“THERE’S just been a lack of love,” is how David Unsworth summed up the environment he entered at Boundary Park.

There have been problems for a while but the downward spiral gathered speed with two relegations in four years under the Lemsagam regime, stadium and squad neglect, a revolving door of managers and a fractured relationship with fans.

But with new ownership, thanks to the Rothwell family, and a new manager comes a cleaner slate and an opportunity to rebuild.

Unsworth does not baulk at the challenge of repairing years of damage. He welcomes it with open arms, in fact.

“I’ve fallen in love with this club and this town and my job here,” he said.

“I didn’t think I would as quickly as I have, and I think that’s because of the people that were already here who went through those horrible years and times and the way the owner is obsessed and Darren Royle is obsessed and the owner’s family are so dedicated to turning it around and it’s hooked me in.

“Every department we’ve looked at and tried to improve. There’s been a lack of drive and love about the place.

“You just cannot run a football club like what’s happened over the years.

“What the owner’s done is save the club from oblivion. I believe that. Him and his family have. There should be a statue of them all because they have literally saved this town’s football club.

“I’m dealing with what I’ve inherited and what I’m finding is there’s just been a lack of love.”

There have been other, more recent, problems too that have contributed to a challenging introduction to the National League.

“You cannot lose the likes of Hogan and McGahey and Hallam Hope and Porter and Gardner at this level - five experienced, quality players and young James (Carragher) as well who did great when he came in. Six players we’ve not had the luxury of playing with or working with up until this week with Hallam and Dan sporadically, out of your team,” Unsworth continued.

“It’s 60 per cent of your team. It’s right down your spine. It’s your senior players, it’s your characters, your grit, your drive, your engine room, it’s everything. That’s the foundations of your team and we’re plastering over, we’re fingers in the dam, and that’s not right. That’s not how you get any level of success or stability and I think the fans understand that. I think our fans see that, the fans that I’ve spoken to get it.

“There’s brilliant people at this football club and I’m very proud to be the manager, as are the fans proud to be fans of this club, and we’ll get it right. But at the moment it’s one step forward and two back sometimes, and that’s okay if you’ve got a plan and we’ve got a plan.

“We want to be winning, I get that, but January window opening, summer’s recruitment drive, getting the training ground better. We’ve just inherited the gym at the ground, which is great for the players because they now all go in together, which wasn’t the case, they were paying for somewhere else to go and going in dribs and drabs. Just little things that the fans don’t see that make a difference. We’ve even changed the changing rooms. We had the smallest changing rooms when I came and I couldn’t understand why.

“Even getting the benches sorting out and not shouting a player past some fans. Just little things. Where we come together in the morning, where do we do our analysis time with the players. There was nothing set up.

“When I came in I wouldn’t know where the Academy was let alone speaking to young players coming through.

“It’s all important.

“Football’s hard enough when everybody is pulling in the right direction and you’ve got a plan, it’s a really difficult thing to do, but when you inherit what we’ve inherited, we need to love it again and it takes time and trust and love to turn it around.”

But Unsworth is nothing if not optimistic, and full of belief in the backroom team he is assembling, with Oldham-born Steve Thompson the latest addition as head of recruitment.

“This can easily be turned because of the drive of the board and the staff that we’ve now got, and the people that are still here,” he said.

“This can be turned, and it can be easily done over a period of time.

“We must put a line in the sand so this club stops losing and going out of control down that slippery slope. We want to start building and start winning. But you don’t turn into a winning team overnight after what’s happened at this club.

“The hardest thing to do in football is to get yourself that time with the board, but we’ve got that. It’s just that we’ve got to have the supporters stay with us. That’s really important because short-term our players need the supporters.

“I’m more than happy to meet any single Oldham fan, thousands of them, hundreds or even one of them, any time anywhere. I will tell them what my plan is, tell them what I’ve inherited and tell them what’s required and what we need to do and how we’re going about doing it.

“There are no secrets, it’s all above board, everything is going to take time and every department will be loved and ran and set up right.

“And once we get it, I can sit back and it will be the easiest job I’ll have ever had because the work that we’re doing now, the planning we’re doing and strategies we’re setting up, the players that we’re trying to get in for the long term - some obviously short-term fixes as well, I get that - but no football club that has dropped to the level that we’ve dropped from where they’ve been has ever been turned round overnight. It takes a long-term plan and because of the demands of our supporters, and by the way that’s brilliant, I love that, but because of the demands of our supporters they play and absolute vital role in the resurrection of the club as well because they need to stick with the players. I know they’re frustrated, I’m frustrated, and they need to vent it, but if I can ask them to vent it on their way home... but when we get it right we’ll go on a journey together, and it will be brilliant.”