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Bolton Nuts » BWFC » Bolton Wanderers Banter » Neil Lennon - My Opinion Of The Story So Far

Neil Lennon - My Opinion Of The Story So Far

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luckyPeterpiper

luckyPeterpiper
Frank Worthington
Frank Worthington
Last Saturday (28th February 2015) was Neil Lennon’s 26th match in all competitions as Bolton Wanderers manager. We won a rather scrappy encounter one nil thanks to a goal from Clough that, thanks to other results gave us a welcome breathing space between ourselves and the bottom three in the Championship. Now, while relegation is not yet impossible I do think it’s become exceedingly unlikely and as a result I thought this would be a good time to post my thoughts on how our manger is doing.

The results have been something of a mixed bag. In fact Neil’s record to date is :

Played 26 Won 11 Drawn 6 Lost 9 to give him a win percentage of 42.31%

During Neil’s tenure since he joined us in October 2014 we have moved away from the relegation zone to 14th, dropped back to 19th and at one point today could have been 20th but now sit 17th in the Championship where we appear to be likely to hold steady. Given where we were and how we were performing prior to his arrival it could be argued that this constitutes a success for the Northern Irishman and that he will now have a foundation to build on in the summer to try and push up the league towards the play offs or even automatic promotion in the 2015/16 season. 

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It could also be argued that he hasn’t shown the improvement we all hoped for and many expected by the fact we’re not in the top half of the table now much less pushing for a play off place. Some fans on this very forum, myself included did in fact believe that to be a genuine possibility until as late as mid-January. 

So is Neil succeeding or failing? Is a win ratio of 42% a sign that things are going to get better or has the recent woeful run simply shown us that he’s peaked already? Personally I think it’s more likely to be the former than the latter but some people would disagree.

However there’s more to be said for a manager’s impact than a simple look at bare statistics will ever tell us. Football, like so many sports and other forms of entertainment is often a subjective rather than objective experience where the mood is at least as important as the results. A classic case would be a comparison of Owen Coyle and Gary Megson. Both men finished 14th in the prem in their first full season in charge and the points total was very similar but look at the whole picture and you’ll see a huge difference in how the results were perceived.

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Under Megson the mood was foul, darker than at any time I can remember in almost 40 years of following the trotters. The football was dire, the manager had branded us ‘pathetic’ and we’d spent all season nervously eyeing the drop zone until the 36th game. Megson spent more money than any previous BWFC manager had ever been given and while he did buy some very good players he immediately proved he had no idea how to use them or motivate them. He constantly bigged himself up with the mantra ‘We were below Derby when I came in’ when he wasn’t busy telling us that ‘Football People know what a good job I’m doing’ which suggested he believed the fans knew nothing and weren’t entitled to an opinion anyway. By the end of that horror show season I took the painful step of refusing to renew my season ticket for the first time in 21 years and I didn’t set foot in the Macron (Reebok) Stadium again while Megson was the manager. When he finally went on ‘gardening leave’ there was mass delight amongst BWFC fans almost everywhere after a dark period that seemed to threaten a permanent split between them and the club itself. 

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Contrast that to Owen Coyle. Under Coyle we all still felt very optimistic and were for the most part enjoying the football. The black spot was the FA Cup semi-final against Stoke but generally we agreed it had been an excellent and entertaining season where European qualification had been a real possibility until about March when tired legs and a thin squad caught up with us. Sure Owen had been a bit naïve tactically sometimes but he’d gone out to play attacking and exciting football and at least we’d never needed to look over our shoulders at the relegation zone. Of course we all know what followed but even at the end when the axe fell no one really wished Owen ill. We felt sorry it hadn’t worked out because he was a decent guy who’d done his best by us. It turned out not to be good enough but no one threw parties because he was sacked.  

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We then got Dougie Freedman, a man who I knew very little about as a manager when he came onboard. He started out well, so well we thought we were going to get into the play offs at his first attempt but then the match against Blackpool killed that dream and made many of us begin to question Dougie’s abilities. His team selection and tactics for that day still baffle me now. The following season he played a Megson-esque brand of football that led to our worst start in over a century, saw us hammered 7-1 by Reading and spend most of the season looking at the possibility of League One football. It became clear to all of us over that season that Dougie only knew one approach and that he seemed incapable of motivating players over a long term. Loanees came to our rescue and performed superbly for the second season on the trot but the writing was already there on the wall for all to see. It wasn’t quite as bad as the rift between club and fans that happened in Megson’s time but it was definitely heading that way and when he started this season just as badly if not worse than last it really was only a matter of time before he had to go.

