For any struggling football manager there comes a tipping point. A performance or result where it becomes impossible to justify continuing employment. For Neil Lennon that moment came on Boxing Day 2015 as his team lay down and surrendered at Rotherham.
Eighteen hundred Bolton fans braved lousy weather and dangerous road conditions to make the trip into Yorkshire. They deserved better – a point made by the ginger sex beast himself in post match remarks. He also pledged to carry on.
“I want to try and turn things around, I don’t want to quit, I don’t to want resign. I want to turn things around,” he said, sounding like a cross between Margaret Thatcher and the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
There is no satisfaction in writing the above words. On arrival, Lennon seemed to be genunine leadership material and spoke in a language that the fans could indentify with, which is probably why he has been given a relatively easy time from the terraces despite a damning set of results.
Things on the pitch were more than acceptable at first, with talk of a late play off charge, but the rot started almost a year ago – ironically at the same stadium, as the Whites went down 4-2 against a side battling relegation. Toward the end of the season, goals were conceded in the dying minutes of a succession of games, indicating a lack of fitness, concentration, desire or a combination of those things. As often happens, a team that ended the campaign in poor form started the next one in similar fashion.
The Whites now find themselves seven points adrift of safety, with one win in 23 league games and with half the tally of Blackburn Rovers, the next opponents who are chugging along in 15th place. There are mitigating factors, of course. Injuries have played their part and with no transfer budget, Lennon had been reduced to rummaging in the bargain bins for new signings. He isn’t any good at it.
But there’s an acid question, one that can be asked of any manager: Is he doing the best possible job with the resources available? Clearly that isn’t the case. In addition, like his predecessors, Lennon has failed to assemble a midfield that can protect the back four or mend Bolton’s shockingly bad away form.
The Northern Irishman should be placed on gardening leave with immediate effect. It’s a grubby way to end, but with insufficient cash for a lump sum pay out there are no other options. The next appointment will need to made internally. Jimmy Phillips, David Lee, Tony Kelly. Perhaps they can rotate on a weekly basis – it can’t make things worse.
Perhaps Neil Lennon will prove himself as a manager in English football at a later time. There is no reason not to wish him well in doing that. But the time when he can make a difference at Bolton is gone now and he needs to go too.
– Richard McCormick