When Neil Lennon was appointed as manager of Bolton Wanderers, I, for one, was absolutely delighted. Fresh from a title winning season with Celtic and a summer of punditry on the beaches of Brazil, I was amazed that the Northern Irishman would've even considered joining a club that were bottom of the Championship in October 2014. Alas, the late Phil Gartside's persuasion skills must've been top notch, as Lennon agreed to manage us and everyone was happy.
I'm not going to bother with the gory details of how our 2014/15 season slowly ground to a halt thanks to a truly merciless run of injuries and lack of readily available funds because that's been talked about at length over the last 18 months. What I am going to talk about, however, is how much of a fraud Neil Lennon is.
I'd go as far as to say I have openly backed the guy over 100 times. To justify his underachievement I citied reasons such as those I've already mentioned: lack of funds, injuries, not having enough time to bring in his own players and so on and so forth. To a certain degree I felt sorry for the man; he'd clearly been sold a dud by Gartisde and Eddie Davies and was very quickly realising that the task at hand was much more difficult that anyone could've ever imagined.
For me, distant alarm bells started ringing in summer. We signed three players capable of playing at right back (Lawrie Wilson, Francesco Pisano and Derik Osede) and yet before the end of September, right-back merry-go-round had begun and Josh Vela had already been dealt the graveyard shift. Why did we sign those players and not draft at least one of them into the starting line up immediately? Derik played a handful of games in his natural position before getting injured but he had an absolute stinker at right back on more than one occasion. To me, it seemed as though Lennon made as many signings as possible in summer and simply hoped they'd come good which is piss poor management. He also failed to re-secure the services of Adam Le Fondre (or secure those of any half-decent forward, for that matter) which was probably down to funding, but has really fucked us over all the same. Just last night in his post-Ipswich interview, Lennon said we've been lacking a real poacher in front of goal all season. No shit, Sherlock.
Then came the departure of Johan Mjällby, one of Lennon's trusted lieutenants. I wrote a piece about this just after Christmas (I've even linked it for you, but here it is again, so make sure you read it) so I won't repeat myself, but this was a real kick in the dick for old Neil. There are very few managers in the world that can function alone, without their backroom team, and Neil Lennon is certainly not one of these. The Celtic success story does not belong to him as an individual, but the team he managed that included Mjällby and Garry Parker. They complete him, so to speak, and the loss of my favourite Swede spelled further disaster for Lennon and ultimately, Bolton Wanderers.
Fast forward a couple of months and we've flirted with administration, staff haven't been paid and our festive period is looking rather bleak. When a club is almost down and out, like we were when it was announced administration was a very real possibility and HMRC were banging down our door, the only thing that could possibly spur the fans, the town and the general local community on is results on the pitch. As the manager of our football club he should strive for success, even in the darkest of times, and do everything he can to keep the club above water on the pitch. I feel as though he's been consumed by the off-field issues this season, leading him to make some truly terrible ones on it.
Aside from him conceding his tactics (three at the back) against Middlesborough in August were completely wrong, I can't think of one other time this season where he's taken responsibility for us dropping points. He's regularly played players out of position - Josh Vela at right back, Mark Davies in a wide midfield role, Liam Feeney all over the fucking show, to name a few - and failed to make substitutions when we've been so desperately crying out for a change of shape or tactics during a game. When he does make substitutions they come way too late and feature the wrong players - regularly taking off bright youngsters like Zach Clough and Wellington Silva, only for them to be replaced by the likes of Emile Heskey and Stephen Dobbie. Last night's game against Ipswich was a testament to that; bringing Dobbie on with six minutes of normal time to play when we had the upper hand in a game and were chasing a point, if not all three. He's injected youth into the team, no doubt about that, but when players like Kaiyne Woolery are knocking on the door, week in, week out and scoring goals like he did at Leeds, I find it very difficult to understand why they don't start over has-beens like Emile Heskey. We have young, hungry players that will make us better and win us games and yet we've drawn so many this season due to lack of quality in the final third. I feel as though he's looking too far into the distance to see what's right in front of him: a simple, easy, accessible solution to a large percentage of our on-field problems.
I believed in Neil Lennon when he first joined Bolton Wanderers. I thought we'd turned a corner as a football club and were finally ready to make it back to the big time, with a bit of hard work to get us there. Since October 2014 there have been so many ups and downs supporting this football club I don't even know where to begin, but there's one thing that's crystal clear to me now: Neil Lennon does not give a flying fuck about Bolton Wanderers. His team selection in the last couple of games has been abysmal and it says to me that he knows his days at our club are numbered. Instead of writing himself a place in the club's history books as one of the many managers that tried, relentlessly, to make us better, he's slowly turning from knight in shining armour to pantomime villain; the man that does what he wants, regardless of the consequences.
Mr Lennon, I thank you for your service and wish you all the best in the future but your time has come. This was a challenge that was simply too much too soon in your managerial career, and now it's time to move on. Please leave our club.
No seriously, please go.
Oh, but before you do, can we borrow a few million for a centre forward please? Cheers x