DAN Gardner has finalised his return to Oldham Athletic, becoming the first signing of the Rothwell era and 10th of pre-season.

Less than 24 hours after local businessman Frank Rothwell was unveiled as the club’s new chairman, following his family’s takeover, Gardner penned a two-year deal.

The timing is no coincidence, as The Oldham Times understands former sporting director Mo Lemsagam was against the transfer, and so the 32-year-old remained as a trialist.

Now with the deal complete, manager John Sheridan has backed the midfielder to play a major part as Latics bid for an immediate return to the Football League.

“Everyone at the club is aware of Dan’s quality as a player and he will play a major part in what we are looking to achieve this season,” said Sheridan, who worked with Gardner during the midfield man’s last two-year spell at Boundary Park, from 2017, in which he made 72 appearances.

“The fact that he has played the last two seasons in League One says everything about the type of player we have signed and I’m sure the fans will love seeing him back in an Oldham shirt again.”

Manchester-born Gardner came through the youth system at Celtic before continuing his development with Crewe.

He then had three seasons at Chesterfield scoring 10 goals, going on to make his first move to Boundary Park, where his progress was hindered by a serious injury.

In 2020 Gardner joined Wigan, where he made 40 appearances, before spending the last season with Doncaster.

He has played in three of five pre-season games as a trialist, and even captained the side against Mansfield.

Latics complete their pre-season schedule at AFC Fylde tomorrow (kick-off 3pm).