Case Study: Oldham Athletic

Youth Soccer Players Practicing

Recently, EFL League 1 and League 2 recently announced they will be instituting a salary cap. Given Covid has thrown a giant wrench into the things, a salary cap makes total sense to keep costs down.

There are plenty of articles and resources online to understanding the cap, but this article is about what the cap implies: Doing more with the same as everyone else, or finding value.

So, I wanted to show a case study to see a couple of things: One, to see if a club is efficiently paying their players; And two, show potential recruitment options to improve them. For the case study I decided to take a look at a League 2 club, at random: Oldham Athletic.

Oldham are, at the time of writing this article, 14th in the table. They have the 2nd best attack (40 goals), but the worst defence (45 goals against). Needless to say, I’m sure their games are exciting!

Now, before I begin I need to say a few things. I have not seen Oldham Athletic play a single game this year. I am not fully aware of their on-field and off-field dynamics, and I am only making conclusions based off of the information I have at my disposal, including the analysis I am doing. I’ve also not included any recent signings in between the time I’ve started writing this article and the time I’m posting it. Also, all of my salary info is coming from here. It may not be the best source, but it is the only source I have to work with.

Player Salary Efficiency

Let’s take a look at how well, or efficiently, Oldham pay their players.


There are a few things that stick out:

1) If we simplify things by making the cap £1.35 million by taking 10% out of it, which covers “taxes, bonuses, image rights, agents’ fees and other fees and expenses paid directly or indirectly to all registered players”, Oldham already fit within the cap at £1.32 million. Superb stuff! Keep in mind U21 salaries are not part of the cap.

2) Out of the players that have played, the average salary is just under £66,000 a year. The average is about £101,000 a year, according to a few sources. (Here, and here). For what it’s worth, I’d prefer to have average salaries per position, but this is the best I have!

This is fantastic. If a club can on average pay their players almost half of the average but punch above your weight, that’s superb.

3) There are not many players that we can definitively say are below their salary. The only major one is McCalmont. However, he’s U21 so it doesn’t count agains the cap and I’d expect him to progress next year. Again, top stuff!

4) Positionally speaking, we can see a few things:

- In attack, McAleny, Bahamboula, and Rowe are all doing fantastic and are performing well above their salary value. Even Dearnley is doing decently well and on low wages. This all makes sense because Oldham have the 2nd best attack, as I mentioned before. Top notch stuff.

- In midfield, Garrity is the one who stands out the most, creating a huge amount of value by doing so well on so low wages. However, other than Garrity, the midfielders are alright. Keillor-Dunn, McCalmont, Whelan, and Ntambwe are all either above-average or average - which isn’t bad! Again, especially good since they’re all on low wages, or off the cap due to their age. Overall, I’d give this a positive review. Not everyone in the league can say their worst midfielder is average in the league!

- In defense, Oldham’s left side is great. Both Piergianni and Borthwick-Jackson are great players in the league. Their wages offset each other to create essentially a league average wage between the two of them. Not bad! If we go to the right side we see Harry Clarke, Jombati, and Diarra playing much closer to their wage values. Not ideal, but you can’t win them all. Fage and Hamer are above average Right Backs in the league, and creating value because they’re on low wages.

Long story short, Oldham are doing a great job by keeping players on low wages.

- Finally, in goal, Lawlor is their achilles heal. The table shows he’s creating value but, although this isn’t shown on the table, I know most of his value is coming from minutes played. In fact, Lawlor is bottom 5 (at least 1500 minutes played) when it comes to on-the-ball data. I think we’ve found our area for improvement…

Transfer Targets

Before I go into depth about suggesting players I need to say that, I am also only suggesting English players because finding international players that qualify for Brexit work permits in leagues around a similar level to League 2, is difficult and requires more time than I’m afforded. Additionally, I have no idea what these players’ contract situations are, if they’d command transfer fees, be willing to move, or if it's possible to get these players. I am simply providing a few solutions to give insight into how I think Oldham could find value based on salaries and playing level.

Alright, let’s get down to it. As I mentioned, we’re looking to find a Goalkeeper. Here are my suggestions in no particular order:

1) Australia Div 1 - Similar wages but better level

Tom Glover - 23 - Melbourne City

- Cheap (Not on top 100 A-League Salaries and lowest is £57,200)
- In 2019, he was playing at a £177,000 level
- Top 3 in GK Performance of On-Ball stats
- Saved 6 goals from being scored (3rd best)
- 2nd best shot-stopper (of players playing over 1000 min)

2) Scotland Div 1 - Similar wages (depending on the club) but much better level

Luke Southwood - 23 - Reading (Back-up GK)

- Cheaper than Lawlor (£43,680 v £57,200)
- In 2019, playing for Hamilton in Scottish Premiership, playing at a £240,000 level
- 2nd in GK Performance of On-Ball stats
- Saved around 3.5 goals from being scored (2nd best)
- 2nd most involved passer in the league (GKs only)

3) England Div 4 - Same wages and league

Liam Roberts - 26 - Walsall

- About the same salary as Lawlor (£52,000 v £57,200)
- Currently playing at a £208,000 level (Lawlor is £144,000 and all of it is down to playing time)
- Best performing GK that isn’t in the top 100 paid players in the league
- Saved around 4.5 goals from being scored (top 5)
- top 5 best shot-stopper (players playing 1500 or more minutes)

The choice is finally up to you. Based on the information above, who would you choose? Reach out and tell me on twitter.

All in all, I hope this shows how one can make informed decisions based on salary, or wage, evaluations. A club can see who is bringing a lot of value to the club and where they can look to improve. We identified Oldham’s area of improvement is their goalkeeper and showed a few potential replacements. I hope this gave a good example of how one can do more with the same as everyone else, or finding value.

If you’d like a more thorough analysis, along with other analyses, for your club, league, or organization, please get in touch.

I encourage you to check out my consulting page, here.