Kewell’s fighting to survive in ‘a burning house’, says Oldham fans group

The magnitude of the task facing Harry Kewell at League Two stragglers Oldham Athletic has been likened by a prominent Latics supporters group to dousing the flames of a “burning house”.

The eighth coach of Moroccan owner Abdallah Lemsagam’s tumultuous 33-month reign, Socceroos legend Kewell has picked up just a single point in his four games in charge of the League Two club heading into Sunday’s (AEDT) visit of Morecambe to Boundary Park.

Were Oldham to be relegated they’d become the first team in history to have fallen from the Premier League to non-league, having dropped out of the top tier back in 1994.

Of more short-term concern to Kewell, claims the Push The Boundary fan group, is whether he’ll still be in charge at Christmas.

“Harry’s up against it ... he’s got a fan base that’s baying for blood, and are far from happy,” said PTB spokesman Steve Shipman.

“People are walking away from the club. Last season we were on average 800 fans down at home games, which is about 25 per cent of the overall attendance.

“Last season we sold about 2,800 season tickets, this season it’s just over 1,400.

“In effect, Harry Kewell has walked into a burning house. It’s an incredibly difficult situation.

“Of course we want to see him succeed but has a massive job to get things working on the pitch, appease the owner, the sporting director and appease the fans.

“The environment is so toxic among fans It’s almost an unmanageable situation.”

Shipman said fans were keen to give Kewell the benefit of the doubt, given his abbreviated stint at Notts County and past gig with Crawley Town, neither of which proved anything conclusive over his future trajectory.

“Previous managers have faced interference with picking the team and signing players and unfortunately for Harry, there’s a perception he might be a bit of a puppet taking into his past relationship with the chairman (who took him to the Middle East in his former life as a player agent).”

Kewell has also run foul of fans for not appearing to support the recall of last season’s popular skipper David Wheater, who’s been frozen out by the club for refusing to take a pay cut during the coronavirus pandemic.

On the plus side, EFL Trophy victories over Wolves U-21 and Doncaster have provided a chink of sunlight.

Off the pitch, an ongoing legal dispute between the previous owner and Lemsagam over stadium ownership rights and rental continues to simmer, along with concerns that unless something changes the club fall into administration or even liquidation along with likes of Bury and Macclesfield Town.

“This dispute will reach a head at some point,” added Shipman. “The overall picture, in my view, is we’re going down a dangerous path in terms of the club’s solvency.

“The chairman could walk away and stop financing the club.

“Does someone else step on or do we go into administration? Alternatively, the chairman keeps funding the club but we still fall into further debt and go into administration that way.

“Whichever way you look and it kind points one way. It will either be relegation or we go out of business, possibly sooner rather than later.

“We’re aware bids have been made to the club but the owner has turned then down.

“We’re led to believe he wants to make a profit but considering he took over when we were in League One then that doesn’t seem too realistic.”

“Maybe as fans we need to build up a war chest so if worst comes to worst we can keep the club afloat for a while.”

Shipman, whose group numbers in excess of 1000 members, doesn’t lay all the blame at the hands of the current regime, acknowledging the Lancashire club has been “in a slow decline for 20-odd years”.

“The chairman (Lemsagam) inherited a lot of issues and has spent a lot of money,” he conceded.

“The thing is there are a host of new problems which are entirely his.

“He’s got through a lot of managers but it’s his brother as sporting director (Muhammed) who seems to be a bigger issue with fans because the feeling is the recruitment has been pretty poor.

“We’ve never said we want the chairman out but we want to try and help him engage with the club and that’s an aspect that’s improved under the new CEO (Karl Evans).

“But it’s getting to the point that the only way to get fans back onside was if Lemsagam left.”