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Bolton Nuts » BWFC » Bolton Wanderers Banter » INSIDE WANDERERS: Why Bolton just had to get with the times

INSIDE WANDERERS: Why Bolton just had to get with the times

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
It's time to see things slightly differently at Bolton Wanderers.

Several years ago I had the pleasure of a long conversation with Gudni Bergsson about the state of the club, which had at that point spent a couple of years in the Championship and was about to appoint Neil Lennon as manager.

One of Gudni’s most annoying habits is the ability to talk perfect sense, almost all the time. And he was questioning why – in this day and age – Bolton had never tried to bring in a director of football to take certain pressures off the manager’s shoulders. I had no good answer to give him.

Lennon came in, his charisma won the day at first, but soon the club’s crippling financial problems left him facing the media with little information to give. He had no answers to give us.

Fast forward a couple of years and after Phil Parkinson had done a sterling job deflecting the nonsense which was going on in the boardroom for 18 months or so, he then found himself smack bang in the middle of a situation that was way above his pay grade. It wasn’t football, it wasn’t politics but it was sure as hell distracting.

Both Parky and Lenny are excellent football men. Both know the game well, have different personality traits and approaches to management, but I think both could have enjoyed more success had Bolton had a better support network above them.

And so we come to the modern day. The Bolton Wanderers that Keith Hill walked into last summer was a stripped down, simplistic version which had gone desperately close to going out of business. He threw a squad together in 48 hours, said the right things about fighting against relegation, but the most sensible of us knew that the fresh start would only come this summer. And it would most likely be in League Two.

Football Ventures also learned more about the club they had saved, realising perhaps that the operation was bigger than they had expected. They established a managerial structure, including Tobias Phoenix in the role that Gudni had suggested to me all those years ago.

But the change did not sit well with some – the club was accused of being top heavy, Phoenix himself was deemed too inexperienced for the job he was given, and the influence of Peter Kenyon at board level was viewed with a measure of scepticism.

When football ground to a halt in March that uneasy feeling stayed with us. The club went into hibernation and the distinct lack of communication at any level left a void, filled with yet more uncertainty and speculation.

And then, a ray of sunshine peaked over Winter Hill.

For too long this club has been living with baggage. Be it an owner who wanted out, an owner we wanted out, or a team that could not be fairly judged because of the mess it was operating within.

The 21st century appointment of Ian Evatt this week, however, feels like a lungful of the freshest air imaginable.

No slight is intended on Hill – who did his best in the most testing circumstances – but bringing in the 38-year-old, complete with his non-negotiable style of play, bristling with confidence after a successful season with Barrow, was exactly the right move.

A three-year contract is a big statement, too. Evatt has wasted no time in stating that promotion is his aim – but the prospect of being able to plan for something greater than transfer window to transfer window is an exciting prospect indeed.

Though Wanderers will be in a transfer embargo for 12 months the prospect of paying transfer fees this summer would have been slim, even without the pandemic. Now, more than 1,400 players are out of contract, and there are few more attractive employers in League Two than Bolton.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the new manager's arrival, though, is the brand of football he intends to employ. It is a unique selling point - and might just be enough to tempt a few people back into the stadium (once allowed) who might have been looking for something else to do with their Saturdays.

Evatt welcomes the pressure of being a promotion favourite – and Phoenix knows that his work this summer will be judged based on results. Likewise, Football Ventures’ grand plan can now be fairly scrutinised on its failures and successes from here on in.

If Bolton had listened to Gudni and gone down the modern route earlier, who knows how history would have changed?

No matter how bruised and battered the club has been in recent times, we should not forget there are some big names out there who have the club's best interests at heart.

Whether it's Gudni, Ivan Campo, Stu Holden, Youri Djorkaeff or Jay-Jay Okocha... The club has friends in high places. Maybe we should listen more?

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