With the recent financial news coming out of the Macron the anti-Gartside brigade is coming out in force once more.
One of the grievances levelled at Gartside is his managerial appointments during the era aptly entitled AA (After Allardyce) by another writer on this very site. So I have decided to take a look at all of Gartside’s managerial appointments AA to see whether they are all that bad.
I think it is best to begin by looking at Sam Allardyce’s time at the club in order to offer context as to the shadow the managers since have operated under. While at Bolton Wanderers, Allardyce won 41% of his games, achieved promotion to the Premier League and then established Bolton as a Premier League force.
It is noted on Wikipedia that Bolton’s consecutive top-eight Premier League finishes between 2003-04 and 2006-07 was a record of consistency only bettered by the big four at the time of Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal. During this time of course Allardyce led the club into Europe for the first time in our history, would have done so for a second time if he hadn’t resigned a few weeks before the end of the season when we qualified, and brought the club to the precipice of Champions League football. On top of this there was also of course that League Cup final against Middlesbrough.
This arguably was the most successful period in Bolton’s history and had us punching a long way above our weight. During this time Bolton Wanderers in the most part were posting profits, yes Bolton was once a club which could stand on its own two feet while competing with some of the best teams in Europe who would have guess?
But then of course came one of the saddest days of my time as a Bolton fan. The news broke on the 29th April 2007 that Big Sam was indeed departing the Reebok with immediate effect after eight incredible seasons at the helm.
The next man to lead Bolton Wanderers was announced the next day in the form of Sammy Lee. Little Sam come into the club in a coaching capacity as Allardyce’s assistant in September 2005 and then turned down the England Under 21 managerial job the following July.
He also at that point stepped down from the England coaching set up.
Lee was held in high regard, having also coached at Liverpool before taking up the role with England. It was rumoured at the time that Lee was promised consideration for the managerial role if and when Allardyce left the club. If this was true it was a risk by Gartside, but to bring in a highly regarded coach who would work closely with the current, and very successful, manager is not a bad idea and could have led to a seamless transition.
We all know that that was not the case though. Lee only won only 21% of his matches at the helm and was sacked in October 2007. I think it’s fair to say that his time in charge of Bolton can only be described as a disaster and with hindsight it was without doubt a poor appointment by Gartside.
But was it a risk worth taking? This is an interesting question. On the one hand it was without a doubt a risk worth taking. Lee still is a highly regarded coach and having spent time working under Allardyce should have been the perfect fit.
But on the other hand this was probably the point in time when Bolton was best set to make a truly inspired managerial appointment. We were flying high with league consistency only bettered by the top four. We were back in Europe and I remember reading an article which was speculating as to whether Bolton could finally make the step up into the top four.
Overall I believe that this was a missed opportunity by the club who really should have found an established manager who could have taken the club forward rather than taking a punt on an unproven quantity. And as such this was a poor appointment.
The next man in the door was of course Gary Megson. Dubbed at one point the 'Ginger Mourinho' it is fair to say that Megson never got along with the Bolton fans. I for one was not sad to wake up to the news we had sacked him after having watched Bolton throw away a two goal lead against Hull City the day before.
But is Megson unfairly treated by Bolton fans? Yes he only won 28% of his matches in charge of Bolton. But he did keep us up in his first season courtesy of going unbeaten in five matches at the end of the season, when I for one thought that we were dead and buried and I think even the most optimistic Bolton fan was preparing for the reality of relegation.
He then re-stabilised the club as we were not unduly bothered by relegation in his only full season in charge. He also brought into the club Gary Cahill who was not too bad I think it is fair to say, along with Mark Davies and Chung-Young Lee. Megson made some signings who have served the club well long after he was shown the door.
There was also our record signing Johan Elmander. Although he always struggled somewhat at Bolton his importance was shown the season after he left when Bolton crashed out of the Premier League. I have no doubt that he was missed that season and it contributed to our Premier League adventure coming to an end.
Megson was also the man who led us furthest in the Europa League before he was forced by circumstance to prioritise our battle against relegation.
I was not a fan of Megson and as stated above I had had enough of him by the time he was sacked. But I do believe he did a good job at Bolton and was unfairly treated. He was the last Bolton manager (potentially excluding Lennon, follow links for my opinion of his incomings and outgoings) who did well in the transfer market and worked a miracle in keeping us up in his first season.
I think we owe a lot to Megson for managing that and for bringing players in who laid the bedrock for Owen Coyle’s successful start to life at the Reebok. Also in Mark Davies we still have a player who could be pivotal in any return to the top flight in the near future.
In part two of this series I will look at Owen Coyle and Dougie Freedman’s Bolton reigns before moving onto Neil Lennon in part three when I will also try to find a conclusion to the question are Phil Gartside’s managerial appointments all bad?