Saturday 21 March ~
This weekend sees the entirely unexpected return of Joe Royle as caretaker manager of Oldham, who host fellow play-off hopefuls Tranmere Rovers at Boundary Park. Royle previously had a 12-year spell at the club, guiding them to a League Cup final and two FA Cup semi-finals as well as promotion to the old First Division in 1991. Having become Oldham's most successful manager Royle left in 1994 to join Everton with whom he won an FA Cup before spells with Man City and Ipswich. His second coming at Boundary Park follows a period of considerable turmoil which resulted in the dismissal of John Sheridan, sacked a day after last Saturday's 6-2 thrashing at MK Dons.
Only last week, it was alleged that Oldham's players brawled during a team bonding night out at Belle Vue greyhound track. At the centre of the fracas was Sheridan. Witnesses say he scuffled with striker Lee Hughes, who put his manager in a headlock before goalkeeper Mark Crossley intervened to calm things down. Sheridan insists that his ill-advised night out at the dogs did not cost him his job: "I think people have tried to make it out as something it wasn't. In my eyes it has not affected the results in any way." His side had nonetheless been on a poor run of form having won just once in their last six games. Despite this the Latics are eighth, one place below Tranmere and only three points off a play-off place.
There's been no such drama at table-topping Leicester City, who take on Colchester Utd as they look to consolidate their place at the top of League One. Both sides were relegated from the Championship last season and have experienced greatly contrasting fortunes since. In their first ever season in the division, Leicester look firmly set to straight back up whereas Colchester languish in mid-table with promotion hopes quickly fading. This is only the third season in which the two sides have played each other and Colchester have yet to win, but they can take some comfort in one of the division’s most impressive away records.
Leicester will nonetheless be expecting another three points ahead of their top of the table clash next Saturday at Peterborough, who travel to Bristol Rovers today aiming to make it five successive league wins. "I'd probably have a heart attack if there was another 5-4," said Peterborough manager Darren Ferguson reflecting on the nine-goal thriller when the teams met earlier in the season at London Road. With the press keener than ever to trumpet the achievements of young British managers, Ferguson junior is being widely tipped to make the step up to the Championship this summer, even if his current team don't make it. Miguel Anton