Back to normal negativity
On the 20th October Wanderers fans will flock to their local Waterstones to grab a copy of the book that has already began to ruffle a few feathers at the Macron – especially in the directors` box. Yes we will all enjoy Sam reminiscing about getting one over on Arsene Wenger`s Arsenal, but details of his fall out with wildly unpopular chairman Phil Gartside is sure to split opinion in the terraces. Snippets of Big Sam`s autobiography emerged this week and some were more interesting than others, none more so than the astonishing claim that Phil Gartside actually wanted the club to LOSE the 2004 Carling Cup Final. Surely Gartside`s reputation as Bolton Wanderers chairman couldn`t get any worse? Is he the man to blame for the club`s steady decline over the past few years? Or could Bolton fans be accused of being overly critical of ‘Fat Phil`?
Whilst most of what you hear about Gartside`s tenure at Bolton is extremely negative, it has to be said that he presided over our most illustrious spell in the top flight of English football. Since his appointment as chairman in 1999 The Whites were promoted the Premier League, took on European giants Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich, and were represented by football icons like Youri Djorkaeff, Jay-Jay Okocha and Fernando Hierro. Why then is he so disliked by so many fans? Ever since Allardyce`s resignation in 2007, Wanderers entered a steady decline that has resulted in the club in limbo until outside investment is found. What a fall from grace. Is Gartside to blame though? Replacing Big Sam was always going to be hard and in hiring Sammy Lee, he gave the majority of the fans the man they wanted to succeed him. 11 games into his reign ‘Little Sam` had only 1 win and Phil was faced with a damage limitation operation to keep the club in the top flight. Enter Gary Megson.
His job was to keep us up.. and he did. In my opinion, it seems apparent that this was the most critical stage of the club`s recent history. Megson had done a good job in a small space of time and should have been thanked, given a hefty bonus, and walked out the door. Gartside had all season to search for a long term appointment and once our Premier League safety was assured, that man should have been hired. Who knows what would have happened? But Wanderer`s fortunes have changed considerably since then. In the end he chose the easy option and kept Megson on until the most unlikable man in the world eventually called the fans ‘idiots` one time too many and was sacked. For that reason amongst many others, Yes Gartside takes a fair portion of the blame for the club`s recent turmoil.
So where do we go from here? Following Big Sam`s book, a fresh wave of criticism is sure to follow the ex- Leigh Grammar School pupil around. Amid rumours of Gartside`s continuation as chairman being the sticking point in a takeover bid, it must get to the point when the 63 year old must consider giving it up and letting himself and the club move on? Or maybe he`ll stick around to pick up his bonus checks. I think I know which is more likely.