This brings us to Neil Lennon. He isn’t performing miracles but neither is he dragging us all down into a mire of depression either. What he’s done so far is bring back some spark and entertainment wherever possible but he’s also handicapped by a wafer thin squad and zero budget that means even the greatest manager would have a hard time making us promotion contenders. The injury list is horrific, the squad has no strength in depth and there’s no real expectation that we will be buying big in the summer. And yet I and many others feel cautiously optimistic because for all the barriers he faces Neil is getting the results we need when we need them. Take Saturday's game, it was essential that we got that win especially after the last few games on the road had left us teetering on the brink of being dragged back into the dogfight. We got it, maybe not prettily but we got the three points that allow us all to breathe a little easier today.

For my money Neil is the best manager we’ve had since Sam Allardyce and like the big man himself he knows how to adapt his game plan to suit out strengths and exploit the opposition’s weaknesses. When we’ve lost under him it’s not been the system at fault, it’s just we don’t have much in the way of quality available right now. If I was a Headmaster giving him a progess report I’d give Neil a solid B+ for his work so far. It’s improving the club but there’s plenty more work to be done. However I do feel that if anyone can do it then that man is Neil Lennon. He’s got the mix of brains, nerve, skill and luck that any manager needs to be successful. Come the summer we’ll get back most if not all of those currently on the sick list and with that nucleus to build around and promising youngsters like Clough finally getting a real chance to shine I think we’ll see a very different start to the term than the last two. I have genuine faith that Neil can do it and more importantly will do it.

Boggersbelief

Boggersbelief
Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
It was inevitable that we would suffer a slump under lennon, im amazed at how long we went unbeaten considering all our injuries. All signs so far tell me that lennon will be a success.. With a summer to rebuild and the likes of vela and clough getting valuable championship experience, plus Clayton/Mdavies to return we will look a much better team next season.

Top half will be the bare minimum

Sluffy

Sluffy
Admin
Great article Peter.

If you don't mind we will arrange for it to be put on Nuts NewsNow, Twitter and Facebook accounts so that it gets to more Wanderers fans to read.

We would love more Nuts articles to feature and help publicise our site, so come on Nutters, tell us what you think of anything to do with the Wanderers (past or present) - favourite player, best match you've seen, best away trip, worst pies eaten - anything at all really - and we will let the world know your opinons and views - all your pride (and sometimes pain) of being a Bolton fan!

wanderlust

wanderlust
Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
I'm not sure how useful it is to compare our current manager with previous managers for several reasons including:
1. all of the recent ones have had a bounce effect and then faded and it's too early to know for sure what will happen under Neil's tenure in the longer term if he stays
2. as a result of the bounce, all of them can point to the guy that preceded them as a benchmark upon which they can argue they have improved - at some point of their tenure it was always going to be true
3. we've no idea what level of support each has received from the Board and/or whether its been the same for each
4. there is a load of baggage associated with previous managers - and what they do can't be judged by the media image at the end of their tenure. Freedman was probably more popular with the fans when we went on that run up the table only to finish outside the playoffs by a whisker than Lennon is now - but that's not what the fans choose to remember because he left at a low point
5. the manager's role is not just about the first X1 performance - especially in a club like ours that needs a strong academy pipeline to allow us to compete in the future

What is clear is that confidence in Lennon is relatively high - perhaps "cautiously optimistic" is a measure of the tone?
However, it's way too early to judge him because whilst he is facing the same difficulties in terms of finances and key injuries that previous managers had, he is benefitting from the youth development work done by others as Clough, Vela, Kellett and others come to maturity so the timing of his arrival (the only way is up - literally) has been a boost to Lennon. Plus the bounce effect has only just stopped so we need to see how he handles it.
Worst case scenario is that Lennon is planning to move to a "bigger club" and is prepared to sacrifice our long term development for the short term success he needs to move on, but like everyone else I'm hoping that isn't the case.
We'll know a lot more about Mr Lennon at the beginning of next season when he's had another transfer window under his belt and I for one will be suspending my judgement until then.

luckyPeterpiper

luckyPeterpiper
Frank Worthington
Frank Worthington
Cautiously optimistic. That's pretty much exactly how I feel lusty and by and large I share your reasons. If Neil is to be the success I believe he will be then we need him to stay and not vanish halfway through next term to a bigger club. I'm actually convinced he's a great manager who will do us very proud if he remains at the helm for as long as Sam did but in this day and age for clubs like ours it seems most managers are either gone somewhere bigger or sacked for failure long before that kind of time has passed. 

