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Five Things Neil Lennon Needs to Address at Bolton Wanderers

Chris takes a look at the pressing issues facing Whites' boss Lenny this coming summer

Not only is his team hopeless on the road, but he's got a spot on his nose
Not only is his team hopeless on the road, but he's got a spot on his nose
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Yeah so being a shitfan I didn't go last night. I admire those who did, but a 500 mile round-trip on a Tuesday to the arsehole of the country didn't really appeal to me.

Therefore I have decided to forego the usual Five Things that comes on this very site following a Bolton Wanderers game, instead taking cue from a recent Twitter conversation relating to the job that Neil Lennon has on his hands this coming summer.

Let's hold hands, dear reader, and jump in together:

1) Get Rid of the Weak-Minded

It is clear from watching the side's fortunes over the past couple of seasons that we are suffering from a lack of on-field leadership.

Lennon himself  has drawn attention to this lately, and I completely agree with him.

There is a phrase that I like "too many chiefs, and not enough Indians" which of course refers to having more bosses than workers - in our case I think the reverse is true. We have too many workers, and not enough bosses.

Look at the number of late goals that we have conceded this season. This is a direct cause of a lack of concentration - a lack of mental strength which has become endemic in this squad.

Leaders are not easy to find, and of course there is a certain amount that comes from the gaffer himself, but at the risk of upsetting even more members of the first team squad I am sure that if you, dear reader, put your mind to it you could quite easily come up with the same names that I have when considering likely candidates.

The club has had passionate leaders before, stemming from the inspirational leadership shown by Sam Allardyce, and leaders can come in different forms. Shouty, pointy leaders such as Jay Spearing have their place, whereas the lead-by-example types epitomised by Kevin Davies' captaincy also has its place.

When appointed, Lennon gave the captain's armband to Matt Mills. I have no idea what sort of captain he is behind the scenes, but on the field he's the shouty type, forever offering encouragement and words of advice to his colleagues. It is a difficult job, combining captaincy with being a crucial member of the side - one that Kevin Nolan found impossible, let's not forget - and I do expect that Mills' place is rather secure, but the same cannot be said of the rest of his charges.

2) The Importance of a Reliable Goalkeeper

We have, at present, three decent goalkeepers on our books: Adam Bogdan, Andy Lonergan and Ben Amos.

I would expect that each of them could make a decent fist at being first-choice at the majority of our competitors, but the time has come for Lennon to make it clear to one and all just who is number one.

All three goalkeepers have proven themselves as being capable, but other than Amos, of whom we have only seen a fleeting glimpse, Bogdan and Lonergan have both had 'moments' where their long-term futures at the club have been brought into question.

Hungarian Bogdan has been with the club since 2007, and has been more-or-less first choice since 2011. However, with his contract running out this year and with previous interest from Bundesliga side Mainz still on the table it seems unlikely that he will still be here come the start of the 2015/16 season.

Lonergan is a slightly different beast in that he has been second choice for Wanderers since Dougie Freedman brought him to the club from Leeds United in 2012. He had an exceptional run at the end of 2014 when he capitalised on Bogdan's injury to make himself first choice, but before his own injury he was starting to display the traits that cast doubt previously on his suitability as Wanderers' undoubted first-choice goalkeeper. Struggles with crosses and uncertain kicking was mitigating by excellent shot-stopping and a one-on-one prowess that at times equalled the great Jussi Jaaskelainen.

Amos is, however, and most importantly, NOT our player. He is on loan from Manchester United but his contract is up at the end of the season, where he will be available on a free transfer. He has yet to make a mistake, as far as I can recall, and has looked solid and reliable in his time so far. I know that as Bolton Wanderers fans we are prone to hyperbole, but if you offered me the choice between the three goalkeepers and forced me to choose, I would go with Amos.

The time has come for Lennon to make a statement on his first-choice goalkeeper. Whoever he chooses, he has to have the next couple of seasons in mind. Continuity is key.

3) Sign a Proven Goalscorer

This is just as tough a decision as that previously mentioned in the goalkeeping department. Perhaps even tougher.

We mentioned on the #LOVpod that having a decent striker can often be the key to promotion from the Championship - the primary example being Burnley who, with the partnership of Danny Ings and Sam Vokes, managed to drag a fairly run-of-the-mill side all the way to promotion to the Premier League.

At present we do not have strikers of that quality at Bolton Wanderers.

Craig Davies, Conor Wilkinson, Eidur Gudjohnsen, Tom Eaves and Zach Clough are (relatively) capable forwards, but in isolation they are not going to fire you to promotion glory.

Adam Le Fondre is that 'type'.

I am not sure whether we could afford to sign him from Cardiff City, but he is most definitely the 'type' of forward with a proven Championship goal record who could finish the sort of chances that Davies and friends have routinely missed this season. How many more points could we have gained had Le Fondre been at the club all season? I'd wager we'd be top half at least.

We know that the club is struggling for money, and obviously this sort of player is rarely cheap, but the rewards are there should Lennon be able to bring in the right player for the right money.

I suspect that he'll look overseas for this man, much as he did at Celtic. I hope he has the same success - our season depends on it.

4) Sort Out the Injury Crisis

This is, admittedly, a bit of a vague one. I know Neil Lennon isn't responsible for the injuries that we have (currently 476 and rising every day), but he wouldn't be doing his job properly if he wasn't assessing and reassessing the way that his coaches and his staff both prepare and treat our squad.

Arsenal, for example, had a reputation for suffering niggly muscle injuries that cost them the services of some fantastic footballers, and Olivier Giroud, for months at a time. Following an investigation at the club they changed the playing surface at the training ground and saw an immediate improvement in the number and severity of the muscle injuries suffered by their playing staff.

Now this is obviously a lot easier when you're a top Premier League side, or indeed if you're Arsenal - the cost of investigative works and indeed the cost of relaying a pitch - never mind a training pitch - can be exorbitant and is probably not a priority for the club - but when weighed against the cost of loaning in 250 players a season then perhaps that's the sort of investment we could do with.

One conversation I had with a person close to the club reported on how Lennon found a group of 'broken' players when he took over from Dougie Freedman.

By this, he meant that the former Wanderers manager had signed players with track records of injuries. Looking at the season-long struggles of the likes of Liam Trotter and Craig Davies this becomes rather clear. Adam Bogdan, Darren Pratley, Andy Lonergan, Mark Davies and David Wheater have barely managed to string a series of appearances together before being injured and I would challenge any squad with top-half ambitions to do without that sort of calibre of player for the majority of a season.

5) Introspection

No, it's not the latest effort from Christopher Nolan, but instead my belief that the manager could take a look at his own part in things and make some changes for the better.

I know that this season has been one of extreme transition from the chaos of Dougie Freedman's reign, and I believe that Lennon has the right mentality and approach to improve things at Bolton Wanderers.

Despite this confidence, the inability thus far to address our woeful away form is a concern, although I do put some of this inability down to the sheer paucity of choice in the ranks. He talks a good game after the fact, and this is encouraging - that he knows what is needed to put us back to where we 'think' we belong.

I just hope that he has the solution as well.

Luckily for us, I think the recent dip in form has put paid to any suggestions of his leaving the club in the near future. There is always going to be the elephant in the room - his reputation - whenever a job comes up in the Premier League, but fortunately I think this is unlikely in the short-term until he truly proves what he is capable of in the English leagues.

I hope that one day he does get his move to a top Premier League club because that will have meant he had sustained success with Bolton - and that he doesn't just nip off to Leicester City or somewhere equally pointless just because he played for the club for a while.

I trust in Neil Lennon.