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Bolton Wanderers vacancy opinion: Why securing Stelios should be priority One for Tobias Phoenix

Forget nostalgia. The Bolton legend is a perfect candidate for the academy manager position.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Bolton Wanderers v Derby County - Reebok Stadium Photo by Dave Thompson - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

It was the 24th of July 2020 when the official Bolton Wanderers website announced a new vacancy at the club. The head of football operations, Tobias Phoenix was after a new academy manager after the previous incumbent, Jimmy Phillips, had decided to end his 12 years in the role.

Phillips had presided over a successful period at the academy having produced the likes of: Rob Holding, Zach Clough, Luca Connell, Josh Vela, Joe Riley and a handful of other who still ply their trade throughout the football league.

The reason Jimmy had decided to step away from the role was due to the academy restructure enacted by the aforementioned, Phoenix. Phoenix’s plan included dropping to a category 3 academy and discontinuing the under 23 team. The plans aims where to fast track younger talent in to the first team and to have an academy more in line with the club’s stature and income. Whilst this plan did not require Phillips to resign, he evidently felt the time was right stating:

“After 30 years’ service at Bolton Wanderers both as a player and member of staff, I feel the time has now come for me to pursue new challenges both personally and professionally.”

The responsibilities of the new academy manager will include:

  • Work with the Head of Football Operations and 1st Team Manager to develop and communicate the Club’s football philosophy and ensure compliance from all Academy and related staff.
  • Liaise with 1st Team coaching staff to ensure regular feedback and discussion on all aspects of player performance and development.
  • Draw up the Academy Performance Plan; monitor and give regular feedback on the plan to the Chief Executive and Head of Football Operations, setting out a remedial action plan if necessary.
  • Design, implement and manage the Academy’s coaching programme in conjunction with the Head of Coaching.
  • Recruit, develop and manage Academy staff, carrying out regular performance reviews in line with Club guidelines.
  • Build and maintain relationships with parents of academy players cultivating open and honest discussions on player development, performance and future.
  • Be an ambassador of BWFC giving excellent customer service at all times, portraying a professional image throughout each interaction.

By and large it’s a fairly standard remit of an academy manager. Many though that long term Under 23’s manager, David Lee, deserves a crack. A view I have a great deal of sympathy with. Yet it was an innocuous post on another Bolton Legend’s LinkedIn page that made me realise the obvious candidate was (about to move) a little closer to home.

One legend touting another.

Kevin Daives is giving either informal or formal help (in his new role in sport management) to Wanderers legend, Stelios Giannakopoulos. You’ll note that one of the two jobs the former winger is after exactly matches the job title that the club had advertised only days earlier. Coincidence or indirect statement of intent from Stelios? Whilst this could be a coincidence, the timing, use of another Bolton legend and the identical job title make it too interesting to ignore.

Whilst many love Stelios and nothing gets people hyped quite like a returning legend the question would be, is he right for the role? Setting aside that Stelios is quite possibly my favourite player of all time, absolutely.

Since retiring from playing, Stelios’ CV is as impressive as you can read. In 2010 he was voted in as President of the Greek Professional Footballers Association. A job that involved representing players and dealing with disputes during one of the most tumultuous times in Greek football. He has managed 2 teams in his native Greece and has most recently become the assistant manager to the Greek national football team.

His experience as President of Professional Footballers Association clearly demonstrates many of the attributes mentioned by the job advert. None more so than liaising and building relationships with players, coaches, Phoenix, parents and Sharron Brittan which was a key theme picked out of several of the requirements. I can’t think of a better job that would offer the experience of dealing with such a wide variety of stakeholders. This is in addition to his legendary personable personality which could only be an asset when building the vital relationships that academies live on.

His involvement in management gives him a great grounding in being able to develop the academy coaching programme that the advert specifies and his appointment in 2019 as assistant manager of the Greek national team is a huge endorsement of his abilities as a coach at the highest level.

The cache his name carries, not just in the area but in world football would be a significant boost in the stature of the academy and as his CV shows, he is more than qualified for the role. Would he come to a League 2 club? I’ll let his own words to Marc Iles of the Bolton News answer that.

[Asked whether he would ever return to Bolton in some capacity] “I would do it yesterday,” he smiled...Time has not dulled Stelios’ passion for Bolton.

Enough said.

The final point I make will be sentimental. As I mentioned, Stelios is arguably my favourite player of all time. He has an infectious personality that rubs off on those around him. He has a genuine love for this club which shows in his actions. He tried his best to get a consortium together to buy us when it looked like we were finished. He came and sat in the stands with us fans in 2018. That’s the year we were relegated and were long removed from the glamour of the Premier League days. These are the actions of a club legend. He might not have had the time here of Kevin Davies or the goals of Nat Lofthouse but he has the love for the club that only legend possess. So why wouldn’t you want to capture and harness the energy that bringing that man back would unleash? Why wouldn’t you want you want to hire someone who would run through walls for the club? Tobias Phoenix has shown himself to be shrewd and ambitious with his captures of Ian Evatt and our signings this season. It’s time to show that nous and ambition again and bring Stelios back home.

Stelios with the fans in 2018
Photo courtesy of @footy_joe on twitter