There are green shoots of recovery around the Reebok Stadium, after several winters of discontent under Gary Megson. With Owen Coyle’s arrival, suddenly Bolton Wanderers are playing football again and trying to win games, rather than bore teams to death and hoof it skywards. Megson’s long ball banality has no place in modern football and I feel sorry for the next bunch of fans that have to suffer the tedium of his tactical ineptitude.
Thankfully, Phil Gartside realised that he preferred being the chairman of a Premiership club more than defending a manager who had lost the entire crowds respect. His own position was under threat and no matter how well a chairman and a manager get on, eventually it becomes a question of self preservation. Gartside made the selfish decision after two bad, bad managerial choices almost finished the club off. Now things are a whole lot rosier down Burnden Way and the club can look to a more positive future.
At the time when Coyle left, I was critical of the decision, mainly as I didn’t think Bolton could strike up the pace as quickly as they needed and Burnley seemed to be doing well. I didn’t understand it, but then again, not many people did other than Bolton Wanderers fans. The Green half of Glasgow were certainly left scratching their heads as they watched Tony Mowbray’s reign imploded in a series of bizarre transfer and selection issues and wondering how they couldn’t attract Burnley’s manager over the summer.
So Coyle kept his part of the bargain, he turned his back on devotion and demi-god status at Turf Moor, to ride to Boltons rescue and try and keep them in the Premiership. He did it and with points to spare, such was the dearth of quality shown by the bottom 3 sides for most of the season. Whilst the bottom 3 were nowhere near the worst the Premiership has seen, the lack of a consistent goalscorer in all three relegated sides was too much to bare.
Now Coyle has a few weeks off, and will look to pre-season training in July to begin to continue the good start he’s made to his 4th managerial position. Bolton fans came in for some criticism last season with their campaign to get rid of Gary Megson. “Ideas above their station” ” Spoilt by the Allardyce years” and “Small club punching above their weight” were just some of the delightful accusations levelled at the fans. Quite why wanting rid of a manager who messed up the biggest night in the clubs modern history and would send his teams out not to lose, rather than to try and win games is such a problem.
They pay money and are rightly entitled to their opinions, whether we agree with it or not. I’ve never understood how Gary Megson keeps getting jobs, his record other than at West Bromwich Albion is abysmal. Only Megson could unite Nottingham Forest and Leicester City fans in their hatred of him, such is the feeling of anger towards him from both sets of supporters. Now that takes some doing in anyone’s book, at least Coyle only has one clubs fans anger to deal with, probably for life. Bolton wasn’t a massive rescue job, he just needed to remind the players how to play football, as daft as that sounds.
He simply needed to get the core performers back in unison and on song. The spine of a decent Premiership side was always there, it just wasn’t allowed to be a football team. With Jaaskelainen, Davis, Elmander, Cahill, Taylor and Davies to call on, it simply needed the depressing air lifting from the place and things would soon settle down. The first 6 weeks were tough, but eventually, points started to come, performances started to come and the team began to climb the table.
Next season will be Coyle’s biggest test so far as a manager. He had nothing to lose at the other jobs he took, Burnley achieved more than even the most loyal fan could have imagined, but I doubt Bolton will be scraping around the relegation zone next season. Despite what their critics may say, Bolton have now been back in the top flight of football for ten years and are an established Premiership club. The troubles of the last 3 seasons should prove nothing more than a bad dream for the Wanderers fans, mid-table is more than realistic for next season.