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Afternoon Of The Rhino

It was pretty much confirmed when Suzanne Geldard tweeted “What - or rather who – is next for Latics? Could be the worst kept secret since Frank.” Everyone who went to the Glo Gym on Sunday saw the photos being taken, but it wasn’t until Tuesday that the announcement was finally made. Welcome to the Rhinoball era. 

David Unsworth can’t really be described as a rookie. He’s 48. He was the under 23s manager at Everton for 8 years. He’s been caretaker first team manager of Everton, Preston NE and Sheffield United. He’s turned down several managerial offers (including Oxford United) because he was waiting for the right opportunity. And the right opportunity he was waiting for was taking charge of Oldham Athletic, when we’re 14th in the National League and in the midst of an injury crisis. Good for you, Dave. 

He certainly talks a good game. I have to admit, I roll my eyes a bit when a manager talks about wanting ‘a winning mentality’ – ooh, so you’re gonna try to actually win games, revolutionary thinking. But Unsworth’s first interview felt quite reassuring. Especially when he said “we all want to play the beautiful game….but I need to win, first and foremost”. None of this ‘my philosophy is to play out from the back, I don’t care if we haven’t got the players to do it and we’re shipping soft goals every match’ bollocks. Do what you have to do, then think about playing nice football. Earn the right to do it. 

The most heartening thing about his interview, in terms of the medium to long term future of the club, was that he’s been brought in to build the football infrastructure from top to bottom. He’s building a B team to bring through young players, and is looking to integrate the academy into the first team. Exactly what we’ve been crying out for, and the kind of long term project that won’t yield immediate results, but is worth doing if you’re investing in the club’s future and genuinely want to do things properly. Unsworth’s record of bringing through young players at Everton wasn’t bad; I hope he can get the best out of Vaughan, Couto, Luamba etc. in the short term, and rejuvenate what was once an excellent academy in the long term. 

The interview was also a nice reminder of how far we’ve come as a club, from a horrible place, in a fairly short time. Unsworth talked about being attracted by the ‘fanatical fanbase’; the same fanatical fanbase that was protesting outside the ground and boycotting a year ago. His first experience of the home crowd at Boundary Park as manager will be v Wrexham, which is set to be our biggest home crowd since, appropriately enough, Everton in the cup in 2013. He spoke about how it felt like the right opportunity because the club has the right owners, the right board, the right family. How it was “a really lovely feeling that you’re joining a family here”. Lovely. Not a word anyone was using about the club and its ownership a few short months ago. We’ve come a long, long way together.  

Safe journey and have a good day out if you’re off to Bromley today. I hope David Unsworth is the only Rhino celebrating tonight, as I’m off to Old Trafford to cheer on Saints against Leeds in the Grand Final (I’m allowed, I grew up four miles from Knowsley Road). I wasn’t expecting us to win, but Unsie says we should expect to win every game, so fuck it. Into these is-it-Kent-is-it-London commuter belt fuckers. 

Written by Arlene Finnigan

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