Cape Town and Bolton don’t have too much in common, with the possible exception of Quinton Fortune. But there has been a new addition to that list at Boundary Park.
The partnership between South African-born Dean Furman and Lancashire lad Dale Stephens has seen the youngsters play a big part in Paul Dickov’s revolution.
The duo have teamed up in the centre of the Oldham midfield for the majority of the new manager’s reign, a stark contrast to the maligned tenure of Dave Penney; who combined them sparsely towards the end of last season.
The impact has been extremely tangible. Stephens, who spent three months of last season on loan at local rivals Rochdale, wasted no time in settling in to the new campaign as he bagged a brace to give Oldham an opening day win against Tranmere Rovers.
An expertly-taken free kick from the edge of the box was the highlight as the midfielder helped Dickov open his account and saw Stephens double his tally in an Oldham shirt.
While he has since failed to find the net, he has been dynamic and inventive ever since and has shown himself to be the hottest prospect on the Latics’ books. Signed from the youth ranks of Bury for a nominal fee in 2008, he could generate the cash-strapped club a tidy sum in the future.
To demonstrate just how far away from Stephens’ upbringing you can get, Furman started his professional career in the Abramovich-boosted youth ranks of Chelsea rather than at a League Two cellar-dweller.
Arriving at Boundary Park via Glasgow Rangers and a loan spell at Bradford, Furman was a regular member of Penney’s mediocre side last season.
The transformation has been breathtaking. Two goals in two games ensured that he matched his midfield partner and helped his side to four important points.
The second strike was undoubtedly the most crucial; a 25-yard strike into the top corner that got Oldham an impressive point away at Charlton. Furman has also looked solid since; looking comfortable on the ball.
If the two 22 year-olds in the centre of the park can back up their impressive form by re-introducing goals to their play, the momentum of Dickov’s side could return.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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