Keith Curle the latest victim of Oldham’s unworkable ownership

Reporter: Jack Walton
Date published: 26 November 2021


The doors at Oldham Athletic Football Club have been in a near-permanent state of revolution since Abdallah Lemsagam became owner in 2018, and indeed they’ve spun once more.

The writing had been on the wall for a while for Keith Curle, but the midweek defeat to Northampton was one miserable result too many - with Lemsagam delivering the all-too-familiar bullet on Wednesday.

Having signed a two year contract as recently as the summer, he now becomes ninth managerial departure under Lemsagam’s tenure.

Curle departs with the Latics dangling by a thread above the relegation places in League Two, with the threat of dropping out of the football league a major challenge for his replacement to stave off.

Curle remained adamant he could turn the side’s fortunes around, with an improving defensive record in previous weeks and several key players set to return from injury.

But any flashes of hope or solace under his leadership were marooned amidst acres of dismal form, a lack of energy in their performances and an inability to create chances.

No doubt he faced many challenges whilst in charge, the aforementioned injuries were extensive and stretched to almost every part of the field, and were coupled with the difficulties arising from a Football League-imposed transfer embargo (limiting Curle to free agents and loan signings).

Goalkeeper Danny Rogers is still in recuperation from a shoulder injury suffered months ago whilst Jason Leutwiler missed the start of the season due to what was essentially an administration error.

Having signed a two-year contract it was then made clear to the club that their transfer embargo only allowed one year deals, an embarrassing mistake that seriously hampered the beginning of Oldham’s season.
 
The dual-blow of bad luck and bad planning from his higher-ups was a microcosm of what Curle had to deal with as manager, and that likely won’t be any different for the next man through the door.

What’s more, it is said that Curle only ever met his boss once whilst in charge, with the poor communication between manager and owner making the implementation of change even more difficult than it ought to be.

On the flip side, results were impossible to defend even with all the mitigating circumstances, Oldham are in a worse position now than when Harry Kewell was dismissed eight months ago and chalked up a measly 22.5% win rate in that time.

Youth coach Selim Benachour will have his chance to audition for the role, taking charge on a short term basis whilst a permanent decision is undertaken.

Whilst Benachour is the bookies favourite, ex-Newport manager Michael Flynn is another popular choice, a man with experience of averting crises in this division.

At Newport, Flynn took over in March 2017 with the team 11 points adrift of safety, but inspired an incredible turnaround dubbed ‘the great escape’ as they leapfrogged Hartlepool on the final day.

The club then improved drastically and went close to promotion, losing two play-off finals in three years and producing several shock cup wins, including against Premier League Leicester.

Ex-LMA Manager of the Year winning Paul Tisdale is another possibility, having left Bristol City after a short-lived spell there last year.

Tisdale has over 700 Football League matches under his belt, and led Exeter City from the Conference to League One with back-to-back promotions just over a decade ago.

Problems for the next manager to contend with are a myriad; the limited finances, embargoed transfer situation, lack of goalscorers in the squad and the general flatness hanging over the club.

And of course, it wouldn’t require any depth of insider knowledge to realise that there are issues at Oldham that go way deeper than the surface of the squad and management.

For now, the common denominator through the Latics’ string of failed managerial appointments remains in place; the mastermind of Oldham’s demise, Abdallah Lemsagam himself.

Lemsagam continues to stare down his reputation of disdain with remarkable resolution, like a weathered seafarer refusing to depart a ship that he personally sent full-steam ahead into an iceberg, as the rest of his crew fling themselves into the icy seas.

Closing in one ten managers under his leadership now, it seems no amount of failures, protests, booing or men dressed in clown suits would be enough for him to call it a day.

Whoever takes over from Curle, sowing the seeds of division between the club and an unruly fanbase - many of whom are unwilling to even attend Boundary Park with Lemsagam still in place - is an almighty task.


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