The Keith Hill era is over, if an era can last less than a year.
Hill and David Flitcroft will not see their contracts renewed when they expire at the end of June, and Bolton will be searching for new manager or head coach.
Hill was appointed last August with the unenviable and nigh-on-impossible task of signing virtually an entire squad within two days, before leading that squad to League One safety despite having a 12 point deduction and taking just one point from the opening five games of the season.
His first league game starting well when Thibaud Verlinden put us ahead at Rotherham but we’d go on to lose 6-1, not the first or last thrashing we’d experience. For a while things did improve, the defence was quickly solidified, only a late penalty stopped us beating Sunderland, a few points were picked up, then finally we won down at Bristol Rovers, the first of three consecutive wins in the league. But only two more would come, at home against teams will also join us in League Two next season, Southend and Tranmere.
What promise there was in the autumn had gone as 2020 progressed. The year started brilliantly being 2-0 up early doors against Burton but somehow we ended up losing that match and Tranmere was the only team we beat in that calendar year. While there was a relative flourish, with draws in each of the last three games before the suspension of football, the truth was we were going backward under Hill. What defensive solidity we had achieved in the autumn had disappeared, the first goal at Doncaster presumably the inspiration for the concept of social distancing such were the gaps through the middle. Daryl Murphy had stopped scoring goals, and while the losses of loanees Verlinden and Liam Bridcutt won’t have helped, we still should have picked up more points than we had.
Staying up wasn’t something that was expected, but putting up more of a fight and seeing a side and identity develop was. And we weren’t seeing either of those. February’s appointment of Tobias Phoenix and the move to a director of football approach suggested the club wanted something more solid long term than ‘just get some players in and someone to pick the team,’ which Hill may not have fit into.
There’ll be no gloating from me, because I liked the idea of a local team coming in and doing well, and Hill has had achievements in the lower leagues, and someone losing their job at this point in history isn’t good whatever sector you work in. But this wasn’t working, and it’s the best thing for the club.