Oldham’s favourite Aussie praying Kewell can turn tide

Les Pogliacomi in action with Oldham Athletic during a cup match in 2007 Source: Getty Images

Oldham Athletic’s favourite Aussie Les Pogliacomi has pinpointed the immensity of the challenge compatriot Harry Kewell faces in reviving the downtrodden Lancashire club.

The goalkeeper, who made over 200 appearances for the Latics across two spells, doesn’t envy the “tough environment” Kewell has stepped into, with the club five places off the bottom of League Two and facing a long and bitter English winter.

The “volatile” presence of unpredictable owner Abdallah Lemsagam, and rampant fan unrest, has added fuel to already combustible mix.

Speaking ahead of Monday morning’s (AEDT) FA Cup first-round tie against non-league Hampton & Richmond, Pogliacomi, 44, told The World Game: “It’s a tough predicament and environment for Harry and the club right now.

“With the way things are with COVID, and no crowds and very little money, it’s difficult.

“You also have a volatile owner which makes it even more challenging.

“People have often said to me ‘why didn’t you stay in the game and be a head coach’ but the problem is unless you’re in that top tier it’s just so volatile.

“It’s a real rollercoaster - but I dearly hope Harry can turn things around and get them climbing up the table.

“He needs to get on a run - it’s all about results and if he gets a few he’ll keep people happy.

“As is always the way the buck stops with the manager.”

Pogliacomi was involved in two promotion playoffs from League One and a couple of relegation battles at a club where he still holds the joint clean sheets record of 18 in 37 games set 17 years ago.

Now goalkeeper coach at South Australian NPL club Campbelltown City, Pogliacomi played his last game for the Latics in 2008 but remains beloved by fans.

He would like to see Kewell ultimately enjoy similar stature.

“He’s a legend of our game and he’s experienced pressure before as a player and coach (at Crawley Town and Notts County) and he knows what it’s all about.

“He doesn’t have a lot of funds to bring people in and has to work with what he’s got (which includes former Adelaide United attacker George Blackwood).”

Blackwood scored the opener in the vital 2-1 midweek win over Cheltenham to lift the Latics to 11 points from 11 games, including six defeats.

“It’s a club with a big history. They were part of the Premier League (dropping out in 1992) and the fans have been through good and plenty of tough times,” added Pogliacomi.

“They need a manager who is given time to build something long term.

“The problem has been a short term mentality - but that doesn’t work at the smaller clubs.

“When you look at teams that have risen from the lower leagues they’ve usually had managers there who have been at the club quite some time, and have built something long term.”

Kewell is the eighth coach of Lemsagam’s 34-month reign, and can’t expect to be afforded an abundance of patience.

“These are the cards he’s been dealt and they’re the ones he has to play,” added Pogliacomi.

“Their fans are frustrated ... these clubs rely on owners willing to pump in big money and it’s difficult to see them turning the corner unless somebody comes in who’s willing to do that.”

The Latics’ list of former Aussies also includes Doug Hodgson, James Wesolowski and another gloveman, Dean Bouzanis.