Before I begin, I want to make it abundantly clear that my lukewarm support for the manager is the view of the minority - I am well aware that Neil Lennon is liked by a majority of fans, most of which are satisfied with the job Neil Lennon has done thus far with a limited budget. In fact, it isn't limited - there is no budget. It's a one in, one out scenario. However this is something that previous managers of the 1990s Bruce Rioch and Colin Todd and in more recent times Douglas Freedman had to contend with.
My initial worries with Lennon becoming Bolton Wanderers manager were two-fold. One, I had the impression that he courted the sectarian reaction to his appointment at Celtic through his controversial behaviour on the touchline and in the press room. On that note, I couldn't have been more wrong. After being sent off from the touchline in his first game away at Birmingham City, my smug know-it-all grin screamed "I told you so". Since then, Lennon's conduct has been nothing but professional, and has thoroughly proved me wrong.
The second concern, on the other hand, is one on which the jury is still out. It is my opinion that, in the absence of a thriving Rangers, the Glasgow Celtic job is the easiest in football. Even Gary Megson could win the SPL. Maybe not Brian Laws, but Megson could.
My concern at the time, a concern that still persists, is that Lennon lacks the necessary experience for a job such as this, and has never experienced a difficult spell in charge of a team. Yes, I know, he beat Barcelona. Stop screaming at your screen. But so did Quique Sanchez Flores, current manager of Watford, and Russian minnows Rubin Kazan. With no goals in our last 5 competitive matches (the last of such spells we suffered in 1990 some 25 years ago), Bolton are currently in a worrying vein of form, and whether Lennon can drag the club out of the doldrums is a matter yet to be seen.
Neil Lennon's win percentage is currently 33.33%. The same as public enemy Dougie Freedman (33.66%, but I won't be pedantic and claim the extra 0.33% as a "better" record) and another man who split opinion amongst Wanderers fans, Owen Coyle (33.33%).
In my last article, I was vilified for not providing a context, and so for those people, here's some context for you. Coyle's record included both his rise into the Premier League's top half, our relegation season, and worrying start in the Championship. It was also a situation where we could still spend money on players (£4 million for David N'gog anyone?) and pay Premier League wages to Championship level players (Zat Knight, Martin Petrov, Chris Eagles to name a few).
This did however come at a time where the wage bill was being butchered rather than trimmed of fat. Freedman, on the other hand, had to contend with exactly the same financial situation as our current manager, and has the same win percentage in his 101 games as Lennon has in his first 39 games. When we consider Freedman's impressive record in his early time as Wanderers manager (is seems like a dream from a previous life that he nearly took us to the play-offs with his rigid, boring 4-5-1 formation), we can certainly ascertain that Lennon's pales in comparison in their "honeymoon periods".
So, there's your context, for those context addicts out there. Gary Megson, incidentally, had a win percentage of 27%, so Lenny's not all that bad. Sam Allardyce weighs in at an incredible 41%, with Colin Todd at a similarly impressive 43%. The brilliant Bruce Rioch boasts a win percentage of 48%, making him our most successful manager in modern times. In fact, you'd have to go back as far as 1886 to find a better win percentage, where W G Struthers won a mind-blowing 2 games in his 3 in charge of the club. OK, Struthers doesn't count. So that's decided then. Bruce Rioch is the best Bolton Wanderers manager ever. Glad we're all agreed.
Let's see how Lennon compares to managers currently in our division. The much maligned Russell Slade has won 35% of his games in charge of Cardiff City, and current bookies favourite to finish bottom of the Championship Steve Evans has won 42% of his games at Rotherham United, although a significant portion of his 164 games in South Yorkshire were in League 1. In fact, the only two managers in the division with a worse win percentage than Neil Lennon are Huddersfield's Chris Powell (27%) and Chris Ramsey of QPR (23%). Ramsey, however, has a disastrous Premier League tenure that is largely responsible for this. I would also like to point out at this juncture that Gary Caldwell has won only 1 game as Wigan Athletic manager (hashtag New Era, hashtag we'll get 100 points this season, hashtag we'll never play you again).
To me, the myth is not that Lennon is a good football manager; with that point, I agree. The myth to me is that he is sufficiently equipped and experienced to lead Bolton Wanderers forward given our current financial predicament. This is not me saying that Lennon needs to go, far from it. It is me suggesting that maybe, just maybe, Neil Lennon has had a bit of an easy ride in charge of The Wanderers. When you consider the reputations of Gary Megson, Owen Coyle and Douglas Freedman in the years AA (after Allardyce), it seems as though Wanderers fans have more patience with the Northern Irishman (or does he prefer Irishman? I'm not sure. Let's not get into that).
Yes, yes i can hear you again. "CONTEXT CONTEXT CONTEXT". Balls to context. We're knee deep in something brown and sticky. And it's not a stick. Is Lennon the man to wade through the festival longdrops our football club is swimming in?
I don't know. I just don't know. I hope to the big man in the sky that I'm wrong, but I'm becoming increasingly concerned that I might be right. And I'll hate being right as much as I'll like it. No "I told you so" smug grins, just trips to Colchester, Gillingham and Port Vale next season.
Let me know what you think in the comments below. Don't hold back. I'm a big lad. Well, a small lad behind a computer screen with a thick skin. But go for it. Tell me I'm talking nonsense. I guess the proof will be in the pudding. Just don't let Steve Evans eat it.