In part one I looked at Sammy Lee and Gary Megson as I began the process of analysing Bolton Wanderers chairman Phil Gartside’s managerial appointments in the period that will forever be known as AA (After Allardyce).
When Megson was shown the door the Bolton faithful had their heart set on one man to replace him and all our dreams came true when a certain Owen Coyle was poached from near neighbours Burnley much to their annoyance (which just made it so much better for me, a very specific Inbetweeners quote would fit in here!).
Coyle managed to win 33% of him games in charge in a spell which of course saw the end to Bolton’s Premier League years. After a good start keeping Bolton in the top flight, then pushing up the top end of the league and reaching an FA cup semi-final it all went very wrong for Coyle.
Many people point to the FA cup tie, which was the single worst Bolton game I have had the displeasure of watching live, as the catalyst for Bolton’s fall from grace. But that catalyst had come a few weeks earlier at the beginning of Stuart Holden’s injury woes.
I have no doubt that had Holden, or Chung-Young Lee for that matter, been fit the year we got relegated that we would have stayed up. I also though believe that had we been led by a more pragmatic manager that we would have also stayed up. Sadly Coyle was far too attacking centric, and I believe that is what cost us our Premier League status in the end.
Coyle had spectacular records at Falkirk (winning 63% of his games), St Johnstone and Burnley. But the club he has managed the most games for is Bolton Wanderers at 126. He was only in charge of Falkirk for 19 games then St Johnstone for 70 and Burnley for 116. Although that does not make him an inexperienced manager maybe Bolton would have been better served appointing someone with more experience.
But the success he had at certain points at Bolton was shown as he was linked with Aston Villa and Liverpool. He was seen as one of the up and coming young British managers at the time and getting him in as the new manager was a coup. But with hindsight, which is of course a wonderful thing, we would have been better served with a more pragmatic and experienced manager than Coyle.
So in relation to Coyle at the time it seemed like a good move, but in hindsight less so. Which means how can we blame Gartside for this one? Bolton fans were literally singing his name before he was manager and made it so clear we wanted him to come in. No doubt Gartside would have been abused for not appointing him had he gone down a different route. So to blame Gartside because of how it turned out I think is a bit unfair.
After a poor start to our first season in the second tier of English football for over a decade Coyle was sacked. It can be noted here that in comparison with the seasons since this was actually an incredible start to the season as we were outside the relegation zone when Coyle was given his marching orders!
Then in came Dougie Freedman. Now those of you who have read some of my other pieces may have picked up a subtle vibe that I did not like the man. I will state it here now so that no one is confused though, I really really do not like him (that’s the PG way of putting it at least buy me a cider and you can have the uncensored version…).
When Freedman was appointed Mick McCarthy was a free agent, and I wanted him to be brought in as Coyle’s replacement. Over his career McCarthy has won 40% of his games and is currently on 43% with Ipswich Town, who he joined that very season so has achieved that record in a Championship in which Bolton have struggled. He would have got the best out of the players we had introducing some much needed defensive steal.
In addition to this he has only paid a fee for one player at Ipswich so would have been able to work under Bolton’s financial constraints. I think he would have done a good job at the Macron.
Instead Gartside appointed a man who had only managed 90 games in his career. Now there is no doubt that Freedman did a good job at Palace. He saved them from relegation at a time when they were seriously struggling financially. He then set up a team who were one of the favourites for relegation for promotion to the Premier League which was of course achieved by everyone’s favourite Bristolian Ian Holloway the season Freedman left Palace for Bolton.
I do to an extent feel sorry for Freedman. It seems he was sold a far better financial position than the one he walked into. He then had to spend a lot of his time balancing the books rather than managing a football club. His 35% win rate in charge of the club while not outstanding it is also not that bad.
But he did bring a lot of, how do I put this politely, pathetic players into the club. I will save myself a lot of time by just saying Liam Trotter and Medo and then let those of you reading this fill in the gaps as to what I think of those players and who else might be on that list… There is no doubt that Freedman oversaw a weakening of the playing squad, though in part that is not his fault due to the financial constraints on the club.
He also tried to destroy the career of Josh Vela, who was subject to a £1 million bid from Liverpool before he had kicked a ball for Bolton’s first team, amongst no doubt a number of other youth players. That is where I begin to lose all of my sympathy for the man who showed himself in respect to the way he treated the academy to be a nasty piece of work.
There was also the way in which Kevin Davies’ time at the club came to an end along with Chris Eagles which really did both stink. There was a lack of respect shown to a true Bolton legend in relation to Super Kev, and I hope one day he returns to the club in some capacity. It would be interesting to one day sit down with Eagles and get his full unfiltered opinion of Dougie Freedman. Because to date he has handled the situation with an admirable amount of discretion, which does somewhat dispel the stories Freedman was putting out there about disruptive influences.
With Freedman there was also the fact that he was clearly deluded. I remember talking to someone who had just been to the Brighton and Hove Albion game. He said that Freedman had clearly been at a different match when he claimed that Bolton played well and deserved something from the game. I don’t think there is a single Bolton fan who failed to notice this astonishing delusion!
He then showed his true colours by saying that his players were not good enough to stay in the Championship. I think his successor would probably disagree with that, and this was rightly the last straw as Freedman was sacked shortly afterwards.
All in all I think it is clear that I think this was a disastrous appointment, which rather like after Sam Allardyce left came at a pivotal time.
As a club which had just been relegated it should have been an attractive proposition for a manager such as the aforementioned McCarthy. The club should have appointed an experienced manager with a good track record of promotion from the Championship at this point but really dropped the ball.
In the final instalment of my series on Phil Gartside’s managerial appointments I will look at Neil Lennon before trying to find a conclusion to the question are Phil Gartside’s managerial appointments all bad?