JOHN Sheridan has assured OLDHAM ATHLETIC supporters that he cares about the club and is determined to keep them in League One after returning for a third spell as manager.
The former Latics midfielder angered some fans last summer when, after steering the team to survival, he left to take charge of League Two Notts County.
That move didn’t work out for Sheridan. He was sacked last week with the Magpies third-bottom. But he came back to Oldham yesterday (Thursday) to replace the man who replaced him last summer – Stephen Robinson.
Latics won just 3 of their 24 league games under Robinson, so Sheridan has been tasked with pulling off another Great Escape as the side is rock-bottom of the table, 3 points adrift of safety.
“One or two fans were disappointed when I left,” he accepts. “They got right behind me last season. The support was a massive reason in why we stayed up. They know me, they know what I’m about, and if one or two of them feel I let them down by leaving, I do understand that in a way.
“But there were reasons why I left and, when the time comes, I’ll explain them as best I can. But no-one can ever say I don’t have a fondness for the club. I’ve been here a long time as a player and a manager so I know what the club’s about.
“Even when I was managing other clubs, it was a club I always looked at and wanted to do well. And when they’re not doing well I’m worried about them going out of this division because I’ve got really fond memories and a lot of time for the club.
“No-one can take that away from me and if they don’t believe me, then tough. But believe me, it’s true, and people who know me will tell you that.”
Sheridan finished his playing career at Boundary Park, making 164 appearances for Latics between 1998 and 2004. His first spell as permanent boss was between June 2006 and March 2009, during which he led Oldham to their best two league finishes in the last 13 years.
The 52-year-old Mancunian returned a year ago today (Friday) with Latics third-bottom in League One and 5 points adrift of safety, but they won 9 of their last 22 games to finish 17th, 8 points clear of the drop zone. Again Sheridan has 22 games left to save their skin and he’s set his sights on masterminding another rescue act.
“We’re in a difficult position and we need to make sure we stay in the division,” he said. “My focus is keeping us in the league. But I’m really pleased to be back. It’s similar circumstances to last season. The team are struggling at the moment and I’ve been brought here for a reason.
“I don’t like any manager losing his job. It happened to me not so long ago. It’s a change of management and I’m just hoping to repeat what I did last season, when I came in and we hit the ground running.
“We needed results quickly and that’s the way I’m looking at things. It’s different players now but I’ll go out with the same mindset of trying to win enough games as quickly as we can.”
Robinson’s assistant manager Ian Baraclough will remain in place, along with the rest of the backroom staff, and they’re helping Sheridan prepare for Saturday’s home game against fellow strugglers Gillingham, who sacked Justin Edinburgh the same day that Notts County sacked Sheridan.
The returning Oldham boss admits it is a difficult situation for the staff that Robinson brought in but hopes they can unite to steer Latics to safety.
“I’ve had a chat with them,” said Sheridan. “They were here under Robbo and it’s unfortunate that they’ve seen a friend and a manager leave that brought them in.
“I’m a different person, we’re all different. I just hope we all get on with each other and whatever we bring to the party will be good enough to keep us in the league.
“It’s early days, everything’s happened really quickly,” he added. “I’ll listen to Ian and get some feedback regarding the team for tomorrow, but I want to start off with a win. Gillingham will be a tough game. They’re not on a great run of form but they’re a good team with good players.
“Then next week, once I get settled in, I can have a sit-down and a good look at the players, and hopefully I’ll do that with three points in the bag.”
However, two players have already left the club since Sheridan’s return. Marc Klok’s short-term contract was not renewed while fellow midfielder Carl Winchester, who was Oldham’s longest-serving player, has left for Cheltenham, signing an 18-month deal with the League Two strugglers. The 23-year-old came through the club’s youth ranks before scoring 8 goals in 140 appearances for Latics, but he was out of contract in the summer.
Meanwhile, Sheridan has been assured by chairman Simon Corney that the club’s transfer embargo is about to be lifted.