If any­one can res­cue the Trot­ters, it’s Lenny

The Football League Paper - - ADAM VIRGO - Adam Virgo

TAKEN at face value, Neil Len­non’s com­ment that his rock-bot­tom Bolton squad ‘lack qual­ity’ sounds like an in­sult. But psy­chol­ogy works in funny ways. I was chat­ting to former Tot­ten­ham striker Clive Allen last Sun­day and he was talk­ing about Harry Kane.

He saw Harry af­ter the Liver­pool game and asked what he was do­ing in train­ing. And Harry said: “I’m do­ing as much fin­ish­ing as pos­si­ble.”


But Clive told me that when he was strug­gling in front of goal, Terry Ven­ables had ad­vised: “The more you think about it and the more you try, the worse it can get – do some­thing else.”

I imag­ine this is Lenny do­ing the same. If you spend your time say­ing this has to be bet­ter or that has to be bet­ter, play­ers can try too hard and fix­ate on prob­lems.

By say­ing they lack qual­ity, he’s not say­ing they’re rub­bish. He’s not dig­ging out in­di­vid­u­als. He’s just try­ing to take the pres­sure off and get a re­sponse.

I played with Lenny at Celtic. He was my cap­tain. I know how hard he works as a man­ager and his record at Celtic speaks for it­self.

He was the man who beat Barcelona in the Cham­pi­ons League and took them through to the sec­ond round. Many a great man­ager be­fore him failed to do that: Celtic fans still see Martin O’Neill as a leg­end, but he never achieved it.

That’s why I was sur­prised when he took the Bolton job. He’d been wait­ing for the right club and maybe he was think­ing ‘I can only wait so long’.

I saw the Trot­ters against Brighton this sea­son and they did re­ally well. But against Derby and Black­burn it was ob­vi­ous they needed a striker.

Gary Ma­dine has done okay, but has missed a lot of chances. Lenny’s re­ly­ing on Emile Heskey, but he’s 37 now. Young Zach Clough had a great start to his ca­reer, but has prob­a­bly fallen be­low ex­pec­ta­tions. He’s ex­pected to carry the team and that’s a lot of pres­sure on young shoul­ders.

When you’re try­ing to sign a player in Carl­ton Cole who hasn’t played for sev­eral months, it tells you that Lenny’s been given no money to spend.


And when that player sub­se­quently joins some­body else, iron­i­cally Celtic, it tells you what a prospect Bolton is th­ese days.

On Fri­day, Neil was able to bring in former New­cas­tle striker Shola Ameobi, 34, on a short-term deal af­ter a trial, so let’s see...

I re­ally don’t want this run of Bolton’s to tar­nish his rep­u­ta­tion as a man­ager. He’s some­one who did a lot for me at Celtic and his man­man­age­ment, his dis­ci­pline – it’s all very good.

Un­for­tu­nately, they aren’t win­ning games. And the fear is that they’ll get rid of him when re­ally it isn’t his fault.

Or they’ll get to Jan­uary, still be bot­tom of the Cham­pi­onship and the own­ers will think ‘We’re not go­ing to spend any money in case we go down’.

Has he got any­thing go­ing for him? Judg­ing by per­for­mances, he hasn’t lost the dress­ing room. They’re not get­ting spanked five or six-nil. They’re not rolling over. They’re just strug­gling with con­fi­dence and – as Lenny said – the qual­ity isn’t good enough.

That’s noth­ing against the play­ers. That’s just re­al­ity. Neil is do­ing the best he can with the play­ers he’s got. And if any­body can get them out of this, it’s him.

GRAFTER: Neil Len­non

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