Paul Scholes: Is Man Utd legend making an early impact at Oldham?

Paul Scholes on the touchline at Oldham
Paul Scholes played more than 700 times for Manchester United

For a man regarded as one of the greats of his generation as a player, watching from the sidelines as your team concede a 93rd-minute equaliser to Crewe in League Two could feel like a bit of a comedown.

But Oldham's new boss Paul Scholes - experiencing the first frustrating setback of his managerial career during his second game in charge - answered with a smile when asked if, at any point, he had wondered what on earth he was doing at a nippy Boundary Park, suffering the rollercoaster of emotions that come with being in charge of a lower-league club.

"Yep," he said. "All week."

George Ray's injury-time strike denied Scholes a perfect end to his first week in charge. Having been appointed on Monday, he was hoping for a second consecutive win to follow the 4-1 thrashing of Yeovil on Tuesday. Instead, he had to settle for a 1-1 draw.

Scholes reacted to the setback, which leaves Oldham 10th and six points off the play-offs, the same way he did to most events throughout Saturday's game, with his arms folded and his back arched. He did glance across at the Crewe bench as they hugged each other in celebration.

"I am not sure enjoying it is the right word," said Scholes. "It is stressful most of the time. I am under no illusions. I knew it was going to be hard."

Is Scholes making an impact?

Scholes' presence at Oldham is already being felt on the training ground, where he plays an active part in sessions.

"It's only been a couple of days but if he really wanted to, he could probably still get a game," said one first-team regular earlier this week of the former England and Manchester United midfielder.

And watching Scholes on Saturday, it still felt as though he would prefer to be playing.

Even as he watched the warm-up and spoke to the physios, the 44-year-old couldn't help rolling one of the numerous yellow balls scattered around under his right foot, which for the best part of two decades wrecked such devastation on defences at home and abroad.

In truth, though, Scholes' pre-match involvement was low key. Completely at home in surroundings he knows so well, the man Oldham's matchday programme referred to as 'The Gaffer' had a long chat with injured defender Dan Gardner and happily posed for pictures in the executive bar area under the main stand.

Those who had arrived early at the ground hoping for such a moment with Scholes had been disappointed.

A handful of fans got to Boundary Park at 11.30am, but the new manager had beaten them to it. It wasn't an exact science but as far as they could recall, it was the earliest an Oldham manager had arrived at the stadium for a Saturday game.

Once the game was under way, Scholes was a visible presence on the sidelines. One of his former team-mates, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, has limited his appearance in the technical area at Old Trafford since becoming Manchester United's interim manager, but Scholes stood throughout. It felt somehow symbolic.

He didn't rant at anyone. He did chunter at the fourth official on occasion but even that was limited, as were the hand movements that ushered his players into the areas where he believed they should be.

It was all very understated, as is the Scholes way, although the word from the dressing room is that messages are delivered with clarity.

"He is quite a calm guy," said Oldham skipper Peter Clarke. "He doesn't rant and rave but the players have been left in no doubt what he wants.

"He has told us how he wants us to play, the way he wants us to behave and the standards he sets."

Forty-eight hours after the announcement that Scholes' mentor Eric Harrison had died, Clarke revealed part of the new manager's opening address had nothing to do with what happens on the pitch.

Instead, these were words Harrison, or Ferguson, would instantly identify with, about being a good human being.

"He told us that we have to treat everyone the same, from the cleaning staff to the chief executive and the owner," said Clarke.

"There are plenty of people at the football club who quietly go about their business but he said everyone is working for the common theme."

'Scholes' appointment a very positive move'

Scholes' appointment has gone down well with the fans, who already sing his name and know, at the very least, his intentions for Oldham are wholly positive.

If his down-to-earth demeanour felt somehow at odds with the electric blue suit owner Abdallah Lemsagam was wearing on Saturday, it is more in tune with the folk who turn up loyally to every game when there are two of the biggest clubs in the world less than 10 miles away.

Oldham, of course, have had famous managers before. There are numerous pictures in the press room and, strikingly, the stand facing the Boundary Park dugouts bears the name of Joe Royle, who was a managerial novice when he was appointed boss in 1982 and masterminded the club's rise to the old First Division in 1991, which turned them into founder members of the Premier League.

"When Joe was appointed manager here, he was totally untested," said Alan Duffy, a fan of 55 years' standing.

"Paul is a supporter and has been linked with the job before, so why not give him a chance?

"As with everyone, results will determine whether he is a success or not but in his first week he has generated more media interest in Oldham than we have probably had for two years. Commercially that has got to help. Overall, it is a very positive move."

Next up for Scholes and his new charges, it's Morecambe at home on Tuesday.

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