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You're Hired: with Phil Gartside - Part 3

Jamie concludes his autopsy of Gartside’s managerial appointments with the final instalment of a series asking are his managerial appointments all bad?

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I looked at Sammy Lee and Gary Megson in part one and then Owen Coyle and Dougie Freedman in part two. Now it’s the turn of Neil Lennon and we will see if I can reach a conclusion to the question are Phil Gartside’s managerial appointments all bad?

Freedman was of course replaced by Neil Lennon. When it was announced that he had joined the club I won’t lie I was very excited, more excited about being a Bolton fan than I had been in years. Lennon was the most googled manager after his appointment and I think it’s fair to say brought a real feel good factor back to the club.

I want to put a story in here to sum up the man, just because I can really.

My parents were staying at the hotel at the Macron.

Having just watched Bolton Wanderers beat the mighty Huddersfield Town my Mother was popping back to the room. There was a woman lying in the corridor so my Mum asked whether she was ok and she said ‘yeah the room key isn’t working my husband has gone to get it sorted out’.

My mother then quips ‘so you don’t normally lie in hotel corridors then?’ At that point a voice from behind says ‘yeah she does it all the time’. The husband Neil Lennon returned with his son who my parents had met earlier in the lift when he had informed them he was ‘supporting Bolton today because my Dad is the manager’.

I think that story gives an interesting insight into Neil Lennon the man behind the scenes and away from the media spotlight. But now let’s get into Lennon as Bolton manager.

This is a hard one in a way. Lennon has made mistakes as Bolton manager, that Middlesbrough match being the best example. There are also aspects of his management I am not a fan of. For example I think he sometimes leaves substitutions too late in the game. Despite his flaws and a 30% win rate he still has the backing of myself and a large portion of the Bolton fan base.

For me it’s his honesty. He won’t mince his words, will hold his hands up when he gets it wrong and is refreshingly honest about how Bolton did. Refreshing is the optimum word after the Freeman era.

I hope that Lennon is here for many years. I don’t think that there is anyone out there who could do a better job for Bolton at the moment and that he can be a success at the club. His appointment was defiantly a massive coup for the club.

Only time will tell whether this is a good or bad appointment by Gartside. At this point I think it is a good appointment, but if things start going wrong Gartside could be criticised for appointing a manager with no experience in the English leagues with his only experience being the very different surroundings of Glasgow Celtic.

So are Phil Gartside’s managerial appointments all bad?

Lee’s appointment was clearly a mistake though one with a sound and logical basis. But as I said in part one I think it was a missed opportunity and that someone more established should have been brought into the club at that point. As such this was a bad move by Gartside which he should be held accountable for.

Next up was Megson. A man no Bolton fan wanted who was also not Gartside’s first choice. As I said in part one I did believe it was time for him to go, but he did a good job at Bolton in my opinion and should be thanked for keeping the club up and stabilising it the next season.

As such I think that this was a good appointment by Gartside. Most if not all will disagree with me on this, but in my opinion this is one that Gartside got right and a manager like Megson was a good fit for the club at that point in time.

Coyle’s reign contained more highs and lows than an alpine ski resort and ended up being a failure. But considering how much Bolton fans wanted him to be the manager, along his reputation when he joined the club and indeed for the first year or so he was in charge this was a good appointment at the time.

It is only with hindsight that Gartside got this wrong. I think this means that he should not be blamed, or at least not as much as people do for getting this one wrong.

Freedman though is another story altogether. This was a terrible appointment no doubt about it. I said when looking at Freedman in part two that I wanted Mick McCarthy to be brought in and I stand by that, especially after Ipswich Town’s good start to the season! This is the one appointment which he without a doubt got very wrong with no saving grace or logical basis to point too in my book.

The appointment of Freedman being such a bad move means that the next one had to be the right man for the job.

Lennon as stated above is the unknown quantity here. It is too soon to say if he will be a success or a failure. If Lennon’s appointment is a success then that would swing me to thinking that Gartside is good at appointing managers.

If though Lennon’s appointment turns out to be a failure then the next appointment should be taken out of Gartside’s hands without a shadow of a doubt.

I will end this series though by adding context in relation to all of the managers.

At the beginning of part one I set out Sam Allardyce’s many achievements as Bolton manager. This is the shadow in which all of the managers since have had to operate within. There is no doubt that the Allardyce era was one of the best the club has ever enjoyed. To expect other managers to live up to that is harsh.

If Allardyce had not achieved all that he did then maybe the likes of Megson and Coyle would be remembered in a far better light as keeping a club the size of Bolton in the Premier League is a great achievement.

Maybe in 30 years-time we will look back at the first decade AA (After Allardyce) and ask will we ever have it so good again?