I talk about my love for our assistant manager, Johan Mjallby.
Upon his October arrival following the sacking of Dougie Freedman, the former Celtic manager Neil Lennon brought with him two very experienced former pros in the form of Garry Parker and Johan Mjallby.
I’d like to talk about the latter. The trio immediately turned Bolton Wanderers fortunes around having instilled a winning mentality at the club. However due to various reasons, formand potential pay off hopes quickly died down. One of these reasons was the lack of composure and conviction from our defence.
In the New Year we began playing with three at the back, featuring the likes of Tim Ream, Dorian Dervite and Matt Mills/David ‘Big Chin’ Wheater. Wing back such as Dean Moxey, Saidy Janko, Josh Vela, Tom Walker and the ever hapless but hard working Liam Feeney featured. I use the term wing back very loosely here as, to be fair, none of them are naturals in this position, though I feel that Janko has the potential to operate in this role in the future.
I’m not sure whether or not this was Mjallby or Lennon’s idea, however it has worked sporadically. I do feel that the lack of two regular presences at full back may have affected the composure of our defenders, though.
When this is the case, this is not a Mjallby defence.
Mjallby was a no-nonsense centre back who would win the ball, get stuck in and chip one with his fair share of goals. With his great stature and blonde hair, one could draw comparisons with former Aston Villa defender, Martin Laursen. Though then again, you could say the same about many other Scandinavians.
I, admittedly, thought that Lennon would have to work with the back room staff already in place, having joined a cash-strapped side at the foot of the second tier of English football. However, he replaced high profile members of the previous regime such as Curtis Fleming and Lennie Lawrence.
I always thought that Fleming at least looked like he worked hard from the dugout. I do have absolutely no ideas as to what he did to coach defenders (him being one himself, he used to be responsible). However, it can’t have been going too well as we were below Wigan. Then again, he did have to work with the likes of Zat Knight in his first two seasons, while missing a natural left back due to Marc Tierney’s terrible injury/ies.
You’ll probably be aware that I’m not really one for stats, so I won’t provide you with any. However, what I will say is that our goal difference is head and shoulders above the rest of the teams surrounding us and our top scorer has only scored 8. Since Mjallby has come in, we haven’t conceded too many!
He took a recent press conference as Neil Lennon was stranded with a punctured tyre. Yeah, I found the image of Neil Lennon, roadside, trying to change a tyre as funny as you did.
Mjallby really impressed me with his honesty, as well as his similarity to Neil Lennon. He basically said what Lennon would’ve said in a cooler accent and I’m sure that his coaching philosophy is similarly no-nonsense.
When I last visited the Macron for the Millwall game, I noticed Mjallby warming up the defenders. He’d play a lofted ball over the top, and one of them would have to make a decision: either head it away, or wait for a bounce and hoof. I definitely approve of this, as what we need to at the back is to stay composed. Remember, clearing or playing a long ball does not mean you’re not composed. Making rash decisions leading to opposition goals in the 94th minute, after you’ve already left the match and are picking up your phone that you left at Harvester is.
While we don’t have a great insight into what Mjallby does on a daily basis, I can safely say that he is my favourite assistant manager we’ve had in years. I’d much rather have the big Swede standing on the touch line, making sure everyone was in check than Lennie Lawrence in a suit, staring into space.