As to your point about the rest of the club's infrastructure it's well taken. However to date Neil seems far more willing to actually play the youngsters rather than just talk about them or farm them out to all the corners of the world on loan. He walks the walk and if he occasionally slams into a wall doing it better that than a man who talks a good game but doesn't even turn up when it's crunch time. Neil has made errors, he'll make more but he learns from them and isn't married to a single system the way previous incumbents have been. 

His willingness to change things around when needed and to accept his first idea might not be the best one for the circumstances is something I find extremely encouraging. But as I said in my article, that's how I see it so far. Neil Lennon's Bolton Wanderers is a work in progress not a finished article. Will he craft a masterpiece or will it be something you find on a scrapheap after the better junk has already gone? I can't claim to know, all I can say is that from where I sit the signs are pretty bright. In another year we'll all know for sure what we have and for the first time in quite a while I'm actually looking forward to that.

luckyPeterpiper

luckyPeterpiper
Frank Worthington
Frank Worthington
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] wrote:Great article Peter.

If you don't mind we will arrange for it to be put on Nuts NewsNow, Twitter and Facebook accounts so that it gets to more Wanderers fans to read.

We would love more Nuts articles to feature and help publicise our site, so come on Nutters, tell us what you think of anything to do with the Wanderers (past or present) - favourite player, best match you've seen, best away trip, worst pies eaten - anything at all really - and we will let the world know your opinons and views - all your pride (and sometimes pain) of being a Bolton fan!

Feel free to use it however you like mate. It's there for people to read and give their opinions on and the wider the audience the better I hope the debate will be.

Keegan

Keegan
Moderator
Moderator
Good read, LPP. I more or less share your views. As a manager, I don't think Lennon is by any means the finished article, but he has been made to learn how to manage under less than ideal circumstances - which should make him a better manager. Hopefully, for us.

https://forum.boltonnuts.co.uk

BoltonTillIDie

BoltonTillIDie
Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Some feedback from Facebook:

Great read . Spot on
Great article I couldn't agree more, once we get those injured players back and possibly bring in a few players that Neil wants over the summer I'm sure next season will be a more promising one!
Super read that was

karlypants

karlypants
Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
There has actually been a comment left on the articles as well...


James
02/03/2015 2:52pm

Really???? Like NL but we ve seen why PL chairmen are still suspicious. Totally disagree re others. Megson beat UTD and took us on some glorious runs. Signed quality and had top earners sold beneath him. Coyle was The Emperors Clothes,team was never expected to get relegated when we were. Persisted with Robinson,Eagles and put Blake and Mears on ridiculous contracts. He got sacked at Wigan after less than 6 months. He s now in MLS and he ll get sacked there. A legend in his own lunchbox.
Freedman s even more of a hard done by manager. Will Lennon take us on a straight 8 or 10 match winning streak?? Doubt it but DF will take Forest into play offs. Dougie sorted the crap and big wages left by Comedian Coyle. The former an astute young coach with no money at BW the latter a charlatan who wrecked 11 year legacy and wasted a fortune. Ask Klasnic,Davo and Cahill who I met in London recently. And I quote ' Owen was clueless'.

Guest


Guest
@karlypants wrote:Ask Klasnic,Davo and Cahill who I met in London recently. And I quote ' Owen was clueless'.

Very Happy

I can just see it now, Klasnic Davies and Cahill meeting up for their annual sightseeing trip in London, running into James the Bolton fan they've presumably never met and slagging Coyle off to him.

Natasha Whittam

Natasha Whittam
Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
bwfc1874 wrote:

I can just see it now, Klasnic Davies and Cahill meeting up for their annual sightseeing trip in London, running into James the Bolton fan they've presumably never met and slagging Coyle off to him.

Very Happy

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