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Will nothing change on New Year's Day?

I did want to end 2022 on a positive note, I really did. Especially after the year we’ve had. It’s a bit hard to put a positive spin on being 23rd in the fifth division and having won twice in the league in the last three months though.

Maybe we shouldn’t have expected anything other than a pasting at Notts County. They’re a very good team, I’m told. Top of the league. Maybe we shouldn’t expect to compete with the likes of them and Wrexham.

Or maybe it’s not unreasonable, given the size of our squad and the investment in the team, to expect a performance that isn’t “a great advert for walking football”. Maybe we should expect something better than being ‘the worst team that have played at Meadow Lane all season’, which was the verdict of many Notts County fans. It’d be nice to not have to decide whether we’ve just witnessed the worst Latics performance ever after every game.

In fairness, David Unsworth apologised to fans for the performance at Notts County in an interview in the Oldham Times yesterday marking 100 days as manager. He assured fans that they’re working to improve and asked for their support, saying “This is a total rebuild, and without the fans we can’t rebuild it…..We desperately need them.” He once again asked for patience and stressed that improving the team and the club is a long term project: “We’re 100 days into potentially a two/three/four year plan.”

I get that. Everyone knows what a mess the club is in after years of neglect and that it’s going to take time to sort it out, but relegation to the sixth tier and having to go part-time can’t be part of the long-term plan, and my confidence in us staying up is starting to falter. I didn’t think we’d be challenging at the top of the league after 100 days, but I didn’t think we’d be floundering at the bottom of it either. Most fans have been patient, and results and performances have got worse and worse.

It’s all the more frustrating because we seem to be doing all the right things off the pitch. It’s not unreasonable to expect better performances than we’re seeing with the players we’ve brought in. Reid and Nuttall are proven goalscorers. Maynard and Hogan have a good record at this level. We know Peter Clarke is a better player than the one we saw at Notts County. So why are we playing so poorly?

I want Unsworth to turn things around, I really do, but I’m not seeing a lot to reassure me that he will, to be honest. It’s been three months and, despite signing several players that he wanted to bring in, things have gone from bad to worse. It’s hard to keep faith with a two, three, four year project when it’s looking increasingly likely that we’ll be playing in a regional league next year. Chopping and changing managers constantly doesn’t work, but I’m starting to wonder how much patience we can show. And I’m sick to death of us being in a relegation battle every single year. I’m not demanding overnight success; I’m pleading for the luxury of midtable mediocrity.

Here’s hoping that 2023 brings us a change in fortune, with or without Unsworth. Maybe we’ll see it in with a shock win. You never know. I don’t think I’ll be having a bet on it though. Have a great new year, and hopefully we’ll have better memories to look back on this time next year. All the best. KTMFF.


Written by Arlene Finnigan. Image © Eddie Garvey.

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