Many football fans would have been scratching their heads when Neil Lennon took the manager’s job at Bolton Wanderers in October.
The Scot was very impressive at Celtic, guiding his team to a famous Champions League victory over Barcelona as well as performing consistently well in the Scottish Premier League. Many had tipped him to work in English football after he left Celtic, with his name being linked to vacancies at clubs like Norwich City and West Bromwich Albion.
Lennon eventually returned to the game with Bolton Wanderers, a surprise move to a club that was rooted in a relegation battle at the bottom of the Championship. Dougie Freedman, Bolton’s former manager, could only register one league win in the opening 11 games of the Championship season. In Lennon’s first game in charge, he guided Bolton to an important 0-1 away victory against fellow strugglers Birmingham. Since then, Bolton have hit good form and are slowly working their way up the Championship table after a dismal start.
Lennon’s managerial style is plain and simple, he doesn’t muck about. In his first week in charge, he banned Bolton’s players from wearing beanie hats in training. It seemed like Lennon was determined to let the players know who was in charge and this bullish attitude has paid off. Since Lennon took over at Bolton, he has led them to five victories out of a possible nine, only losing twice against Norwich and Charlton. They are currently on a five-match unbeaten streak and have moved up to 17th in the league, four points clear of the relegation zone. It looks as if Lennon has brought stability to a club that had started the season really poorly.
As well as stability, Lennon has encouraged more of an intricate style of football, developing Bolton into a team that pass the ball well, making it easier to keep hold of possession. Bolton had managed to score in every league game since Lennon’s arrival until the 0-0 draw with Reading. However, what is important is that that they pick up points and gradually move up the table. Lennon stated that Bolton could make the play off places if everything went to plan. Whether this is an accurate estimate remains to be seen but what is clear is that Lennon’s fresh impetus and approach to management has transformed things at Bolton.
The signing of Eidur Gudjohnsen will only help the squad by adding experience and quality. Although the former Icelandic international is coming to the end of his career, he will act as a good example for the younger players to follow and his previous associations with the club will mean that he can settle in very quickly. As well as Gudjohnsen, Bolton fans could be seeing former England international and ex-Liverpool striker Emile Heskey featuring for them in the Championship this season.
The 36-year-old clearly has a wealth of experience to his name and offers excellent physicality up front. Lennon has taken Heskey on a two-week trial to see whether the big striker still has what it takes to perform at this sort of level. Whether he signs or not, Lennon is clearly determined to improve the team and do everything he can in order to give Bolton more of a boost in terms of aiming for the play-off spots.
Credit must also be given to Phil Gartside, the Bolton chairman, who acted quickly and effectively when the club were struggling no end at the lower depths of the Championship. The sacking culture in the Championship is monumental compared to the Premier League at the moment but Gartside’s actions have proved that he made the right decision for the club. The appointment has got the club out of trouble and looking forward, something that didn’t look particularly achievable just a couple of months ago.