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The Megson era: As bad as we remember?

A decade on from his hiring, were Wanderers fans too harsh on Gary Megson?

Bayern Munich v Bolton Wanderers - UEFA Cup Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images

I can remember the day Sammy Lee was sacked as Bolton Wanderers manager as if it was yesterday.

There was no doubting Little Sam was a brilliant coach, as he had shown as Big Sam's assistant. Although as a manager, he was a fish out of water. Eager to get out of the shadow of Allardyce, Sammy Lee tried to change too much too fast.

He alienated key players like Kevin Nolan and Gary Speed, a decision which ultimately led to him losing the dressing room and his job.

Former Wigan Athletic manager Paul Jewell and former Fulham manager Chris Coleman were considered to be the front runners to replace Little Sam, as well as Steve Bruce and David O'Leary. Although, there was only one man for Phil Gartside. That man, was the then Leicester City manager, Gary Megson. Megson was a bewildering choice. He'd only been with the Foxes for little over a month, and hadn't managed in the Premier League for three years since his departure from West Bromwich Albion.

As you well know, Megson signed and was officially unveiled on this day ten years ago ahead of Wanderers' UEFA Cup game against Braga.

After drawing his first few games, Megson slowly won some of the fans respect with a few eye catching results. Bolton's first league win in the Megson era came against Manchester United, courtesy of a Nicolas Anelka goal that sealed Wanderers' first home win against The Red Devils for three decades.

Then, Megson masterminded an astounding 2-2 away at Bayern Munich with a squad mainly made of fringe players. Without the likes of Jussi Jääskeläinen, El-Hadji Diouf, Nicolas Anelka and Ivan Campo, Wanderers held German giants Bayern on a historic night. When you look at how strong that Munich side was as well, it makes the result even more special.

Wanderers would then go on to beat Red Star Belgrade to become the first English side to ever win there. Wanderers would reach the last 16, knocking out Spanish side Atletico Madrid along the way.

Crvena Zvezda v Bolton Wanderers - Uefa Cup Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

In his first season, Megson managed to keep Bolton in the league, finishing 16th, before improving that the season after with a 13th place finish in the 2008/2009 season.

Megson, once dubbed 'Ginger Mourinho' by the fans despite a strained relationship, was sacked on 30th December 2009. A two year tenure full of the highest highs and the lowest lows. Gary Megson certainly had some great times in charge of Bolton, but his shortcomings will and have lingered in the minds of Wanderers fans for a long time.

You can pinpoint why Wanderers fans never took to Gary Megson. Firstly, Gary Megson signed a lot of players for large amounts of money. In an effort to keep Bolton in the Premier League, Megson was gifted millions to improve the side, the money that Phil Gartside was so reluctant to let Big Sam spend.

Some of the players Megson signed were brilliant. Gary Cahill, Ivan Klasnic, Mark Davies, Chungy were the pick of the bunch, whilst the likes of Fabrice Muamba, Sam Ricketts, Matt Taylor, Gretar Steinsson and Paul Robinson had moments of quality.

Where Megson went wrong was not replacing integral players with adequate players. Nicolas Anelka left for Chelsea and was replaced by Grzegorz Rasiak and Mustapha Riga joined to replace El-Hadji Diouf.

Kevin Nolan was sold at the end of the January transfer window in 2009 to Newcastle United. A move which was right at the time, albeit last minute, was the correct one to make. But a replacement arrived six months later in the shape of Sean Davis, as Megson spent too long persuading Sporting Lisbon to sell Miguel Veloso.

You can also look at Megson's tactics as another reason why Wanderers fans never warmed to him. The style of football was similar to Big Sam's, but it was the way Wanderers would race into an early lead and then proceed to sit back that angered many fans. Sometimes it would pay off, although most times it would lead to several points being dropped. Games against Blackburn Rovers away and Hull City at home spring to mind.

There was also the decision to rest several key players ahead of the UEFA Cup last sixteen game against Sporting Lisbon, as the league was more important. Perhaps the right idea, it ultimately wouldn't matter as Wanderers went on to lose the league game 1-0 away to Wigan Athletic. Looking back, who knows how far Bolton could have gone in Europe with a bit more ambition.

Finally and the most important factor, was Gary Megson's relationship with Bolton Wanderers fans. He may have been hired amongst some animosity, but Megson didn't help himself in the following two years. He often blamed results on the 'pathetic' supporters.

Looking back, Bolton had some fantastic times under the stewardship of Gary Megson. Keeping Wanderers in the Premier League was a terrific achievement, whilst the nights in Europe will never be forgotten.

Despite all the good Gary Megson seemingly did, Megson's cold attitude towards the Wanderers fans means he's likely to be loathed than loved.