Latics desperately need investment but rumours are swirling that Abdallah Lemsagam, a FIFA-registered agent, will turn them into a Manchester City feeder club
28 September ~ I’ve started recent seasons as an Oldham Athletic fan with a mild sense of foreboding. This year it felt different. As the season opened, John Sheridan, who helped us stave off relegation in the last two seasons, was still manager and many of the better players from last season had been retained. Compared with the end of the previous close season, when the club didn’t have enough players to field a five-a-side team, hope and optimism seemed right. There was even a hint from the club that long promised new investment might be in place before the transfer window closed.
However, the season started badly on the pitch with seven consecutive defeats and 16 goals conceded. Although the team were scoring goals, the defence, so secure last season, looked like strangers.
Off the pitch, nobody would deny that the club need new investment. If nothing else they could pay their players regularly and avoid the recurrent ignominy of a winding-up petition from HM Revenue & Customs. Chairman Simon Corney has been trying for several seasons either to sell the club or to secure additional funding. Despite several near misses he told fans in August that he was now closer than ever to success.
The potential investor is Corney’s friend, a Dubai businessman and FIFA-registered agent, Abdallah Lemsagam. Beyond an initial announcement the club have been fairly tight-lipped on progress, citing the cover of due diligence. Although the club CEO explained recently that some new signings had come to the club’s notice through Lemsagam’s “wide range of contacts throughout Europe”.
In the absence of hard facts the rumour mill has fired up and to my mind weakened the link between the prospect of new investment and a continued sense of hope. Trying to make sense of rumours in these circumstances is a fool’s errand. The speculation has ranged from Latics becoming a feeder club for Manchester City (Lemsagam is supposedly a friend of City’s Sheikh Mansour) to becoming home to an abundance of trialists. A number of recent signings are new to British football and League One can be a brutal place to learn. The club have announced the introduction of a development squad to help the transition.
Almost from the first match the speculation included a managerial change with Walter Zenga or Nancy’s Pablo Correa prominent options. A 5-1 defeat to Rotherham last weekend turned out to be Sheridan’s last match, a sad way to end his association with Oldham extending back to 1998, initially as a much-admired player and then in several spells as manager.
It is difficult to predict the next steps and the supporters’ trust has tried to explain a takeover process made more complex by the existence of two debenture holders who must agree to any proposed sale. For a season that appeared to promise much, events on and off the pitch have started to change the mood, lightened only a little by a first home win on Tuesday. The extent of my ambition went little beyond a comfortable mid-table finish and surely, even for Oldham, that’s not too much to hope for. Brian Simpson