David Wheater responds as Oldham issue update on his status

By Adam Lord

Regional Sports Editor

David Wheater responds as Oldham issue update on his status

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Oldham Athletic have issued an update on the status of David Wheater – insisting only a back injury caused by lifting his dog is keeping him out of the first-team picture.

Latics and the experienced defender have been at odds over proposed pay cuts in the summer brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

It led to the club saying in September that Wheater and Gary Woods – who has since been loaned to Aberdeen - would not be part of the first-team squad going forwards.

Now however, a lengthy statement points to a fitness issue as the only reason for his absence with “all legal matters associated with those players in dispute at Oldham Athletic resolved, including with David Wheater.”

The statement comes after fans’ group Push The Boundary launched a campaign to ‘Free Wheatz’ and get him back in first-team action as Latics struggle at the bottom of League Two.

The club’s response points to “misinformation and conjecture on all social media platforms” and is critical of Wheater not speaking up about his situation online and his decision to move from Bolton back to his native Teesside.

He responded swiftly on Twitter saying: “Sounds like I’m free to play then cos I’ll be fit in a few days.”

Latics’ statement in full read: “In the interests of keeping fans up to date and maintaining communications, Oldham Athletic would like to clarify the situation with regards to one of its contracted players, David Wheater.

“Whilst normally we would like to keep all non-playing matters with players private it has become necessary due to the amount of misinformation and conjecture on all social media platforms that we clarify why David is not currently part of the first team squad.

“Everyone associated with our club will be aware that all of the 72 teams affiliated to the EFL have dealt with their players in various ways due to the Covid-19 virus and we are pleased to state that all legal matters associated with those players in dispute at Oldham Athletic have been resolved, including with David Wheater.

“The club is aware that the player has publicly announced that he wishes to play for Oldham Athletic and in that respect the club needs to make it known the reasons why this has not been possible.

“It is disappointing that David has not provided the information below as he is very active normally on social media and a simple message from him about his situation may have avoided the necessity for the club to act in this way.

“It must also be stated that at no stage has the club advised the player that he will not be required to play football.

  1. David was unable to train due to testing positive with Covid-19 in early September prior to the EFL season commencing and was therefore in isolation for a period of 10 days.
  2. On returning after the illness, he was selected to play in a game during which he came into collision with a team-mate and sustained a concussive head injury requiring him to rest from training or playing for a minimum of two weeks followed by a graded return to training.
  3. After the initial period of recovery the player reported a back injury which he stated he had sustained when ‘lifting his dog’. He is still currently under treatment by the medical team for this injury.
     

“Finally, David recently moved to a new house, this was firstly a concern to the club due to Whereabouts and Anti-Doping regulations and equally importantly involves a potential round trip of over 200 miles which is not considered suitable by the club for a full-time professional in training especially one who is currently having medical treatment, certainly if his intention is to reside permanently at this property.

“The club is fully committed to supporting all of its players both on and off the pitch and will therefore continue with the medical treatment required to get David back to full fitness.”

When asked about Wheater’s availability last month, Oldham head coach Harry Kewell initially pointed to the defender’s injuries before, when pressed, admitting that he was not available to him.

“He’s a fantastic pro, he’s had a fantastic career and the club has never closed the door,” he said.

“There are issues that have to be sorted out first and foremost and once they are sorted out I think it’s only fair to anyone that they can (return).

“I have a team to manage and this is something that was here before me and they have to deal with it.

“He’s been away for a long time so it’s very hard.

“As a manager you try and speak to a lot of people and I get on well with David, you can ask him, but I have to concentrate on my squad.”

When Latics announced Wheater and Woods would not be part of the first-team squad in September, the players’ representatives accused the Oldham hierarchy of putting undue pressure on the players to break their contracts, which run until the summer of 2021.

Push The Boundary’s campaign has gained plenty of momentum on social media with a statement from the group reading: “David has expressed a desire to be involved and while we respect the club can take these decisions regarding employees, we believe now is the time to put such issues to one side for the good of the club’s Football League status.

“What we ask is simple, allow our most experienced defender back in the first team.

“The starting XI against Port Vale and Southend had played under 400 league games in the top four divisions in England while David Wheater has played in excess of this on his own.

“Our former captain has played over 100 games in the Premier League and this experience cannot ignored at such a crucial time in our history.

“For whatever lies ahead this season, this experience would be invaluable for a young squad. There is obviously no guarantee this would change our fortunes on the pitch, but we firmly believe this is the right course of action, especially given the transfer window is now shut.”