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Bolton Nuts » BWFC » Bolton Wanderers Banter » Pele, Southgate, Souness - Bolton Wanderers' greatest managerial rumours

Pele, Southgate, Souness - Bolton Wanderers' greatest managerial rumours

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
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Picking a football manager is arguably the most important decision a club can make but one which we usually know surprisingly little about.

Wanderers officially began their search for Keith Hill’s replacement at the weekend, although realistically the process will have been at the discussion stage for some time.

Hill’s departure, coming so soon after the EFL had confirmed the club’s relegation and the end of the regular League One season, had the air of something which had been on the backburner for several weeks, during which time the club must have been able to assess available options.

Sharon Brittan says she wants a “fresh approach” in what is expected to be a restructured football department next season. And though talk around the club has been of a new ‘head coach’ role as opposed to the traditional manager, it may not be the shock to the system that some have predicted.

“We’re all head coaches nowadays, anyway,” remarked one potential candidate to The Bolton News at the weekend.

Other than Brittan’s brief comment during the announcement of Hill’s departure, Wanderers have not yet elaborated on exactly what they are looking for, other than to acknowledge that interest in the post has already been considerable.

Times have certainly changed on that front. Back when Wanderers were considering a replacement for Bruce Rioch in 1995 the dividing lines were fairly clear between those who had put in a CV for consideration from the board, and those who had not.

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We knew, for example, that Rioch’s assistant Colin Todd had asked to be reunited with his former Derby County centre-back partner Roy McFarland, but also that Mike Walker, Brian Horton and Alan Smith – the former Crystal Palace boss – were being strongly considered.

Nowadays with agents and representatives clouding the water it is not quite that simple. Managers, and particularly those already in a job, do not want to leave fingerprints if they express interest in taking over elsewhere.

When Phil Neal was sacked in May 1992 the Bolton Evening News was able to carry a five-man shortlist on the back page for people to phone in and vote.

A week into the poll, ex-Blackburn boss Don Mackay led the field, followed by Dario Gradi, Bryan Robson, Brian Kidd and Terry Cooper. Tellingly, there was no mention of Bruce Rioch!

In recent years the managerial silly season has produced some memorable tales.

It was fun and games when Sammy Lee was sacked as Wanderers boss in October 2007 and for a long time the former Wigan Athletic boss Paul Jewell looked like the man they would turn to.

Chris Coleman’s advisor claimed that the club had approached Real Sociedad for permission to speak with the future Wales boss – although Bolton later made a strenuous denial.

But before Gary Megson got the nod, the most famous tale of the time involved Liverpool legend Graeme Souness, then looking for a way back into management after leaving Newcastle United.

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Although the whole account has become somewhat apocryphal, legend has it that Souness walked into a room for talks and walked out almost immediately on seeing that one of interviewers was agent, Mark Curtis.

It is fair to say that Owen Coyle was always the number one choice in Phil Gartside’s mind as he picked Megson’s successor in early 2010. The genial Scot was seen as a way of winning back the fans and though the likes of Darren Ferguson, Mark Hughes and Peter Reid were mooted early on, there was never a real question that Bolton would get their man.

Coyle’s exit in October 2012 sparked a real scramble of names including Harry Redknapp, Alan Curbishley and even Keith Hill. Indeed the man who eventually got the job – Dougie Freedman – was hardly mentioned in despatches until the bitter end.

Freedman had been recommended to Gartside for the work he had done at Crystal Palace but until then it looked for anyone’s money that Mick McCarthy would get a shot. Indeed, sources in the Midlands at the time claimed that Terry Connor, his trusted assistant, had already picked out property in the area.

Jimmy Phillips also felt he had a genuine chance of keeping the job he had held on a caretaker basis, potentially with the help of Lee, who had returned in a mysterious director of football role.

News that Freedman had been given the job was broken by Palace, much to Bolton’s chagrin, with Phillips and Co relayed the information at pitch-side during a midweek game against Wolves.

The process which took Neil Lennon to Bolton in late 2014 was another complicated one with no real outstanding candidate to the bitter end. The Irishman had been due to take up a position in the Middle East but a late change of heart left Eddie Davies and Gartside with a choice to make.

Until that stage Malky Mackay had been talked about as a serious contender and the likes of Paulo Di Canio and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink had both expressed interest.

One of the most peculiar manager chases, however, occurred in the summer of 2016 as Ken Anderson and Dean Holdsworth sat uncomfortably together in the boardroom looking to appoint a permanent successor to Lennon.

Jimmy Phillips and Peter Reid had been put in temporary charge at the end of the previous season and Holdsworth’s plan had been to keep both on and add a younger coach – which at that stage appeared to be Kevin Nolan.

Anderson’s idea differed. And after bringing in ex-Ireland and Aston Villa man Andy Townsend in on a consultancy basis, he claimed to have made contact with some very high-profile names.

Gareth Southgate, then England Under-21s boss and an acquaintance of the Anderson family, turned down the opportunity to talk about the job as he felt he needed to further his international ambitions. Two years later, he was managing England in a World Cup semi-final.

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The same summer a similar invitation was extended to Roy Keane but the Irishman is said to have offered a ‘thanks but no thanks’ to the Bolton chairman.

Anderson’s links in the agency business meant that scores of names were linked with he job and two – Steve Cotterill and Nigel Adkins – were positively played up by the club. In typical style, there would be a late twist, with Phil Parkinson getting the nod.

It would later emerge that Bolton had been working on exploiting a suspiciously low compensation clause in Parkinson’s contract and so we quite deliberately keeping the distraction elsewhere. Bradford ended up losing the most successful manager of recent times for just a fraction of the reported £200,000.

Fast-forward a few years to Parkinson’s exit in 2019, and it was an altogether more straightforward affair.

Football Ventures knew they had to move quickly as the takeover was sealed just a few days before the transfer deadline, and so the successful applicant had to hit the ground straight away.

With little time to assemble shortlists or for the media to speculate, the choice boiled down quickly to two people – Keith Hill and Kevin Nolan – with the former announced by the club en route from a 5-0 defeat to Gillingham last August.

The current search looks to have dropped on to the lap of Tobias Phoenix, Wanderers’ head of football operations, and Andy Gartside, the current chief operating officer – with Football Ventures presumably giving their blessing to whomever is recommended.

Little has yet been given away on the timescale of the appointment, although with the EFL still hoping next season can begin by mid-September there would be three months to re-assemble a squad for life in League Two.

There is still time for some surprise names to emerge – as was the case last night when Italy World Cup winner Mauro Camoranesi had his name chucked into the mix by the Press Association.

Strange times indeed, although hardly as strange as the ultimate Bolton Wanderers management rumour from 1983 when it was bizarrely claimed from within the camp that Pele was considering an offer from the club.

Sadly, the Brazilian knew nothing of the story. He had been to Bolton, as part of the Samba squad which trained in the town before the 1966 World Cup, but never considered taking the reins.

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