. When Danny Collins found a way past Hogmø again, on 87 minutes, it wasn't an equaliser. It left us throwing caution to the wind, everything forward in the dying minutes. Orient's fourth, catching us on the counter, doesn't really matter- it was all or nothing by that point. We got nothing.

Didn't get hammered 3-0 like Bolton did by Blackburn though, did we?

					Pl	W	D	L	GD	Pts
[1] Oldham Athletic			41	26	4	11	+34	 82
[2] Bolton Wanderers			41	23	10	8	+32	 79
[3] Birmingham City			41	22	8	11	+27	 74
[4] Leyton Orient			41	22	7	12	+19  	 73

I honestly don't know how many "get out of jail free" cards we can have left. Somehow we're still three points clear. Now, it's just about getting there- about grinding out results. Four out of the five remaining fixtures should be easy gimmes- only Luton, sitting 5th, could prove to be a speedbump. That should still be enough to get us up- but whether it'll be enough to hold off Bolton is another question altogether.

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"Ah, the waiting game sucks. Let's play Hungry Hungry Hippos!" - Homer Simpson

Thursday, 10th April 2031

It's been a long couple of days- sorry for the lack of updates. A whole lot of stuff going on, some good, some bad, most of it somewhere in between. I'll try and make sense of some of it.

First, Monday.

So, on Sunday afternoon, I got a text that I was being summoned down to the FA Headquarters in London to explain my comments about Danny Collins' disallowed goal. So, I drove down there- five bloody hours wtih traffic- and I explained them: he was onside and the goal shouldn't have been disallowed. Pretty straightforward in my book- I'm not really sure how much clearer it made it saying it all in person, but whatever. I'll add that official warning from the FA to the other one I received when they were wrong earlier in the season.

Usually, I'd have been quite pissed off about being dragged all the way down to London just to get a bollocking, but as it happens, I was able to kill two birds with one stone while I was down South. The defeat to Orient had cooled my currency in the management stakes rumour mills a bit over the weekend, with the press maybe thinking the shine was starting to come off of Oldham's charge for the League One title. I can't really blame them- those stories thrive on linking candidates to vacant posts, and I was one of many who had been mentioned in discussion of the current Championship hot seats.

The difference was, I was also a guy making a stop off at the Madejski Stadium, home of Reading Football Club. As I was driving down the M6 on my way down to the FA, I received a call from the office of the Chairman, Thanapat Bureerat. It wasn't the best reception in my car, but we managed to arrange a meeting with the Chairman for that very afternoon, after I was done with the FA.

Reading's a weird one. Growing up as a Gillingham fan, they've always felt like a staple "higher division" club, but never a "top flight" one, despite their brief sojourns in the Premier League. And yet, they didn't have the presence, the reputation or, really, anything particularly memorable when compared with other clubs who could be described that way- the likes of Crystal Palace, Derby or QPR. When attempting to name all the clubs in the English league, Reading are one that's easily missed. To a neutral, they're just sort of there- hell, I couldn't confidently point out Reading on a map, and even now I'm not totally sure which county they're in. It's Bucks, right?

But, with the new Thai money, they seem determined to try and spend what it takes to change that reputation- "What do Stoke or Everton have to offer, that we don't?". Sergio Tejada was supposed to have been the first piece of the puzzle, but a lacklustre season and his departure to Real Sociedad had set the revolution back, and it was clear there wasn't a lot of love lost between the Chairman and his former manager. I imagine sitting seven points outside the playoffs with five games to go wasn't part of the master plan.

The meeting went well, and as I made my way back up North, I was feeling positive about it. I'm not massively starstruck by the prospect of managing Reading, to be honest, but it's clear that the financial muscle is there to build a competitive side for whoever gets the job.

On the drive back, Sunderland called, and offered me an interview for Wednesday. I agreed to meet them in the evening to prevent missing any more office time at Boundary Park- Sunderland's not a million miles away, just in the other direction.


What I was expecting to be a bit of an admin day has been anything but. I'm not sure exactly how the press got hold of my little detour to Reading, but my phone's been ringing non-stop about it. No comment all round, of course, but that won't stop every possible variation of "MARTIN'S ROYAL APPOINTMENT" appearing as headlines. Our Chairman, Richard Wyatt, knows my position, and seems to trust me to keep my word- this close to the end of the season, I'm not making any decisions until the last ball is kicked. I said as much to Reading, and I'll say the same to Sunderland- what point is there in moving for the last half a dozen games? Speaking with Richard today, he yet again mentioned how he looked forward to sitting down and talking about a new contract with me, but I told him that exactly the same point applied, and he took the hint to drop it.

