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The Breakup - Big Sam vs Big Phil: He Said/She Said

Public fallouts always leave a bitter taste

Ben Radford/Getty Images

It started thusly with an excerpt from Sam Allardyce's autobiography:

"My relationship with Bolton chairman Phil Gartside went downhill after the 2004 Carling Cup final against Middlesbrough,"

He continued:

"I was taking in the atmosphere in the Millennium Stadium before the game when Phil stopped for a chat. It was clear he was worried about money."

"Do you know what, Sam? It's been a great journey but if we win this we are going to get into Europe and I'm not sure we can afford it."

"I couldn't believe what he'd said. I was disgusted."

Predictably, Bolton Wanderers fans have taken to their keyboards in disgust - presumably the same as Allardyce felt that day:

But how truthful is Big Sam being here?

Looking at it objectively as a randomly picked-out quote in a book designed to be as sensationalist as possible, it's incredibly difficult to give any sort of a weight to his comments.

We all know that Gary Megson once came out and said something similar about Phil Gartside's perceived lack of ambition for the club:

"I took Bolton further in Europe than they've ever been, yet I was told by the chairman to get out of Europe because they don't make any money in it and it was having an impact on the league position, and it was absolutely imperative to stay in the Premiership.

He then said:

"Bearing in mind that was the worst start that's ever been seen in the Premiership and still is, it was a huge ask to stay up, notwithstanding the fact we were in Europe.

Now is that really a lack of ambition or, as I suspect here, is the actions of a man who knows all too well about the dangerous financial precipice upon which his club sits?

If you were in charge of a big club (as we were at the time), swimming upstream knowing that you just have to incur financial strife just to be competitive, would you openly discuss this lack of a willingness to gamble so openly with your manager?

I consider it a failure to gamble, rather than a lack of ambition, from the chairman.

It's easy and it's also understandable to see why Bolton fans have leapt upon Gartside's supposed comments (comments which have not yet been verified as being true, in either case) as it's an emotive game, after all.

Wanderers's struggles after the halcyon days of the Allardyce reign are well documented, and I am not here to debate Gartside's role in that particular fiasco, but I think that in the case of Allardyce v Gartside, we're all in danger of letting our hearts rule our heads.

There are people around who credit the chairman for us getting to those heady heights in the first place, and that may well be true - of that I have no real opinion - but for the record I think he has done the right thing in refusing to be drawn upon those comments.

Back in the day when he had his own twitter account, the chairman wrote:

"You couldn't make it up but somebody has. As a fan for over 50 years do you honestly think I would (want Bolton to lose)?

"In over 25 years on the board and 13 as chairman I have never questioned or instructed a manager on team selection."

So I guess in the light of this sort of (lack of) evidence, it comes down to who you believe more - Sam Allardyce, legendary former manager and someone who famously said that he would be better suited to managing Real Madrid or Inter Milan, or Phil Gartside - a man responsible for the downfall of the North East steel industry and for the last ever episode of Seinfeld.

Either way, it doesn't make for very pleasant reading.