“IF you use the OAFC hashtag, you’re hooked,” says David Wheater. “There’s something from this club every day.”
He should know. He has been part of the Boundary Park saga for the past 12 months.
A salary cut of 70 percent; forced to train with the youth team and play in a jersey that is too small; injured lifting his dog out of the car … these are events that the scriptwriters of the old football drama Dream Team may have come up with. But to Wheater they were real life and, he says, resulted in his family doctor prescribing medication to deal with.
He has kept his advice on all of this so far. Although he split from the club by mutual agreement in March, he only opened up to the media after his original two-year contract had expired.
In an open interview, former Bolton Wanderers defender Wheater gave his side of his Latics story, explaining how he left Bolton only because of uncertainty about the club’s future but found himself with even greater personal instability.
Speaking to BBC Radio Manchester, he said: “I was ready to sign again at the Bolton hotel but was told it doesn’t matter until the club is bought and there is no guarantee that this would happen so I could have been unemployed. So I decided to go to Oldham because they wanted me.
“I haven’t heard anything good. I was warned not to go.
“In my head, I’ve been a Premier League player, a championship player all my life, so I thought ‘this isn’t going to happen to me’ what I heard. It worked in the end.
“But I got there and everything seemed fine. Me and my agent told them to their faces that we had heard bad stuff about the club and they said ‘oh no these are ex-employees’ and we said about late pay and they said’ no, everyone gets paid on time as long as they are ‘here’.
“The day before the first payday I asked a couple of guys if they got paid on time and they said different things at different times, so I said, ‘Oh, I’ll go and ask because tomorrow is payday’.
“Me and Woodsy (Gary Woods) went up and said, ‘maybe tomorrow, maybe Monday’.
“I said ‘no, it’s tomorrow’. I said ‘I’m from Bolton, we weren’t paid, I was promised everything would be on time’.
“So they said, ‘Okay, we’ll clear you up first’.
“We weren’t paid on Friday, the game was on Saturday and it still wasn’t there in the morning, so I texted the guy and said, ‘Look, I’m thinking about quitting if things go on like this ‘
“It finally went in when I left for the game.”
But that was just the beginning of Wheater’s Latics nightmare.
“The first (year) was fine because I played. I didn’t mind getting paid late when I got it. A few of the other players may have been different, but in the end I did it and I played so I was happy, “he explained.
“The second year was a little different.”
Covid was the trigger, players and employees were on leave. Wheater took the biggest hit of them all to his salary and lost around 70 percent without the club adding to it.
He denied this, then coach Dino Maamria told the veteran former Bolton and Middlesbrough man that he was ordered to stop playing him. Maamria was then replaced by Harry Kewell, who had the same job.
Wheater continued to train, but caught Covid in September. When he returned from his quarantine, he was told to train with the youth team.
“Harry Kewell said they just decided I was on the youth team,” said the 34-year-old, who suffered a concussion in his first game with the youth.
“I didn’t even start the game. ‘Weather’ is on the board, not even Wheater. They misspelled my name, “he continued.
“I had a tiny jersey, I had to swap jerseys with the boy who came at halftime. Personally, I was just a little embarrassed.
“Woodsy came out to catch the ball and the striker pushed me into him so I got a concussion.”
Wheater suffered another setback when he had a back problem lifting his dog out of the car. He was sidelined for two months because of disc problems and sciatica.
“I didn’t do stupid things, I just pulled it out of the trunk and hurt my back,” he said. “I’ve had back problems before.”
The club also raised concerns about the former England Under-21 international’s move to his northeastern home, saying in a statement: “David recently moved into a new house and equally important is a potential 200-mile round trip that Not considered by the club to be suitable for a full-time professional in training, especially one currently undergoing medical treatment, especially if they intend to live in that building permanently. ”
Wheater said, “The Friday before that statement about the dog came out, I met Karl for the first time and he said I was getting a payout and all and I said ‘I want to play’.
“He said Abdallah will amicably if I come back as a coach. I won’t come back as a coach!”
“So he wants it by mutual agreement and three days later he publishes this statement and says where I live, in the northeast. Which club has ever said anything about where a player lives?
“There was no problem with the drug stuff. I told them the day I lived. The drug people could go to my house and I would be there, no problem with that.
“It’s an hour and a half. If I played and we won, there would be no problem.
“The subkeeper was coming and going from Walsall every day, that’s longer than what I’ve been doing and it was fine with him.”
Wheater says the situation was a cause for concern not only for himself but also for his wife, mother and father, adding that he saw his doctor.
When asked if it had affected him mentally, he said: “I had to get pills from the doctor because I sleep like that. I couldn’t sleep, I was just thinking about things, what to say and when to say things. When the club issued statements, I was silent because I had signed a confidentiality agreement. But I wouldn’t sign it if I left.
“My doctor gave me pills to help me sleep and relax.
“They told me to move back here and gave me three days notice. They wanted me back in a house by 4am on Monday, which was a weekend in a pandemic.
“I was lucky to have a buddy here who had some household items.”
But now his Oldham Athletic nightmare is over, Redcar-born Wheater is looking for something closer to home.
“I want to keep playing. I don’t think I’ll ever say I’ve retired if someone shows up,” he said.
“I would like to play locally in Middlesbrough. I don’t think I’ll sign for Middlesbrough at that age, but hopefully I can find a club in the North East. ”