This is Paul Dickov’s third season at the helm of Oldham Athletic now, and probably going to be the most difficult. On a much smaller budget, due to the loss of local teams – Rochdale, Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday – through promotion and relegation, has led to chairman Simon Corney claiming an extra loss of £600,000 through ticket sales.
Dickov has a huge challenge ahead assembling a squad. After another summer clear-out and upheaval of the playing staff, Oldham’s squad was left looking threadbare. The departure of key players including last season’s top scorer, Shefki Kuqi, two-time reigning player of the year, Kieran Lee, and the longest serving player, Chris Taylor, along with many others decimated the squad. Positives included the extension of captain Dean Furman and striker Robbie Simpson’s contracts for the coming season. Also, the signings of Jonathan Grounds and ex-Scunthorpe legend Cliff Byrne have bolstered a young defence, where a huge season is expected of James Tarkowski and Jean-Yves M’voto, the former who Dickov claimed reminds him of Richard Dunne, despite being only 19 years old. The season-long loan signing of winger Lee Croft from Derby County adds to a midfield with an already strong centre-midfield partnership of Furman and James Wesolowski. Cristian Montaño has recently been signed from West Ham to operate on the left side, which had looked weak through pre-season.
Can Dickov have a successful 3rd season?
The main worry ahead of the new season is where the goals will come from. The three out and out strikers on the books, Matt Smith, Dan Taylor and on-loan Jordan Slew have just seven league goals between them. Much will rely on Simpson, playing just off the striker, to both create and score unless a more experience head can be brought in to help the three young strikers. However, in the two games this season against Sheffield Wednesday and MK Dons, the threat of Simpson had clearly been identified and nulled, with MK Dons using a rather heavy hand, leading to the dismissal of Anthony Kay.
Robbie Simpson will be key in 2012/13
The main problem may not be the first team, but rather the lack of depth and reserves. The Furman-Wesolowski partnership in centre midfield would be the envy of many clubs in the division, however both had various injuries throughout last season. Keeping them fit could be essential for Latics. Any sort of injury crisis is going to hit hard, with the majority of the substitutes’ bench in either their first or second season as a professional, and with very little experience. Youth team graduates Connor Hughes, Kirk Millar, Glenn Belezika, Carl Winchester and David Mellor are all inevitably going to have a part to play this season.
Off the field problems continue to hinder the development of the club. Boundary Park remains a 3 sided stadium (although plans have been announced to re-build the final stand). The £600,000 quoted by Corney seems a huge amount, and the playing budget seems to drop year-on-year hindering the development of the squad. As an extra surprise, the Football League sent over a £100,000 bill, for a pension scheme from 20 years ago.
So, what are the prospects on the football side of things? In the League, much depends on injuries, and the traditional horrendous run of form between Christmas and March, which Dickov has overseen in the last two seasons. The dreaded “R” word is not a total impossibility, especially with concerns over where the goals are going to come from, although another season of mid-table mediocrity is more than likely. Although already out of the Capital One Cup, a decent run in the FA Cup or Johnstone’s Paint Trophy would be great, especially after the loss in the Northern Final last year.
Dickov still retains the support of 90% of the fans, although there are sections who berate him, despite him working on an ever-shrinking shoestring budget. This season is quite simply going to be his biggest yet…
Written by Joshua Bowker, We Are Going Up’s Oldham Athletic Blogger
Joshua tweets at @JoshuaBowker