Blank weekend for Latics
"I don't give a monkeys" statement could come back to haunt the manager The Latics have a blank weekend which will probably be welcomed by manager Dave Penney and his squad. The Manchester Evening News placed a good article in their newspaper as follows: A battle against relegation, a failure to hit the target in nine home league games and a less than affectionate song in his honour – it is fair to say Dave Penney did not anticipate that scenario when agreeing to become Athletic’s new manager 10 months ago. Having seen his appointment endorsed by Joe Royle, Penney was thought to be a breath of fresh air after his success with Doncaster Rovers and play-off near misses at Darlington. However, the man who ‘ticked every box’ according to at least one member of the Latics board has struggled to replicate his previous run of results at Boundary Park. So where did it all go wrong? How has a team with play-off aspirations in the last four seasons found itself scrapping to avoid dropping into the old Fourth Division? It is not a situation where one factor or person can be blamed – even if pockets of the home supporters might think otherwise. Injuries and a loss of form among certain players have definitely not helped. Pawel Abbott, Joe Jacobson, Andy Holdworth, Chris Taylor, Jon Worthngton, Kelvin Lomax, Paul Black, Lewis Alessandra – among others – have all spent time on the Boundary Park treatment table during 2009/10, meaning Penney has been unable to field arguably his strongest XI on a consistent basis. Worthington’s absence meant a change of role for Dean Furman; one which he has had to adapt to as the season has gone on. Originally brought in as the creative fulcrum, Furman found himself having to anchor the midfield four given Worthington’s prolonged absence. With a distinct lack of goals, Abbott’s six-week absence hindered what cutting edge there was, especially with Taylor struggling to repeat the form he had shown in previous seasons. Confidence also seems to be a problem affecting Danny Whitaker as he is a pale imitation of the man who netted on eight occasions from midfield during 2008/09. Injuries and loss of form have been a problem, but also coming into question is Penney’s success – or lack of – in the transfer market. Abbott’s double-figure goals tally means he can be judged as a relative success, as can Jacobson after his injury-affected start. However, some signings have failed to capture the fans’ imagination with Dean Brill’s problems well documented, Keigan Parker told he can find another club and Joe Colbeck trying to win over the Oldham fans. Another element of that is the club’s problems in front of goals with the lack of a regular scorer to take the heat off Abbott. Penney brought in the likes of Parker, Nick Blackman, Jason Price and Paul Heffernan to boost League One’s lowest scorers, but without much success. Then we come to Penney’s PR awareness – or lack of it. The manager may argue he is there to win games of football rather than friends, but building up goodwill does not do any harm while trying to turn around a team at the wrong end of the table. Arguably the nadir came when saying he ‘did not give a monkeys’ about the crowd booing his decision to replace Dean Furman with Danny Whitaker during the win over Walsall last month. Instead of admitting the fans pay their money and have a right to boo, but that he was ultimately the man in charge, Penney made a rod for his own back. With attendances plummeting at Boundary Park and the fans increasingly restless, Penney needs a good end to the season or he might find himself ‘dropped’ come May.
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