When a manager comes out in the local press to refute suggestions that he is ready to throw in the towel it usually means that all he’s done is temporarily mislaid his towel; so by the time you read this Neil Lennon will probably have quit (or been quatted) as manager of Bolton Wanderers.
We can’t part with another manager can we? Since ‘Big Sam’ Allardyce left in 2007 we’ve rattled through them in a way that would give Leeds United or Aston Villa a run for their money. Trying to re-kindle that winning magic formula we once chanced upon we’ve hired and fired Sammy Lee (out of his depth – literally and figuratively), Gary Megson (pragmatism gone crazy), Owen Coyle (wore shorts in case he got a game) and Dougie Freedman (I don’t know where to start with this clown). All have promised, all have gambled on expensive players and all have fallen flat on their arse.
When Lennon took over just over a year ago I think most of us were cautiously optimistic. At Celtic he’d won several titles regularly beating sides like Kilmarnock, Hamilton and Rangers. Plus Barcelona. Once. That must count for something surely? Sadly no, despite an initial crawl up the table defeat to Liverpool in the 4th round of the FA Cup started a worrying slide back towards the bottom that had Wanderers fans looking over their shoulders. We hoped he would sort it out in the summer but he hasn’t and now with just one win in fifteen games the Trotters sit four points adrift of safety in the bottom three of the Championship.
Who’s to blame? Obviously it’s not Lennon’s fault. He’s tried everything. Banning hats in training, shouting at injuries and getting himself sent off. What more can he do?
It’s clear to see that all referees hate us. In nearly every game this season we’ve been undone by officials ‘bottling major decisions’. Lenny’s right to kick the water bottles up the touchline like he’s seen on the telly. We’re creating two, sometimes three half-chances per game. When you see those chances denied by clear fouls that go unpunished what can you do but moan in the paper the following Monday?
There’s the lack of funds that he must never have been fully told about. Bolton’s financial ‘situation’ has brought puffed out cheeks from fans and pundits alike for months yet there are rumours floating around that Lennon was hypnotised into believing the club had money to burn. It’s claimed that at his interview Lennon was put in a trance and told all sorts, the club was going places, a return to former glories was close and that he was now a chicken and could eat an onion believing it to be an apple.
It must have come as a complete shock when, wide awake and back in the room he was promptly handed zero pounds and zero pence to spend. Somehow he’s even managed to waste that, bolstering the ranks with Emile Heskey (one goal in fifteen) and Gary Madine ‘Goal Machine’ (two in thirteen) we now have two strikers at the club who don’t consider scoring goals to be ‘part of their game’. True he did briefly return Eidur Gudjohnsen and he has signed Shola Ameobi (yes that Shola Ameobi) who currently has an impressive goal to game ratio of one in one but other random signings have, not surprisingly struggled. This guy was in Madrid’s youth team, this one played for Arsenal, this one has 98 pace on FIFA 16. Somehow they’ve found football at the wrong end of the ‘most competitive league in the world’ difficult to come to terms with.
In my pre-season prediction I confessed to hanging all our hopes on Zach Clough. Thanks to long term injury Bolton’s answer to Lionel Messi has only played eight times this year (scoring once). Prior to that though he struggled to find the form that thrust him into the spotlight last year. Many people say he’s been ‘found out’ but I think Lennon’s struggling to play him. As a clogger Lenny did nothing but run around like a lunatic kicking people, now as a manager he seems destined to build a team in his own image preferring work rate and effort to moving the ball and skill. He’s encouraged players to ‘shoot from distance’ like that’s a tactic and seems to have resorted to ‘blasting’ players in an attempt to coax better performances from them.
I can sort of understand that as one of football’s true cart-horses he might not be able to work with skilful players, I can understand that he might not grasp what they are capable of but I don’t understand why he has to play centre halves at full back and what he sees in Dorian Dervite – that one will puzzle me all the way to the grave.
Today sees the Super Whites face Bristol City, the team directly above us in the league. Lose and there will be a seven point gap between the sides. I’ve not heard many (if any) ‘Lennon Outs’ as yet but this could be the game that sparks them.
I hope they don’t get rid, what would be the point? We’d only end up with Uwe Rosler in charge for 15 months before he get the boot too. Plus we’re above Dougie Freedman’s Nottingham Forest side so it’s not all bad.
In four years Lennon’s Celtic side only lost thirty-nine times, in just over a year in Horwich he’s already clocked up an astonishing twenty-three defeats. Let’s at least see if he can break that record before getting rid. Give us something to look forward to at least.