A Different Week – The Twelfth Man

Gary Megson’s two year tenure as Bolton manager came to an end on Wednesday after a luckless draw with Hull. The Bolton hot-seat has rarely looked secure this season after a poor start to the league campaign, and only 18 points from 18 games has seen the Trotters enter the relegation zone during the Christmas period.

This news will be greeted with jubilation by the vast majority of Bolton fans that have booed Megson for the last two games. Chants of “Megson out” rang around the Reebok Stadium after the final whistle against the Tigers after the visitors managed to claw their way back from two goals down. The Bolton fans’ obvious dislike towards the man that did in fact save them from relegation when he was brought in is clearly one of the major proverbial axes that ousted Megson out of his job. Bolton Wanderers Supporters Association chairman Gareth Robinson claimed: “In the two and a bit years he has been there he didn’t once come to the supporters club and a lot of them seem to be glad now that he has gone.”

Although the men in white are unbeaten in four after a busy Christmas period, it was not enough to save Megson’s job as the club confirmed his sacking on Wednesday. It is also worth pointing out that Bolton do have two games in hand over most of their fellow relegation battlers, and have started to improve, as evidenced by the 3-3 draw against Manchester City and a following 3-1 victory over West Ham in two of their last four games. However, the board explained that “the decision was made in light of the position the club find themselves in halfway point of the season”. Most managers need some sort of understanding or unspoken agreement with their club’s supporters and it is clear that the balance has been tipped against Megson this season. After the Hull match, Megson appeared beaten in an interview with BBC Radio 5 live and answered “yes” when asked if it was impossible for him to now win over the Bolton fans. Sam Allardyce summed it up quite succinctly when he commented on the sacking: “if your fans decide they don’t like you then you’ve got very little chance of keeping your job, no matter how good you are.” This is no doubt one of the reasons why the board relieved their manager just before the January transfer window, instead deciding to gift their budget to whoever comes in for the latest casualty in the Premier League after the Mark Hughes sacking a fortnight ago.

Hughes in fact is one of the favourites for the vacant job as he looks for a new club after his dismissal, despite a sixth place position and a League Cup semi-final place to his name with former club Manchester City. Burnley’s Owen Coyle also looks like a possible candidate after rumours circulated about a possible agreement between himself and Bolton’s assistant manager Chris Evans. However, no matter who it is, they certainly will want to win over the fans very quickly. It seems that one manager has achieved this since arriving to the Premier League. Roberto Mancini has done a fine job of winning over his critics and fans over a busy Christmas period. Even the most ardent City supporter must be impressed by two easy victories and two rare clean sheets in the brief period Mancini has had and his optimism seems to be spreading. After the win over Wolves on Monday, Mancini revealed title aspirations: “Can we win the league? All is realistic. We have another 19 games to go so all is possible because we have a good team”.

Manchester City currently sit in fifth place, and are 10 points behind league leaders Chelsea with a game in hand, and Mancini will be hoping for more of the same after his side breezed past Wolves on Monday, beating them 3-0. He will have to wait until the January 11 to continue his prospective “title challenge” against Blackburn however, with the FA Cup restarting next week. Mancini and his entourage will be travelling to Middlesbrough, and no doubt will attempt to emulate City success in the Carling Cup to attempt to give another prestigious trophy challenge this season.

It remains to be seen whether Mancini can continue what has been a good start against two struggling sides that are looking over their shoulders toward the foot of the table. He can expect bigger challenges over the course of the season and two important ones will be the January transfer window, as well as the derby with Manchester United.

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