Friday, 1 August 2008
The Demise and Fall of Bolton Wanderers
It seems strange to be talking about the demise of Bolton as a football club, seeing as how they haven't done anything other than lose two League Cup finals in the last fifteen or so years, but try chewing on this official OPTA stat and swallowing it: Bolton are now shite. After several years of overachieving under the guidance of Sam 'My son is a respected football agent' Allardyce, the Lancashire club are now back amongst the also-rans of the PREMIERSHIPS!!1! and possibly heading down to the wilderness of the CHAMPIONSHIPS!!1! In this exclusive, ESN speaks to the players (and I don't mean literally only the playing staff of the club - I mean the movers and shakers, scenemakers) who have witnessed the fall from grace of the once top half of the PREMIERSHIPS!!1! club. To find out the true story, and maybe even the meaning of life, then read on.
Aim low, Sam. Aim low
At the arse end of last season after quite a few years (how many I don't know - What do I look like? Wikipedia?) Sam Allardyce decided to step down as manager of Bolton. At a Quayside wine bar in Newcastle - it wasn't a Yates'sss - Allardyce told me "My son, who is a respected football agent, came to me with a proposal toward the end of the season, he said 'Daddy, you know how you've made me a lot of money in the last few years? Well, it's my time to pay you back; Newcastle Utd have approached me to approach you to approach them about becoming their new manager. It's all under the table, though, you understand.' Of course, once I knew I could get a nice payoff from Bolton and a nice signing on fee from Newcastle then I was in there like a rat up a drainpipe." Allardyce, however, denies the accusation that he's only in it for the money and went on the spout the usual tripe that anyone who has ever been linked with the NUFC job says "I don't need the money. It helps, sure. But I wanted to come to a club that has a massive fanbase; they're football mad up here in the north-east. Best fans in the world, if you ask me. Who else would be daft enough to wear nothing on the top half of their body at an away game against Dynamo Kiev in November? Only Geordies are fanatical enough to do that."
Ivan Campo in Bolton's unused 3rd strip
But what of Bolton? What was happening down there? Wanderers chairman Phil Gartside wasted no time in appointing Allardyce's longtime right-hand, though some might say 'rotund', man Sammy Lee as the new manager. Fans were, at first, cautiously optimistic about the appointment, as BWFC supporters club secretary Tony Toole explains "We weren't too displeased that Sammy had been made gaffer; we thought the best thing for the club would be some continuity. We expected him to use similar methods on the pitch, the training field etc. to those used by Big Sam, but having recently spoken to several players - after trapping them in the car park and surrounding them - I discovered that Sammy's methods had taken us back to the dark ages. And by saying 'dark ages' I'm not making reference to Ivan Campo looking slightly neanderthal-esque. Even though he does look a bit like Cro-Magnon man. Cro-Magnon is in the Basque Country, yeah?"
Under Allardyce Bolton had been reknowned as one of the more forward thinking clubs outside of the top four. His meticulous preparation included having the perfect temperature on the team coach (the bus - not then 1st team coach Ricky Sbragia) before matches. And it seems this is where Lee made his biggest fault of all: he turned the temperature down as he found it "a bit hot". At a Little Chef on the M6 Lee told me "I always hated travelling on the coach - y'know, the bus - under Sam, it was always a bit hot for my liking. So when I was made manager the first thing I did was phone the driver of the team coach and told him to turn the heating down. It always surprised me that Sam had the heating on very high because he's always penny-pinching, he doesn't like to spend money, that man. You can tell because of all the players he bought on the cheap, friggin' cheapskate."
Long sleeves for Ricardo. Also the title of his debut E.P
How did the players react to this? Before the first game of the season against team name club captain Kevin Nolan went to to the front of the coach to confront Lee. Nolan takes up the story "We [the card school] always like to sit near the back and we've always enjoyed the cosiness of the coach; Ricardo Vaz Te always used to say 'It's like being back in Portugal' and Gary Speed often compared it to spending time in the tanning salon without catching a tan. Anyway, Vaz Te had his cardigan buttoned right up - he usually liked to have the top three buttons undone - so I knew something had to be done and went to speak to the gaffer." The cold-blooded Lee reacted to his captain's request by allegedly screaming "Put a fucking jumper on, then!" "That's when I knew it wouldn't last," claimed Nolan "it's alright for Jussi Jaaskilaenan, he comes from near the Arctic and is used to roughing it, but I can't have Ricardo Gardner wearing a bobble hat on the coach. Poor lad hasn't looked so upset since one of the other players shagged his wife."
Lee failed to make it past October in charge of the club and after much deliberation, not to mention considering appointing the hopeless Graeme Souness, Gartside appointed ex-Norwich and various other clubs I can't think of right now manager Gary Megson. During his first meeting with the players the fiery redhead was asked by the senior players what he was going to do about the temperature on the team coach, to which he responded "You can have it hot, you can have it cold. Either way I don't fuckin' care. So long as I can get you bastards to start hoofing the ball up to Kevin Davies again, then I don't care."
Megson was seen boarding the club coach for the short trip to the Reebok Stadium for his first game in charge against Aston Villa wearing a duffle coat and aviator sunglasses.
Posted by David at 1.8.08