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League One

Andy Ritchie's Blog 20

3 January 2013

It's been a strange few days at my old club Oldham Athletic with the news that three members of Paul Dickov's coaching staff have been placed on gardening leave because, according to the club, the chemistry of the backroom staff wasn't right.

You don't need a degree to know that gardening leave means sacked but I'm still scratching my head to understand what exactly has gone on at Boundary Park.

The oddest thing is the fact that it all feels the wrong way around. In these situations, it's usually the manager who bites the bullet when the chairman isn't happy but Oldham have decided to get rid of assistant manager Gerry Taggart, fitness coach Paul Butler and reserve team coach Lee Duxbury rather than the top man.

In some ways, it looks like a vote of confidence in Paul because he has kept his job but things are obviously not right behind the scenes and for the chairman to dispense with people Paul himself brought in could be seen as undermining the manager.

As I said, it's all very strange.

I wouldn't be surprised if a few more details about what led to the sackings emerge over the new few weeks but what is certain is Paul needs to find a few results for his and the club's sake. They made a decent start to the campaign but they haven't won since early December after the 2-2 draw at Scunthorpe United on New Year's Day and the alarm bells are ringing loudly.

I wish Paul all the best. He's a great lad and he's effectively been handed a second chance by the chairman. I hope he can seize it with both hands and get Oldham out of trouble.

The award for the individual performance of the week has to go to Swindon Town's James Collins, who scored four times for the Robins in their 5-0 demolition of Portsmouth at the County Ground on Tuesday. To score four is a great personal achievement but to do it after only coming on as 60th-minute substitute is simply sensational.

I've been wracking my brains to think of a better impact from the bench and failed.

Collins was modesty personified after the game, saying all the credit should go to his team-mates for wearing Pompey down but he deserves a hell of a lot of credit because it's not easy coming on as a substitute and making an impression. It's difficult to adjust to the pace of a game from the bench and a lot of times, the match can quickly pass you by. Collins scored after being on the pitch for just a minute and I bet he won't be on the bench on Saturday for the Carlisle United game.

There hasn't yet been much business done in npower League 1 in the January transfer window but Sheffield United have already made a move with the signing of Danny Higginbotham from Stoke City.

I think it's an astute deal for both parties. Higginbotham may be 34 but he's got years of top-flight experience and in handing him a six-month initial deal, the Blades have ensured they'll get a quality player with something to prove.

It's also a good move for the player. He'd become a fringe player at the Britannia but he'll play more regularly at Bramall Lane and he's got a great opportunity to extend his career. If he has a good six months with United, he could also earn himself a summer move to an npower Championship club or even back into the Premier League.

Personally I'm not a great fan of the January window. For me, it's a chance for the bigger and richer sides to widen the gap between themselves and the clubs without the financial clout. It's a get-out-of-jail card for the big boys while the struggling clubs are forced to scratch around for loan signings.

In my opinion the window also encourages clubs to be reckless and make panic buys. Obviously any decent manager is always looking to improve his squad but good sense can often fly out of the window in January as deadline day looms. Let's face it, there have been more flops than successes signed in January, haven't there?

As a manager, the window wasn't a problem for me because I never had any money to spend anyway. I could make loan signings over the course of the season and I knew there was nothing in the kitty in the New Year, so it was business, or lack of it, as usual in January for me.

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