From a work perspective, there were two main things achieved on Tuesday. The stern word in Roger Paxman's ear, which has been a few games overdue- I was hoping I could just bench him for the last few games, but with Warren McManus' errors, Dragan Vuckicevic's failing legs and Lucas Brannan's suspension for collecting his tenth yellow, we're not gonna have much choice. He's still a more reliable bet than the second thing I achieved today, the offloading of reserve left back Marvin Popp to some lower league Belgian club. The Frenchman just hasn't fit in at the club, and has been underwhelming in the cup runouts he's had. In short, he's just not really good enough for this level. The move will be good for him.


On Wednesday, we waved goodbye to our two triallists, Çağdas Oktay and Sean Sharrock-Peplow. Oktay signed a new deal with Club Brugge whilst he was over here, so he's a non-starter, and Sharrock-Peplow isn't there yet- he's fine, but we've already got better young options up front than him.

However, while we probably won't see either of those lads in an Oldham shirt, I was able to confirm the signing of Matija Pavicevic. At the risk of looking silly, I think we've uncovered a real gem here, a 17-year-old with technical skills far beyond his tender years- a hardworking Montenegrin midfielder who's both good in the tackle and as comfortable on the ball as anyone I've managed. He's not a finished product, by any account, but if we can develop help shape his raw talent, he could prove to be a real star in the future. He'll be joining us in July from Budućnost Podgorica, and I can't wait to see him in action.

Which brings us to Wednesday evening, and with the Reading rumours still swirling around, I made my way over to a restaurant not a million miles from the Stadium of Light, Sunderland. The Chairman, Luke McDermott, was already there, and over a splendid lamb shank, we talked shop.

I've said before, and I stand by it: Sunderland are a big club. They've got a 50,000 seater stadium, one of the first of the new wave of sexy stadia built in the late 90's. They've got a squad filled with current internationals- Welsh winger Steffan Miller, Irish centre-back Matthew Dowling and Paraguayan striker Dario Caballero, to name but a few. They've got fans who have Sunderland running through their veins- a support for whom the club is not about football, but about life. It is nothing short of scandalous that they've been outside the top flight since 2017- and that they're sitting one spot below Reading, 8 points off of the playoffs.

It was clear that Luke McDermott felt the same. He's a big guy, and he's been responsible for a revolving door of managers- before Adam Barrett moved over to Burnley, there had been talks that he was being lined up for a push out of the door. The lack of consistency had been damaging to the club, muddling the identity and creating a mish-mash of a squad bereft of confidence, but McDermott made it clear that he didn't believe in rebuilding seasons.

It was an interesting, intense pitch- McDermott admitted he'd met a lot of people for the job, and that his expectations were not subject to negotiation. He wanted Sunderland back in the Premier League, and he wanted big names to be brought in, to get a buzz going about the Black Cats being the next big thing. I didn't query how he expected to do that as a mid-table Championship club who had spent big on flops in previous seasons, and whose kitty was looking a bit empty. Suffice to say, as much as the Sunderland job intrigued me- we didn't click. I didn't feel like the marquee-name manager he wanted to lead the charge and put Sunderland back on the map. What had I ever done to warrant being in the conversation for such a prestigious club?


Dawid Janik leaves Colchester 3rd in League Two.

I guess I take it back.

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"Suicide is painless, it brings on many changes" - Theme from M*A*S*H

Friday, 11th April 2031
Oldham Athletic 0-1 Tranmere Rovers (N'Diaye 38)

Starting Lineup vs. Tranmere Rovers

				[1]	GK	Thomas ZAVADIL
				[23]	DL	Warren McMANUS
   73 10			[58]	DC	Augustine BALOGUN
72  8 76  7			[70]	DC	George OGUDE
23 58 70 56			[56]	DR	Roger PAXMAN
    1				[72]	ML	Liam THORN		(Turner 67)
				[8]	MC	Ken RANGER (c)
				[76]	MC	Dan SAMPSON		(Owens 57)
				[7]	MR	David SNODIN
				[73]	SC	Danny COLLINS		(Prügger 67)
				[10]	SC	Yaw BOATENG

Subs: Maslen-Jones, Edge, Popp, Lowe, Owens, Prügger, Turner

Forget it, this whole "staying or going" thing's a non-issue. This workshy shower of sheet aren't ever getting back into the Championship anyway. What a complete and utter embarrassment.

