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Phil Parkinson backed to lead Bolton to safety after poor run

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Outside the training ground gates at Lostock, Wanderers’ failing Championship fortunes create the image of a club in the midst of a crisis.

One victory from 12 games, two goals in nine, there really isn’t a way to dress up what has been a concerning run which began in early September.

It is not the first dip in form Phil Parkinson has encountered, nor even the worst during two-and-a-half years at the club. His team went nearly 13 hours without a goal last season, and still managed to plot a course for safety.

The Wanderers boss has suffered worse runs of form over the course of 700-plus games in the dugout, too, and waited 14 games for a victory during spells with Bradford City and Charlton Athletic.

But those involved behind the scenes at Bolton, and in particularly the players who have been with Parkinson since he left Valley Parade in the summer of 2016, say his method of management during the tough times is worth its weight in gold.

“Ever since I have been here, even in the promotion season, it wasn’t a smooth ride,” said Andy Taylor, the full-back who debuted for Wanderers on the day Parkinson ended a 495-day wait for an away win at AFC Wimbledon in the League One days.

“There was more pressure on us then because everyone expected us to get promoted. And the manager didn’t change then, he kept us working hard, preparing for games, doing everything right. No matter what was happening off the pitch.

“He didn’t change last season when we had our problems at the start and the end. It’s credit to him and the coaches because they keep a lid on things – not too high, not too low. It’s stable.

“He hasn’t changed now. Yes, he’s disappointed at the run we’re on but he believes in the players and that we will come out the other side. There’s a trust.”

That view is concurred by David Wheater, who is two short of 100 appearances under Parkinson.

“People know what I think of him, he’s been brilliant for us,” he said. “He’s one of the best I have played under, that’s for sure.

“No matter what is going on him, the coaching staff, they just get on with it. They do extra work with us after training, work us hard and keep us on our toes.”

Regardless of the respect Parkinson still clearly commands on the training ground, he will ultimately be judged on results and the ability to show Wanderers can improve on last season’s nail-biting brush with relegation.

A bright start to the current campaign may have inflated expectations, now being rapidly reassessed in the light of a dreadful autumnal run of results.

Saturday’s opponents Swansea City come to the University of Bolton Stadium having offloaded more than £40million worth of players in the summer, and investing just £7m.

They have retained, however, a squad well capable of challenging for an immediate return to the Premier League. And though Parkinson’s challenge is to try and bridge that class gap, seemingly on a weekly basis, there are some who feel the lack of spending power at his disposal should earn him some leeway with the criticism that has come his way of late.

“Is money an excuse? Maybe. But it is the reality of where we are,” Taylor said.

“I think there are a lot of teams in this division who spend more money on wages and on transfer fees trying to get into the Premier League and unfortunately we haven’t been blessed with that privilege. But I think you have to take it into consideration.

“The manager has created a strong group of characters who stick together and I think that helps. We haven’t spent millions and we are going to have a choppy ride – there will be highs and lows – but we can’t let it come apart.”


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