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Page last updated at 21:49 GMT, Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Fan power sends Megson packing

Jonathan Pearce
By Jonathan Pearce
BBC football commentator

The only surprise about Bolton's decision to sack Gary Megson as manager was that it took chairman Phil Gartside so long to sharpen his axe.

Megson has been a dead man walking since January, when he dubbed supporters "pathetic" after they had jeered him following the surrender of a two-goal lead in the local derby at Blackburn.

Gary Megson
Time has finally run out for Megson - as it was always expected to

That result came after a run of four defeats in a row.

Fans, who had never really taken to the Manchester-born boss, had long forgotten the fact that Megson had taken them from bottom of the table when he took over in October 2007 to safety and into the top 10 by Christmas 2008.

The aftermath of the draw at Ewood Park 11 months ago showed simply that no relationship had grown between the manager and the club's fans.

Megson will feel supporters would have given a hard time to anyone who had to fill the void left by Sam Allardyce and that they never gave him a chance.

Fans are claiming Megson never attempted to build bridges with them. Ultimately, given that acrimony, the board of directors will always favour the people who buy season tickets.

Throwing away another two-goal lead against Hull on Tuesday and the manager's post-match comments finally brought the axe down.


Gartside would have been alarmed to hear his manager admit that it would have been impossible to win over the club's fans.

The current run of one defeat in six games suddenly meant nothing.

The chairman would have remembered the four defeats in five at the start of last season; the seven-match barren spell at the end of 2008/9; the two four -goal drubbings by Chelsea in October; the 5-1 humiliation at Villa in November; the defence's failure to keep a clean sheet this season and only three in 44 league games going back 13 months.

And most of all the fact that Megson lost twice the number of league games that he won in 2009.

The statistics are damning even if they don't tell the whole tale.

The forthcoming FA Cup third-round weekend gave Gartside his window of opportunity.

The caretaker management team and the players should be professional enough to deal with Lincoln City, a side whose run of one win in 11 League Two games has taken them to 90th in the country.

The subsequent trip to Arsenal on 6 January would carry little hope under any Bolton manager.

So if change was needed, and Gartside obviously felt it was, then now was the right time.

But Gartside must take a long look at the way he has run the club over the past few years. Christmas 2006 is particularly significant.

Bolton went into the New Year third in the table, with Allardyce believing that further investment in the January transfer window would take Wanderers into the Champions League.

Gartside seemed to baulk at the idea. Unknown Slovakians Lubomir Michalik and Zoltan Harsanyi came in for nothing.

Journeyman David Thompson arrived for a nominal fee from Portsmouth. They played a total of 25 games for the club. The Champions League dream faded.

Disgruntled Bolton supporters
Megson struggled to win over Bolton's fans

Allardyce's love for Bolton died with it. His ambitions were loftier than his chairman it seemed.

Critics of Gartside believe that he should have been bolder.

By accepting a mere place in the top 10, mediocrity was invited into a club that had shown such dogged hunger under Allardyce. Did the rot start there?

The appointment of Sammy Lee as manager following Allardyce's decision to leave was born out of romantic loyalty.

It was a mistake. The chairman has to take responsibility. Did he give Megson any real chance of building on Big Sam's success? His detractors will criticise him on this front.

On the other hand, no-one can question the chairman's marvellous record in keeping Bolton in the top flight for nine seasons on average gates that have dropped by 24% over the last six years.

Above all else, the chairman needed to be financially prudent. League One is dotted with clubs who overspent and burned.

But the result was that Megson had to be thrifty in the market.

He spent around £35m and brought in over £26m in transfer fees - a net spend of only around £9m. That's not a huge outlay.

Many of the Megson signings have been astute. He has turned Gary Cahill into an England hopeful.

But £3.5m on Zat Knight, who had had an inconsistent two years with Villa, was a risk and £10m on misfiring striker Johan Elmander proved a heavy millstone around the manager's neck.

The Swede's eight Bolton goals have cost £1.25m each. That's a heavy price to pay. Megson paid with his job.

Am I sorry for him? It's never nice to see anyone lose his job. But football managers are well paid, he will receive a handsome pay-off and will be back in work again soon, I hope.

The truth is I don't know the man well. It was difficult to warm to a person who was often very prickly in post-match interviews.

But men I admire in the game do hold him in high esteem and I'll take it on their authority that Gary is a good football man.

So I wish him well and Bolton, too. I suspect Phil Gartside already has his sights set on a successor. I expect the new man will keep them up. They have enough good players to survive.

But then Gartside needs to make up his mind.

Will he let the next Reebok boss limp through the next few seasons before another sacking becomes inevitable or will he be given a real chance to turn the club into the sort of force that had them playing in Europe under Allardyce?

Managers pay the price for poor results. It will ever be thus. But the decision makers in boardrooms must also be prepared to share the blame.

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see also
Lowly Bolton sack manager Megson
30 Dec 09 |  Bolton
Megson anger at Bolton boo-boys
29 Dec 09 |  Bolton
Bolton 2-2 Hull
29 Dec 09 |  Premier League
Megson angered by 'pathetic' fans
29 Jan 09 |  Bolton
Megson appointed Bolton manager
25 Oct 07 |  Bolton

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