Oldham Athletic have now spent 37 seasons in English football’s third and second tier, a record that very few teams can match. Despite this scarily good consistency it is hard to see the Latics achieving anything more than mid table mediocrity once again.
New manager Darren Kelly came in during the summer of last season to replace the outgoing Lee Johnson who joined Barnsley. Johnson had been a firm favourite with the fans, but after weeks of speculation joins the Tykes. Former Walsall defender Holden joins he worked closely under Johnson as assistant manager, following a two year stint as Walsall captain and coach. Now he will assist Kelly when he faces his former employees on the opening weekend at the Banks Stadium.
After being charged with the task of keeping key names and restoring order to Boundary Park, Holden has kept a low profile in the transfer window thus far. Four new arrivals have walked through the door since the opening of the window in June. One of these names is physical frontman Jake Cassidy. The Welshman arrives from Wolves after failing to break into the first team squad on a regular basis. The 23-year-old spent time on loan with the likes of Tranmere Rovers, Southend and Notts County, before making the permanent move away from Molyneux this summer. He will link up last seasons top scorer Jonathan Forte at the pinnacle of Oldham’s attack, with contrast of styles up front I feel that the pair could produce a season to remember for the Latics faithful.
It’s a different story at the other end of the field, at this time Kelly has just two senior centre backs. James Wilson and his namesake Brian are the names to have clung on to their places under the new boss. Brian, who can also deputise at right-back, is a natural leader and is unquestionably a key player in the Latics backline. As for James Wilson, he adds pace and power to the rearguard something that is severely lacking with other rivals in League One. There is no question that the heart for the defence will have to be bolstered, even if it is just creating extra competition for places, after all it can only help the players to improve their form if they know a team mate is ready and waiting to steal their starting spot.
Despite the lack of backline options there is a defensive minded presence in midfield. Both Timothee Dieng and skipper Liam Kelly have shielding abilities and can act as a Claude Makalele of League One, well sort of. Anyway, Kelly proved his worth with a handful of excellent displays that have earned him the captain’s armband for this term. I expect one of Dominic Poleon or Jonathan Forte to be pushed out onto the wing to join forces with Mike Jones, and new recruit Lee Croft. The 30-year-old Croft, returns for his second spell at Boundary Park, but has spent plenty of time in the second tier throughout his career. Derby County and Manchester City are just two of the names to have acquired his services in the past.
Darren Kelly will be keen not to get immersed in a relegation battle, and being his first season, settle for no thrills campaign. His nerves were eased with the arrival of David Cornell who alleviated Oldham’s goalkeeping crisis. But he will need to strengthen their defensive options and add a goalscoring midfielder before seriously thinking about a top 6 finish.