Paul Murray arrived back at Boundary Park as Academy Manager in July 2019 and, after a year in charge, claims that he’s pleased with the progression of the setup.
Throughout last season, numerous academy lads were handed their professional debuts with Zak Emmerson catching the eye and Murray believes he’s an advocate of the hard work paying off after his recent transfer to Brighton.
"It's brilliant for the academy. I came in and saw what he was like and made that decision early that we should play him. He was already flitting around the U18's, but we made him a regular and thankfully Dino [Maamria] got him into the first-team squad.
"It's obviously a shame that he did get on to become the youngest ever player to feature in the FA Cup, but nevertheless, he handled himself well at first-team level and I have to say that he was a model pro and player for us in terms of the academy attitude and values." He added.
"He's one of the players that would've taken the academy forward, but he's gone and got his move now to Brighton and good luck to him because he's an old school number nine, I just don't think they make them like that anymore."
"Obviously, we want players to stay and play in the first-team but if we have to sell, they'll get to showcase their talents in a different way. Zak is a perfect example of what can be done in football if you work hard and continue to improve and he's got his rewards for it. So, even though he's 15, he's a good role model to the rest of the lads."
Murray is now targeting bringing more talent through the youth ranks at Latics and praised the staff around him who’ve helped take the academy forward over the past year.
"When I first took the job, I knew the great work that Tony [Philliskirk] had done before over the years because I was here, but you always want to do better than the previous person in any walk of life, so that was my aim straight away as it has always been in my football career. We've had a few players who've played in the first-team, also selling Zak in the first year will make the club money as well as keep our name out there as a setup with young talent.
"Our aim now is to continue producing and try and give more players a chance each season whenever we can. We had a few debutants this season and I'm really looking forward to the next campaign because I think we've got a fantastic group. With the new lads coming in they alongside the ones we already have it'll be an exciting time to see the next generation develop as each player has certain traits to make them professionals."
He continued: "We've totally changed the culture of the academy since I've arrived, and I've seen it with my own eyes that the attitude of the players has changed. Don't get me wrong, it's been very tough and difficult, but I've managed to mould it the way I've wanted to with the help of the coaches as well as the people I've brought in and recruited.
"We have around five staff members with the same mindset and we've inherited Conor [Marlin] and Craig [Large] who are doing fantastic jobs. To add to all of that, I've got a really good relationship with the Managing Director and she helps to make sure that things run smoothly as possible in the academy.
"We have technical board meetings which she's involved in with the Head Coach so it's definitely going the way that I want it to. There are still things that I want to change this coming season but we're getting there. My experiences in football are why I'm really enjoying this new role, having an impact on young lives for the better."
Murray stresses that to be a part of the setup he is looking for footballers who conduct themselves in the correct manner off the pitch, as well as showing promise on it.
"We've slightly changed it in terms of the way we do certain things. We've got the club values and we brought it into the academy so all the lads know from the start what's at stake and how to get the most out of their time at Oldham.
"I've done a lot of inductions with the parents and told them 'look football is ruthless'. I'm trying to teach them at a young age that it's a niche market and you've got to do everything in your power to get what you ultimately want. How you conduct yourself as a person, for example being professional, committed and disciplined is a big part of that. As a result, I've seen a change in the first-year scholars attitude, who have a big season ahead when it gets going again."
It was announced a few weeks ago, that the club will be introducing a 'Development Centre' and it will act as a pathway to the Oldham Athletic Academy, providing high standard coaches and games at a regional and national level.
"It will benefit the club because it's an opportunity for kids to go in there who aren't quite ready for the academy yet and have a desire to get into full-time football. They will receive fantastic coaching and it's about bringing on the age groups from eight to sixteen that might become fruitful for us.
"James Caldwell and his staff will develop them and then we might go in there and pick a couple of players up, that's the whole idea. This means it'll be another place to recruit from and look and think 'yeah there's a player that we would like in our academy' to develop.
"With it being affiliated with Oldham Athletic they aren't going to go anywhere else, so it'll be a good relationship and James who's running it has a lot of experience in that department.
"Overall, I'm really pleased to be getting involved with it and it's another good thing for the academy itself in the long-term."