Date: 4th September 2012 at 9:03am
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Big Phil takes a step backwards from his support of OC, OC says he needs ‘real men’ (has he seen The Expendables?) and Keith Andrews does his best NRC impression.

A little under three years ago, Bolton dispensed with the services of a manager after a draw against Hull. The team had let in two goals that were easily avoidable and Bolton fans woke up the next morning to the late Christmas present that was the sacking of Gary Megson. To this day, Megson blames Bolton fans for his dismissal. “They never took to me” he continually whines, like the miserable little Violet Elizabeth Bott he is.

On Saturday, Bolton lost to Hull. The town woke up the next morning to discover that Owen Coyle was still in a job, despite being more or less a division worse off than the club were when Sheffield`s most famous gardener got the tin tack from T`Reebok, his team letting in three goals that were easily avoidable.

Owen Coyle is living on borrowed time. Results need to get better. Fans want his head. The chairman is saying it’s not good enough. And a defensive midfield player has told the players to take a look at themselves and stand up and be counted. It is all depressingly familiar.

There is one difference between Gary Megson and Owen Coyle, and it is not the colour of their hair, nor the fact that one walks up and down the touchline with the demeanour of someone who is about to take out a gatling gun and kill the first player who comes near the touchline, whilst the other looks like he`ll need a nice cup of cocoa wearing those shorts in that weather. And it is that one is almost universally hated. By just about everyone. And the other is almost universally liked. Despite his limitations.

Imagine if you will, depressing as it may seem, if Megson had been on the back end of that 3-1 performance on Saturday and had been booed by a section of fans. His eyes would have narrowed and his forehead furrowed like he was trying to pass the largest kidney stone in history, before exclaiming that fans didn`t know what they were talking about before pointing out that we were still above Peterborough.

Coyle, however, doesn`t hide from his critics. It may be the same old, tired old, clich├ęs that he trots out again and again, but you know that he is at least being upfront with you. And that is what makes the predicament a damn shame. He is a good man in a bad position. Whilst he gives off the notion that he is a man who does not know what he is doing, some of the stuff coming his way isn`t really deserved. The banner at The Reebok on Saturday night being a case in point.
He knows that results will have people calling for his head and, whilst he tries to couch it in terms of “great travelling support” and “fans are the biggest part of the club”, as a fan of the club he knows how much people are hurting. Yes, it`s his team, the one he wanted to play (excluding Holden and Wheater) when he arrived. But he also knows that, sooner or later, his own maxim may come back to haunt him.

Either you move on or you get moved on.

For the first time since he joined, the chairman is suddenly looking to distance himself from the man he appointed as manager:

There is absolutely no doubt, we have to improve, and I will be looking for a reaction. It is a good squad and we have made some quality additions over the summer, so we have to do better.

That kind of talk is usually a precursor to a vote of confidence and Big Phil knows that it may not just be OC heading for the Reebok exit if results don`t improve. For Bolton to survive as the club we are, promotion is the key. To keep sustainability, nothing else will do. You can wrap up an enormous debt any which way you like but, at the end of whichever day you are at, it is still an enormous debt. Gartside knows the price of failure, even if it is a golden handshake and a slap on the back for eleven years in the Premier League. And he doesn`t want that. And it is he who has the ultimate say. And his words would suggest that the manager is all too aware of where he stands.

Coyle talks about needing real men and can then name just the one. But the man he names is no spring chicken and other than him there are no leaders on the pitch. The two best other leaders over the past year are no longer at the club and the next best thing is the tallest defender in the league who couldn`t captain a rubber ducky in his bath. He talks of hanging his hat on someone like Jay Spearing (it`d need to be a pretty small hat). Spearing, however, is an on loan player, playing to show his parent club that they should bring him back (and by the standards of the Scousers performance on Tuesday he may get his wish). Other than those two, you cannot see anyone else in that team who you feel could grasp the mettle.

Some you wouldn`t trust (Petrov, Mears), some it wouldn`t fit (Ricketts, Mavies), some couldn`t lead by example (Andrews) and the rest are too young or on loan. It is this that causes me real concern. We are still dealing with these players like they are Premier League players, when they haven`t done anything so far this season to prove that they are Championship players. Keith Andrews, in an interview that sounded like two parts Nigel Reo-Coker, one part Zat Knight, talks about looking in the mirror as individuals and then collectively sort it out. Maybe it would be best if they looked in the mirror together, then they might remember they are a team. He finishes by saying that if they can match teams for hard work then they`ll win games. Fans don`t want ifs. They want to be told that they will more than match teams for hard work. Burnley beat us working hard and are now below us. Derby were rubbish but worked hard. Forest kept on running and Hull wanted it more. Christ, Crawley wanted it more. Andrews sounds like he is offering excuses before they happen.

There can be no more excuses.

Anyway, to happier things and the Fantasy League. If you didn`t have van Persie then you`ve done nothing this week. Beertown Wanderers retain their top spot but are being chased hard by Croston FC. Roderick`s X1 take another tumble to third. Team of the week is Gill Ashton`s Rusty Trawlermen. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, she`s on the move again.

Right, unless I get anymore nasty emails from Hull fans, we`ll leave that for today. Until tomorrow, have a good one.


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