					Pl	W	D	L	GD	Pts
[1] Oldham Athletic			42	26	4	12	+33	 82
[2] Bolton Wanderers			42	24	10	8	+33	 82
[3] Birmingham City			42	23	8	11	+29	 77
[4] Luton Town				42	22	9	11	+14	 75

Top only on Goals Scored now, unable to beat Tranmere poxy Rovers, with fourth-place Luton coming up in midweek.

It's time for a serious change.

Edited by Lawlore
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Monday, 14th April 2031

I'm sorry.

That last entry- that was immature of me.

Suffice to say, frustration got the better of me- the sight of seeing Bolton Wanderers breathing down our neck, having been so far clear of them. Their rampage coming at just the time that we can't buy a win.

I should probably apologise to the team, as well. Part of it is my fault- my focus has clearly not been completely on the job in hand, and now we're at risk of losing everything we've worked hard for. To not go up this season, after the season we've had, would be heartbreaking.

Luton Town (Sandri 34, 76, O'Connell 87) 3-1 Oldham Athletic (Nicoli 9)

Starting Lineup vs. Luton Town

    10				[1]	GK	Thomas ZAVADIL (c)
59       73			[3]	DC	Ilan EDGE
    55				[58]	DC	Augustine BALOGUN
23  76	 56			[70]	DC	George OGUDE
  3 58 70			[23]	WBL	Warren McMANUS
    1				[72]	WBR	Roger PAXMAN
				[76]	DMC	Dan SAMPSON		(Higgins 62)
				[55]	MC	Liam LOWE		(Prügger 75)
				[59]	AML	Gabriele NICOLI
				[73]	AMR	Danny COLLINS
				[10]	SC	Yaw BOATENG		(Owens 62)

Subs: Nash, Fitzgerald, Snodin, Higgins, Thorn, Owens, Prügger

Bolton chasing us isn't an issue any more. Luton were all over us, start to finish- they were the better side, and they deserved the win. I set out our stall for us to keep a clean sheet- five at the back, one up front, with Dan Sampson in as a defensive midfielder. A negative formation, based on keeping a clean sheet to try and grind out a result against a team in the playoffs.

Then we took the lead unexpectedly from the penalty spot. It was a soft penalty- Yaw Boateng apparently being pushed by the defender on a corner. Gabriele Nicoli, playing wide on the left in only his second start since signing, stepped up and got it inside the post- even there, the keeper was unlucky not to keep it out. Nicoli, for his part, seemed thrilled at getting off the mark, even from the penalty spot.

We just couldn't do it, though. Lorenzo Sandri was terrorising us- without Captain Ken or Lieutenant Higgins on the pitch, we were losing every battle in the middle of the park. The equaliser was from a not-cleared corner, and while Tomas Zavadil did what he could to keep us in the game, the breakthrough was as inevitable as it was beautiful, with Sandri curling a free kick in.

Zavadil then went and spoiled his earlier good work by finishing second place in a race to the ball just before the end, which let Luton add a third. They were good value for it- even after a change of formation on the hour mark to try and give us more attacking options, they were just in control throughout.

					Pl	W	D	L	GD	Pts
[1] Bolton Wanderers			43	25	10	8	+34	 85
[2] Oldham Athletic			43	26	4	13	+31	 82
[3] Luton Town				43	23	9	11	+16	 78
[4] Birmingham City			43	23	8	12	+28	 77

Back in December, it would've been unthinkable for Bolton to not just catch us, but overtake us, and yet, here we are. Bottom club Shrewsbury are up next, and I just can't take anything for granted any more- right now, I need to get my head back on our promotion chase. We need to find a win somewhere, or we're at real risk of slipping into the playoffs.

Oh, and Reading said no- they've brought in Sheffield Wednesday's Joakim Hansen instead. I'll have a look at that job, but it's no Reading, no Sunderland- and the favourite would probably have to be Will Beattie, who's filling the role in the interim anyway. Wednesday seem to like to promote from within. Bottom line, in three games time, I'm out of contract and out of a job- unless I want to stay here at Oldham. If we don't go up, I'm not sure I'd even want to consider that option.

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