The Sweeper: Fans to Blame for Megson Departure?

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There is more blame for Bolton fans today for the sacking of manager Gary Megson this week. “Unfortunately for Gary, the fans wouldn’t quite take to him – they didn’t quite endear themselves to him and they always felt there was something they disagreed with, no matter what he seemed to do,” former Bolton manager Sam Allardyce said. “I always think that’s a very unfortunate situation because in the end, if your fans decide that they don’t like you then you’ve got very little chance of keeping your job, no matter how good you are.”

This is patently not true; does anyone think Megson would be out of a job if Bolton were in the upper half of the table right now, instead of the relegation zone?  It’s also a very odd phrasing from Allardyce that the fans didn’t “endear themselves to him”. Isn’t it supposed to be the other way round? Or at least a mutual effort?

A piece from Dave Hadfield reminds us that there is a public relations responsibility on the manager to win the kind of support that can help a manager buy a little time when results do go the wrong way:

In the end, Megson did not even need to lose a game to get the sack. He might be the first manager, though, to lose his job for a wilfully depressing use of his substitutes’ bench. Bolton were 2-0 up against their fellow strugglers from Humberside and would have gone up to a respectable 14th place if they had held that lead. But Megson’s knee-jerk reaction to Hull’s first goal was to replace his own first goal-scorer, the Croatian crowd favourite, Ivan Klasnic, with a defensive midfielder unbeloved by Bolton fans, Gavin McCann.

There was a storm of booing, but the dominant sound around the Reebok was a groan of despair, which merely rose to a crescendo when the inevitable equaliser went in.

To describe Megson afterwards as unrepentant fails to do full justice to his faith in his own rectitude. He claimed to have made a similar move successfully in the 1-1 draw at Burnley on Boxing Day, when in fact the withdrawal of Klasnic and another attacker, Lee Chung-Yong, were major factors in losing the initiative in that match.

It all added to the perception of Megson as a man who would always take the negative option. Even what should be his proudest achievements are sullied by that philosophical limitation. When Bolton reached the last 16 of the Uefa Cup for the first time in March 2008, for instance, he fielded a reserve side to effectively concede the match against Sporting Lisbon and then lost the Premier League game against Wigan for which he was saving his first-teamers. Supporters who had waited decades for that sort of adventure were outraged at the way it seemed to have been wantonly thrown away.

Wanderers fans would have been a lot more forgiving if Megson had seemed to have any attachment to the town. Unlike Allardyce, he never lived in Bolton and, apart from his presence at the Reebok on match-days, was virtually invisible in the local community. It all added to the public relations disaster that was his time with Bolton. Like a miserable marriage, one can only hope that he and the club’s supporters both find someone they are happier to be with.

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The Sweeper appears every weekday, and once at the weekend. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.

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