Lessons from the International Break
Watching the success of the Northern Irish National team gave me some real food for thought. N.I. have qualified from the group in some style whilst many will consider their squad to be of lesser ability when compared with others of the Home Nations. Now I do think that Northern Ireland had an easier group compared to Scotland and their Southern counterparts for example, there has certainly been a real case of over-performance from Michael O'Neil's Northern Irish team.
This success was not built overnight, O'Neil's position as manager was questioned both in the media and from the terraces following their disappointing campaign to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The Northern Irish board made the decision to keep O'Neil as they understood the difficulty in getting a group of players to outperform and overachieve.
A truly gifted manager in any walk of life can get the maximum output from resources available. This can take time and in the reactive world of football, this is something rarely seen.I have seen some comments recently in regards to Neil Lennon's stewardship and some understandable comments given our results, particularly away from home. No one should be immune from criticism particularly when a side isn't performing but there has to be some realism when considering what Lennon has to work with.
Given the clear restrictions he has to work within his role, we must allow Neil Lennon the time needed to slowly mould a squad able to compete and learn the lessons of patience shown by the courageous Northern Ireland side.
Strengths and Weaknesses
As I look at how this season has gone so far i find myself split in how I consider the current state of play. Firstly, I feel we have a lot of potential and I am impressed with how Mark Davies has settled into his more influential role deeper in the Wanderers midfield. I also think that in Wellington Silva we have loaned a real talent from Arsenal and the forward's ability to turn a game on it's head will win us a fair few points this season I believe.
The new signings in defence have also added some quality in possession to the Wanderers side, Derik Osede has a real weapon in that long ball and Lawrie Wilson has impressed me with adding some real steel to the right back position - a position we have been weak in since the club was founded.
It isn't all good news though and there are some glaring weaknesses in the Bolton side. Newly installed fans' favourite Prince is an accident waiting to happen for me. Athletically he has all the attributes to be a very good player for us and often he has put in real solid defensive performances. The issue with Prince is that he has a mistake in him and I can't help but think he will be targeted by other teams both to be drawn out of position and when the defender is in possesion. I may be wrong of course but the concern is genuine.
Mistakes also appear to creeping into the game of Ben Amos and whilst I'm not going to jump down the throat of the new number one, I must admit I am worried about the man brought in to replace Adam Bogdan as to whether he is up to the task. It is early days of course but these mistakes need ironing out of Amos' game sooner rather than later.
Simply the Best
Towards the back end of this week, rumours have emerged of potential interest in former Republic of Ireland International striker Leon Best. Best is a free agent after his release from our neighbours Blackburn Rovers. At 29 years old, Best will argue he still has a lot to offer at Championship level but two loans spells at Derby County and Brighton & Hove Albion respectively last season yeilded no goals from a combined 28 games.
It is rumoured that we are considering taking the former Newcastle United man on trial as Shola Ameobi has reportedly failed to make the grade in his trial at Euxton. Despite the low turn in Best's career, I don't see the harm of getting him in on trial and going from there. Others have come and not made the grade but looking at Emile Heskey and Lawrie Wilson who have both added considerably to the first team cause after coming in on trial, there are clearly some diamonds (or many nice looking pebbles) in the rough out there and getting them in and checking them out does no harm at all.
I quickly want to pay tribute to fellow Lion of Vienna Suite contributor Rob Latham for his work with the Football Supporters' Federation with their 'Twenty's Plenty' campaign. Despite the refusal at the ground to unfurl the banner I know a lot of hard work went in the organisation and as a football fan I wanted to thank both parties for their efforts.
There were some rather influential people within Bolton sporting circles who used their enhanced followings to criticise the honest work of Rob and others and I must say I was disappointed to read their rather sniping remarks. I was surprised to see that anyone would be against a cause such as 'Twenty's Plenty' and perhaps the connection with the ordinary fan has been severed completely.
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