It's taken almost two years, but Gary Megson is finally ready to reshape this lumpen Trotters team in his own image. Since he took over at the end of October 2007, Megson has whined and complained about the lack of talent at his disposal, at the difficulty of attracting the World's best players and at the club's shallow pockets compared with the teams around them at the bottom of the table.
And all the while, Megson has slowly and quietly disassembled the squad he inherited from Sam Allardyce, a team that finished 8th, 6th, 8th and 7th form 2004-2007. A frequent theme from Megson in his infrequent comments to reporters is how the club was in the relegation zone when he took over, but he fails to mention that he took over after the abrupt end to the Sammy Lee experiment, less than two months into the season, the club having just qualified for the UEFA Cup.
Since then, a laundry list of experienced veterans and fan favourites have been quietly ushered out of the Reebok. El-Hadji Diouf, Stelios Giannakopoulos, Ivan Campo, Gary Speed and others have moved on, and while they might have been past their prime, little (if anything) has been done to replace the loss of talent or experience from the team.
The likes of J’Lloyd Samuel and Mustapha Riga were merely bandages, stemming the flow, while the results when Gartside has invested in the team, (Cahill, Muamba and Elmander), have been mixed, at best. Now Megson, a manager who tends to be prickly and defensive in front of the media, is ready to make changes and finally take ownership of this team. Already this summer, he’s mentioned making six signings to improve the team and the depth of the squad.
This means that the time has finally come for Gary Megson to take responsibility for the performance of this Bolton team. For two seasons he’s sat through press conferences, arms crossed, shoulders hunched over his desk, deflecting criticism and making excuses for the team he’s sent out the week before and asserting, in the way only football managers can, that the team is making progress.
He blamed Referees, he blamed the other team, he blamed his lack of warm bodies on the bench and he even blamed the home support and the tense atmosphere at the Reebok, where Bolton failed to score in 8 out of 19 games. Now he has to take responsibility for the results and performances of his team.
"I'd like to bring in a number of players to the football club,” Megson proclaimed recently. “We used fewer players last season than anybody in the Premier League and finished just below mid-table, which deserves fantastic credit.
"We are looking for players that can improve us from that 13th position in the table. We are working from the list of players that we want and hopefully now we can do the negotiations."
Sean Davies has already signed up for the next three years. Paul Robinson, (No, the other Paul Robinson), has been secured for the season, even though he’s arguably no upgrade from Samuel and Gardner. Three others, supposedly Villa centre-half Zat Knight, Lee Chung-Yong of FC Seoul and Swansea malcontent Ferrie Bodde, are rumoured to be in the works.
So, changes are underway, but are these players really going to be a step up from the team Gary seems so unhappy with?