Well you’ve got to hand it to him, Gary Megson must have the thickest skin in professional football. I’ve seen him barracked by his own fans at 4 different clubs over the years and that’s some going, even in the fickle world of the football supporter. At a Nottingham Forest game, I saw fans come to blows trying to get to him, at Leicester I saw a fan throw his season ticket at him in his 3rd game in charge. At Bolton he famously finished last in an online poll with 1.7% of the vote behind A.N Other before being announced as manager.
It’s a weird situation when this kind of vitriol follows someone around throughout their career and he’s continually knocked noses out of joint wherever he’s been. Even as a player, whilst highly regarded, Brian Clough was disgusted with his pre-match ritual of throwing up before playing, so much so that he sold him on after only 4 months.
With the exception of the Leicester City job, out of his 8 managerial positions, he’s been sacked from 4 and resigned from 2. The two he left freely were Blackpool and Nottingham Forest, though for his own safety, I think he did well to get out of the City Ground alive. It’s the one thing that astounds me about managers, that whilst I appreciate the mangers success can only be as good as the tools at his disposal, why do so many bad managers keep getting work.
Now it may seem churlish to label Megson as a bad manager, but there is no doubting he is unpopular wherever he goes, with the exception of West Bromwich Albion. Albion were on a slippery slope when he came in and he got them in to the Premiership and they’ve been yo-yoing back and forth ever since, but good lord he plays awful football and that’s where the problem lies. My biggest criticism of him as manager of Bolton is his over reliance on the long ball game and consistently negative outlook.
The constant arguments between Megson and the Bolton fans took a new twist the other day when he said “We’re not Real Madrid”. I don’t think any Bolton fan is under the delusion that they expect the team to play as if they were, but surely Megson could try and pacify the fans rather keep coming out with statements that seem to deliberately antagonise them. With the players he has at his disposal, it’s not too far a jump for them to play football now and again.
The nucleus of a good side is there, with the likes of Matty Taylor, Sean Davis, Johan Elmander, the underrated Jussi Jaakelainen & Kevin Davies and Gary Cahill. Yet the negativity of the fans is beginning to drive a wedge between everyone at the Reebok Stadium. Did the Sam Allardyce reign give them a false level of optimism?
Some Bolton fans have never forgiven Megson for playing a reserve side in their biggest game for 50 years in the UEFA Cup. Megson’s idea was to rest the players for a Premier League game against Wigan the Sunday after, which they ironically lost. That game against Sporting Lisbon was the high point of some Wanderers fans football lives and they resent the fact he didn’t care enough.Staying up was all that mattered and to some fans, that was a bridge too far.
No doubt, the most vitrolic Bolton fans are wanting him out, in 6 League and Cup games they’ve won two, both away from home. The win against Tranmere was no surprise, they are in big trouble already. If anything Megson would have been relived to see the pressure John Barnes is under at Prenton Park. The only win in the league was at troubled Portsmouth who can’t buy any luck at present.
Yet when Megson starts a home game playing with one striker what does he expect? By playing negative football at home, he promotes the negativity in the stands. Each fuels each other, Megson is now scared to lose games, the fans expect defensive, boring football. The fans boo, he complains about lack of support. Trouble is, if Megson does go, who on earth will they bring in to replace him?