OLDHAM ATHLETIC are looking to climb the League One table after confirming Richie Wellens as their new manager.
Wellens had been caretaker boss since John Sheridan was sacked last month and was handed the job permanently this week after winning 4 of his first 5 games in charge – and drawing the other. The former Latics midfielder saw off some stiff competition too. Dutch great Clarence Seedorf was linked with the role before Paul Scholes was interviewed.
Last week it was reported that Oldham had narrowed it down to Wellens and Scholes, and that a decision would not be made for another week. That meant Wellens had 2 more games to clinch the position – against Blackburn last Saturday and at Bradford on Tuesday night. And a last-gasp goal by Dutch loanee Queensy Menig gave Latics a 1-0 win over Blackburn before Eoin Doyle’s 7th goal of the season was enough for a 1-1 draw at Bradford.
Wellens was then handed the job on a 2-year deal, with chairman Simon Corney saying: “What started out to be a very hard decision ended up being an easy one. Richie has shown great character and performed way beyond our expectations, bringing an upturn in fortune and results for the club.”
Wellens, 37, added: “I’m very proud. I’ve got to pay tribute to John (Sheridan) because he was the one who said ‘stay here, fight, and try to get the job permanently’. I spoke to Simon Corney and he said ‘at the minute you’re an outsider but go and prove yourself’. I made up my mind at that point that I wanted it and I’ve worked tirelessley to do everything I could.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t win at Bradford to make it 5 but we’re in a good moment and we’re progressing well. I hope to take the club forward now.”
Scholes has been repeatedly linked with his boyhood club when there’s been a managerial vacancy before. And although there’s a question mark over whether Seedorf was genuinely interested, Scholes admitted today that he wanted the job and still hopes to become Oldham manager in the future. However, Corney revealed that the Manchester United legend did play a hand in Wellens being appointed.
“Perhaps most telling was my conversation with Paul Scholes a few weeks ago who told me that to look any further than Richie would be crazy,” Corney said. “Paul is someone that I often turn to for advice regarding Oldham Athletic matters and he was unequivocal in his praise for Richie adding that he, as he always is, would be willing to offer him any help or advice if asked.
“Richie has already demonstrated great tactical awareness during games and I think I speak for all the fans when I say not only have the results been impressive but also the manner in which he has achieved them. Personally, I have not witnessed football as exciting as this for a long time at SportsDirect.com Park.”
Asked how he’s managed to turn things around for Latics, Wellens said: “Some things tactically but mainly I’ve given them belief. I’ve tried to make them happy, to enjoy their football. I always try to put myself in their position and see what they’re thinking.
“And they’ve got good ability. They’re good players who were in a bad moment and not winning games so their confidence was lacking. Once we got that result against Peterborough, confidence has come flooding back and the intensity in their play has been really good to watch. I can’t thank the players enough for the situation they’ve got me in. Now it’s time for all of us to move on together.”
After losing their first 5 games of the season, Oldham climbed out of League One’s bottom 4. But Tuesday’s result actually saw them drop back to 19th, immediately above Rochdale and 4th-bottom Bury. Latics have a derby at home to Bury next Tuesday too, after visiting MK Dons this Saturday.
“I’m not looking as far as the end of the season,” Wellens explained. “I’m looking for, over the next 4 or 5 game block, can we move 3 or 4 places up the league? Each block, can we move up 3 or 4 places, and in 15 games’ time we’ll see where we are.
“The start we had has put us on the back foot and we went down 2 places on Tuesday night, so you’re always looking over your shoulder. Let’s move away from where we are and in 15 games’ time, see where we can go from there.”