As we look forward to Saturday’s game with Bolton, we caught up with Bolton fan and season ticket holder, Marcus
As we look forward to Saturday’s game with Bolton, we caught up with Bolton fan and season ticket holder, Marcus (@MarcusRalphson). We ask about the resurgence under new boss Neil Lennon, which Bolton players have been standing out this season, his expectations, among other topics.
1. You were considered as promotion favourites a few years ago, why do you think you had a poor season last year and started this one slowly?
In our initial season in the Championship when we all naively thought we’d destroy everyone and go up as champions, Owen Coyle was why we screwed that one up. In the Premier League he coasted off of Megson’s squad, took credit for it and when it eventually came to signing his own players, they weren’t Premier League quality, took us down and then threw their dummies out the pram when we started the Championship season poorly as they were over paid prima donnas on multi year high paid contracts that no one else wanted.
We probably could’ve gone up anyway but for whatever reason, Coyle didn’t care about fitness and so any player not in the team was unfit and that cost us big time. He was also naive in tactics and didn’t know what he was doing, which most of us didn’t realise until it was too late. He just used Megson’s players in a generic 442, or piggybacked off the success of loan players – Sturridge etc – to keep us afloat. Dougie came in and made the players more fit but that’s really all he offered, he too used the predecessor’s team to his advantage – it was still PL quality – and very nearly made it work. After that came last season, it was one disaster after another and until he was sacked we didn’t hear why.
He fell out with half the squad, alienated the youth team and thus refused to use the kids – till forced – and just signed players who were quite frankly not good enough for us. We’re a newly (ish) relegated team signing players from the bench of teams like Millwall and Palace (their bad players from when they were relegation battlers) and he expected them to move us up the league. He said this was because of FFP (Which wasn’t a thing in our first season so is probably why we could do the likes of pay millions on players and give them stupid wages) but even with FFP we probably could’ve gotten better loans than we did, he just didn’t seem to bother trying.
Gartside had said he was never refused a loan, so any loan that we couldn’t get was his words as to not getting them. Anyway he was arrogant and would take no blame for any results and would change the team for every match, not allowing for any consistency. He’d drop players who would score or play well for no reason – citing fitness as clearly a week isn’t enough – and would say every week the team wasn’t good enough for the Championship. That’s going to effect the confidence of any team – why play well if you’re going to be dropped anyway? – and led to his downfall and us being terrible.
2. What were your expectations before the season started? Do you still expect them to achieve them?
I didn’t have much expectation, tbh. We come from a season where we finished lower mid table in the second division (after 12 seasons in the PL and a season challenging for the play offs) playing terribly every week into a new season with worse players. My expectations were mid table at best and the for the first time since we dropped back into the second division I didn’t think we’d make the top six. So if you’re asking if we’ll meet my expectations? yes. We’ll probably finish mid table again, which after the failure of Dougie this season, would be a success.
3. Did you agree with the sacking of Dougie Freedman? Should it have been done earlier?
He should’ve been sacked after you belted us 7-1. He way overstayed his welcome. A team wanting promotion and he has us battling relegation two seasons in a row? most of us assumed he was still here because we couldn’t afford to sack him so it was a big surprise to hear the news he was gone near the end of my shift. Gave me good news to get through the rest of it! I had no problems with Dougie until we started losing and he was obviously out of his depth at a club our size. He didn’t know what to do, treated us as a relegation battler (which we were but shouldn’t have been) and the final straw was what did Megson in, insulting the fans. In his last few weeks he said things like we were out of order, don’t understand football and all that good stuff and eventually he turned around and said that we were going to get relegated as we weren’t good enough to win matches any more. That’s what eventually lead to his sacking so we’d still have him if he wasn’t stupid enough to say that in the press.
4. Why do you think Neil Lennon has managed to change your fortunes in such a short period of time?
He’s not Dougie. Legit. We were just happy to have someone else in charge and we more than give managers a chance and he’s doing great. Under Dougie the players had seemed to had lost hope and confidence and he wasn’t exactly know for his top notch motivation skills. Lennon has come in, given them a kick up the **** and got them motivated and fighting for the cause and that’s really all we need because a Bolton team with no desire is not worth a jot. He also got the kids back in training with the first time, so that probably benefits everyone. Many players (and staff) talked about a terrible atmosphere making things bad to be a part of (after he was sacked obv) and supposedly it’s been the best it’s been in years.
5. Which Bolton player(s) are really excelling so far this season?
If this was two months ago I would’ve said no one but the majority of the team are playing really well now. The main name however, is Chung Yong Lee. He’s been moved from the right wing where he’s played for us for five years and has been given a free role behind the striker and it’s ended up being the best thing for him, he’s excelling and has returned to being our best player. We’re going to miss him when he goes to the Asian Cup next month. In his last 5 games, he’s scored three goals (usually how many he gets a season) and is now a massive threat like he was before his leg break. If we’re going to go anywhere this season, he’ll need to keep that up. Craig Davies – our leading scorer – is also a new man since Dougie has gone.
Dougie didn’t think he was good enough and sent him to Preston but this season he’s as I said, a new player. He’s strong, fit, hassles defenders and can score, he’s like Kevin Davies. He’s also pro at time wasting which is clearly his best asset. Mark Davies had also looked a new player but he’s kinda sorta injured for four months now. Pratley has suddenly become a decent player after being terrible for four years, Lonergan is now undisputed number one after pulling off great saves and basically, everyone has stepped up their game and the Bolton of earlier in the season is merely a shadow, lingering over us because we’re still only one bad result away from dropping back into the bottom three.
6. If you could take any Reading player, who would it be and why?
Whilst not a Reading player and he’s merely on loan, Glen Murray guarantees goals and he’s scored a fair amount for you guys, whilst we’re sick of Palace players, he’s actually good and could punish us so maybe if we win, go above you and then his loan expires, we can convince him to come to the Macron ;). I’d probably look at Pogrebnyak if going with players you own.
7. What starting XI and shape do you expect to see from Lennon on Saturday?
He’s probably going to name an unchanged side as he did last time out, where we played:
Lonergan in goal,
Ream at LB (he’s a CB), Dervite and Mills in the centre, Josh Vela at RB (A 20 year old defensive midfielder, who for some reason was played at RB… and for some reason has picked the position up easily!)
A midfield of Danns (in front of the back four despite the fact he’d played on the wing under Dougie, though was said to be a DM when we signed him) Pratley, Chung Yong Lee (in CAM), Feeney and Clayton (A striker but is out wide) with Craig Davies up top on his own.
Despite being a 451 though, Chungy, Clayton and etc all swap positions and it actually works well, so basically it probably looks something like this but changes half the time anyway
Ream, Mills, Dervite, Vela
Clayton, Lee, Feeney
8. What is your prediction for the game?
Draw. A win would be nice though because we’ll leapfrog you if we win… I’m sure as long as we don’t lose 7-1 again, we’ll be fine.