Mike Keegan puts his two-pennorth in

Last updated : 10 January 2020 By The Chairman

Mike Keegan has placed an article in the Daily Mail as follows:

"When Rochdale's Joe Thompson capped his second recovery from cancer by scoring the goal which kept his side in League One it completed a fitting end to an emotional story. It also meant that neighbours Oldham Athletic, founder members of the Premier League, completed their 24-year slide from top division to bottom.

What follows is a staggering tale of wasted investment and belief-defying decision-making that has resulted in serious concerns that the Lancashire club may become football's next Leyton Orient. In late-January, Oldham announced that they had been taken over by Dubai-based Moroccan Abdallah Lemsagam, a former agent. The reality was that Lemsagam had actually been providing the funds to keep the club operating since the start of their 21st consecutive season in League One. His arrival coincided with an influx of foreign players, predominantly French-speaking, at his recommendation.

Many were signed on wages previously well outside Oldham's budget. Midfielder Mohamed Maouche was given £4,000-a-week. He subsequently played 10 minutes of League One football (and remains on the payroll). The biggest name, however, was a Dutch Under 21 winger Queensy Menig, who joined on loan from French club Nantes. It can be disclosed that Menig was paid a mind-boggling sum of around £11,650-a-week, plus accommodation at Manchester's swanky Malmaison hotel. 'I wanted to give the fans a present, to make them dream,' Lemsagam told Sportsmail. Whilst the intention would appear to be admirable, the reality was that Menig caused more problems than he solved and departed following four starts and one goal.

Insiders say the experiment in total cost around £500,000. The wastage continued. Deals for three key loan players had to be renegotiated in January. The weekly bill for the three, one of whom signed permanently, went from £3,750 to around £16,000. As a result of actions like the above, Oldham's wage budget abruptly spiralled from around £1.4m to a frightening figure approaching £2.4m.

The scattergun recruitment did not have the desired effect on the pitch and tempers frayed. In mid-April, Oldham were leading Gillingham 1-0 and looked like picking up an incredibly important three points. They did not know it at the time, but victory would have kept them up. In injury-time Wilfried Moimbe, another new arrival from France, reacted to a foul in the area by throwing a punch. He was sent off, the visitors scored the resulting penalty and three points became one.

At half-time during a vital home match with Southend United, and with Oldham losing 1-0, Lemsagam entered the dressing room. He says it was to support his players. Others say he left after looking around the room without saying a word. Regardless, one senior player visited the owner to plead with him not to do it again. Oldham lost 3-0.

At a training session at Brentford, before another key away match at Wimbledon, one player reacted with audible dismay when informed that he would not be starting. Later, he was told to come to the front of the room at the hotel in which the team were staying, and apologise to his team mates. 'It was disastrous for morale,' said one onlooker.

On another occasion, a striker denied a lucrative January move to a club closer to his home, almost came to blows with the new owner. His form subsequently dipped dramatically and Oldham are now keen to sell him.

And then there is the case of Ousmane Fane. Fane, an energetic midfielder signed from Kidderminster in 2016, was called to see the chairman following 'disciplinary issues' and told to stay away from the club with two games left to save the season. Lemsagam claims this move was made with the backing of manager Richie Wellens, who told him that he did not need the player.

Fane had previously played in 46 games. Without him, Oldham could only muster two draws and their departure from a division they had occupied since 1997 was confirmed with Thompson's goal.

Amid this backdrop comes more serious issues. Wages have not been paid on time for the last six months. On one occasion, a player claimed he could not turn up for training because he had no money to put petrol in his car. A member of office staff is understood to have taken out a credit card before Christmas to enable them to buy presents. Some members of staff have still not picked up their salaries from April. On Thursday, the latest payday, a handful of office staff and no players or playing staff received their wages. On Monday that remained the case. A number of agents have told Sportsmail they will no longer allow their players to sign for Oldham because there is no confidence that they will be paid.

Three members of staff have departed and are considering taking the club to an employment tribunal. And the bills pile up. A fortnight ago club members of staff spent around a week unable to use their mobile phones because O2's account had not been settled. A dispute with a company brought in to look after the pitch is heading for court.

Payments for tickets sold for away matches last season have not been paid to a number of clubs including local rivals Bury and Rochdale. Contributors to the programme have not received their relatively-tiny amounts since December. And then there is the big one. A bill of around £130,000 to HMRC has gone unpaid.

There are fears winding-up proceedings may not be far away and insiders have genuine concerns that the end could well be nigh for the 123-year-old club. Lemsagam, externally at least, remains calm. He says that he is 'cleaning up' a vast array of issues inherited from the previous regime led by former owner Simon Corney, who declined to comment for this piece. He may well have a point and there has to be some sympathy, but increasing the wage bill by £1m on players who could not prevent relegation was a disastrous move.

Lemsagam adds that he has struggled to transfer money because the club's presumably fed-up bank do not want their business any more as a result of longstanding issues triggered before he took over. He promises that more funds will arrive in the next few days. There is a realisation that mistakes regarding recruitment have been made and that a more realistic budget is needed for the club's first campaign in League Two. Oldham have since agreed terms with former player Jose Baxter to much accolade from fans. However, whether they can pay the ex-Everton playmaker remains to be seen.

Lemsagam, who says he took over the club, surrounded by Manchester giants United and City, because he identified its 'potential', does not want to make predictions but believes he can lead the club to profit this year. It would be some achievement.

The Professional Footballers Association and the EFL, whose ownership test Lemsagam passed, are monitoring what appears to be a desperate situation. “I honestly fear for the future of the club,” one former player told Sportsmail. In the meantime, the phone keeps ringing."