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How Phil Parkinson has turned the tide at Bolton Wanderers

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karlypants

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Phil Parkinson’s 50th game in charge of Wanderers might not have gone according to plan at Scunthorpe – but his first season in the hot-seat is still on track to be a successful one.

His half-century of games brought 26 wins – exactly the same number as Sam Allardyce and Bruce Rioch, during which his team conceded only 46 goals, fewer than any other manager in the club’s history.

Just two more victories would ensure promotion in his first campaign and the first time Wanderers have ever bounced back from relegation to the third tier at the first attempt.

But what made Parkinson’s spell so successful? Here we take a look at the key components behind his time at the helm.

STAFF

“No manager can do it on his own,” Parkinson recently remarked in an interview with The Bolton News. And he’s right.

Parkinson brought with him a recipe which was working at Bradford. The vastly-experienced Steve Parkin as assistant, goalkeeping coach Lee Butler, physio Matt Barrass and sports science chief Nick Allamby.

But the influx of new faces integrated wonderfully with the existing staff at Lostock – something which previous managers failed to achieve. It has created a winning atmosphere on the training ground, which translates to the pitch.

MOTIVATION

The key to Parkinson’s success has been his ability to motivate the group who had been relegated from the Championship, but also to keep his fringe players happy enough to step into the team at will.

Considering the uncertain situation he stepped into last summer, the boardroom bickering, the ever-present embargo and the enforced sale of Rob Holding and Zach Clough, there has been no shortage of problems to contend with.

Injuries to key players like Darren Pratley, Mark Davies, Mark Howard and Jay Spearing have also threatened to destabilise the team. But Parkinson and his coaching staff have played a blinder by minimising the negative impact, keeping dips in form to a bare minimum and the points column ticking over.

SIGNINGS

Some will point to the fact summer arrivals Chris Taylor and Jamie Proctor did not settle, Lewis Buxton has been injured for most of the campaign and Tom Thorpe is now out of the team. But we must also appreciate the fact Parkinson has been working within a transfer embargo and so has been fishing from a fairly restrictive pool of talent.

Though his best work has been to bring the best out of the players he inherited, there have been plenty of good deals. The addition of Mark Beevers was arguably the best free transfer in recent memory at Bolton, while Andy Taylor has also been an incredibly consistent presence on the left after his arrival on loan from Wigan.

Sammi Ameobi was turned from an impact player into a world beater, Adam Le Fondre finally freed of the shackles imposed by Wolves, Wigan and Cardiff and both goalkeepers, Mark Howard and Ben Alnwick, have helped contribute to a rock solid defence.

DECISION-MAKING

We saw on Saturday in the selection of Conor Wilkinson that Parkinson will throw the odd curveball in his line-up, and the ultra-secret return of Darren Pratley from injury at Fleetwood was another example of his ingenuity.

Despite the general good form, a few choices have been questioned here and there. Even Gary Madine’s inclusion was once seen as controversial – though some will probably be changing their mind on that front now.

MEDIA

Some managers can be quite scattergun after the final whistle as they are asked to sum up 90 minutes with emotions still swirling in the air. Parkinson’s predecessor Neil Lennon, for instance was unpredictable win, lose or draw.

Parkinson is a safe pair of hands. He is not beyond being controversial with his comments as we saw in his condemnation of Bradford City’s ‘play acting’ earlier this season but generally keeps a cool head regardless of the result.

After 14 years in management the 49-year-old has learned when to play a straight bat to awkward questions and that has certainly helped keep the pressure off his side in the promotion run-in.

TACTICS

Parkinson managed the transition from 4-2-3-1 to 3-5-2 incredibly well after injuries hit in the New Year, although experiments with a diamond midfield have been a bit hit and miss.

It was no secret when he arrived that his teams often played direct football, and so it has proved. But after creating a successful League One blueprint, why deviate?

There may be bigger questions for Parkinson to answer of the tactical front at Championship level if they get there – but for now he has utilised the players at his disposal superbly.

RESULTS

The yardstick with which all managers are ultimately judged, and Parkinson has registered a near-identical record to Sam Allardyce and Bruce Rioch in his first 50 games in charge. He currently boasts the best win percentage of any permanent Wanderers manager and has taken a team which could not win away from home and made them the second-best travelling team in the division. Result.

Source

Natasha Whittam

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Ameobi a world beater? Dear me, what utter drivel.

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