When Tobias Phoenix was appointed as Bolton Wanderers’ very own “job title is irrelevant” in February 2020, the fanbase could be heard far and wide asking one another “who?”.
Now, over 250 days since, we are still wondering. A not-very-insightful article in the Bolton Evening News attempted to give us some meat on the bones regarding his pedigree. His sporting chops (enough with the meat puns) had been called into question since day one, given the absolute (and some would say unnerving) lack of information about who he is, who he was, what he does and how on earth he managed to get the job in the first place.
Which leads us to today. Over 250 days since his appointment. With the club floundering at the wrong end of League Two, with a young up-and-coming manager struggling to make the impact that he (and Tobias Phoenix) expected, where did it all go wrong?
The signing of Ian Evatt was lauded as the most forward-thinking appointment that the club had made in years. There was little to dissuade the fans, at that point, from planning where they were going to be in March 2021 when the title was confirmed at the earliest possible moment. Since then, each new signing has been announced to great fanfare and the virtues of each has been extolled in the strongest terms by Evatt as he began to put into place the chess pieces that Mr Phoenix had given to him.
For example -
Ricardo Santos: “Ricardo has all the attributes required to be an outstanding centre back for this football club”
Billy Crellin: “He is the modern day goalkeeper who is very agile, great with the ball at his feet and commands his area well”
Antoni Sarcevic and Eoin Doyle: “Of course Eoin and Antoni with their records in this division set that standard that we need to get to. ‘Bringing them two in kind of sends shockwaves to everyone else that we’re here and we mean business and we certainly do this season, there is no doubt about it.”
Brandon Comley: “Brandon is a technically gifted midfield player who can build attacks with his range of passing as well as be dynamic out of possession”
Is it any wonder that fans were excited? I have no doubt that Evatt signed off on these signings, but given the model that we are supposed to be employing, then the fingerprints of Tobias Phoenix are all over these new boys. It would be a stretch to say that any of them have impressed on a consistent basis thus far.
So what next? As each poor result comes and goes so do the cries from the e-terraces for a change. Evatt appears to be the most likely at this time, not that we can afford to pot him, but are we looking in the wrong place? There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to adhere to a sporting philosophy, but there should also be an understanding that in this most competitive of leagues we need to do whatever it is we have to do to get points on board.
Dispensing with the ‘project’ is one way of changing things. It might not bring about immediate change on the field, but I think it would be a show of faith in a manager who is under pressure. Phoenix is the easy choice. He’s had time to get it right and whilst it might be too soon to say that his choices in terms of manager and playing staff are poor ones, can we afford to wait any longer?