On January 24th I made a mistake, and it’s about time I owned up to it.
Bolton had just lost 2-1 away at Tranmere Rovers and to me, the season was over. I was on the verge of calling for Ian Evatt’s head in the aftermath of Bolton’s 3-0 defeat at home to Tranmere in December, such is my hatred of them and the disgraceful ineptitude of our performance. This defeat, a month later, though, sent me over the edge. I had had enough.
I’ll remind you of what I said in my player ratings article on the 24th:
Ian Evatt 1
You can put my name down on the petition, and my god I hope this comes to bite me in the arse, but I am now officially EVATT OUT.
The arguments for him are thus:
- Not his players
- Hasn’t had time
- Players’ fault, not his
Firstly, they are his players. He may not be the person who signed them, but he has had since last August in which to work with them. Over that time he has indeed been lumbered with some players who just are not good enough, but you can filter those out over time and play the ones who are good enough. We have more than enough who are good enough: Gilks, Santos, Brockbank, John, Sarcevic, Tutte, Lee, Taft, Isgrove, Darcy, Thomason, Jones, Doyle, Delfouneso and Gnahoua. It’s pathetic that he cannot, after all that time, get them playing in a system that is effective. All this nonsense about a “Barca-style of play” is madness. Just do the basics right, play the dirty side of the game in a smart way and for the love of god play to the strengths of your best, sodding player in Doyle.
Secondly, he has had time. He has the safest job in football for god’s sake. In any other job he’d have been sacked months ago. We have given him time, much more time than it took for him to get going with Barrow. It has gone on for so long and I wouldn’t mind if I felt we were slowly making progress, but we aren’t. If anything, we have gotten worse. Anyone worth their salt would have worked out what the key issues are and fixed them. He hasn’t.
Finally, the players have to share the blame, of course they do. They don’t start playing until they go behind. It has been that way all season long. Is that their fault? Partly. However, it’s the manager’s responsibility to motivate his team and they can only be motivated, it seems, by fear of a score deficit. Given that that is the case, surely the way to motivate them is to impress upon them just how unbelievably embarrassing it is to be where they are as Bolton Wanderers FC. Maybe tell them that they are at the pinnacle of their careers and if they don’t get that then start people like Darcy and Brockbank who grew up with this club and who do get it.
I see all of these issues and I truly believe I know how to resolve them. Under Phil Parkinson, I didn’t get that feeling. I honestly felt he had the most impossible job that I had no idea how to do well. This is different. Evatt has the tools and is neglecting to use them properly. For that reason, I think he has to go.”
If you have gotten through all that, I commend you. It was, on reflection, total garbage from a man who let his anger get the better of him.
In the 10 matches since the Neil Hair-tastrophe at Prenton Park, Bolton have collected 26 points from a possible 30. They have conceded only 5 goals, scored 16, and played utterly magnificently. There is still a long way to go as we sit 7th in the League Two table, but given we sat 17th following the Tranmere defeat, the turnaround has been nothing short of miraculous.
Evatt has brought in superb-looking signings in MJ Williams, Dapo Afolayan, Kieran Lee and Declan John. He has swallowed his pride and changed the formation of the team to better suit his players. He has found a centre-back pairing that has turned a horrifically leaky backline into one that can be trusted. In short, he has put his stamp on the squad at last.
At the time of my outburst, there were some who agreed with me. Those who did not, counselled patience, and they were right. Whatever happens this season, and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that we still miss out on promotion so shocking was our start to the campaign, we are seeing the team play in the way we were promised last July. The victory over Cambridge was gained by playing the best football seen at the Reebok in a decade. We are looking forward to watching Bolton again. It’s marvellous.
So to finish, all that’s left to say is that I was wrong, and as I said at the time, nobody is happier to be wrong than me!