Eaves and Sordell warming up!
After Coyle left Bolton Wanderers Jimmy Phillips and Little Sammy Lee stepped up to take the helm. There was a reintroduction of some traditional Sam Allardyce ways and double training was the order of the day. Golf trips were cancelled. Fitness levels were increased. Diets were looked at. The Sports Scientists were brought back in. Individual training regimes were undertaken to improve specific aspects of some player's physical fitness and or key tactical and technical areas of their play.
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On the pitch You could see and feel the lift in the players. They worked harder. Their heads were lifted. They fought for the ball and looked capable of taking the bull by the horns. They had the passion and the desire and you could tell they wanted to win. It was refreshing and inspiring to see. Off the pitch there were a lot of comments in the press from players who commented on how much things had changed since Coyle had left and how much more positive everything looked. They were enjoying playing and they were up for it!
Under the charge of Phillips and Lee Bolton went on to win 3-2 against Bristol in the most thrilling game of the season so far. Bolton next drew away against Wolves in what was a great performance and many considered we were unlucky not to win. Lee and Phiilips in their final game went to Middlesbrough and lost but not before taking the lead and looking good for long periods against a top three side who had won 4 games in a row.
Then Freedman took official charge as manager and Bolton won two and drew four of their next six games. Dougie, it seemed, had continued where LSL and JP had left off. Things seemed to be looking up. There was still a bit of fight in the team and it looked as if we might build on a good November run. But it wasn't set to last. Since the start of December Bolton have now lost four, won just two and drawn two. That is a mere 8 points from a possible 24!
I was unlucky enough to see five of those eight games and I have been, for the most part, thoroughly underwhelmed by the level of passion and the lack of ambition shown on the pitch. And that is exacerbated by Freedman's comments after games where he seems quite happy with what has been put on display by his team. When I am going home from games embarrassed and dejected it seems that the players are getting a hearty pat on the back and a "well done lads" for their troubles.
Now I feel I must ask this question. Did Freedman's run of unbeaten games in December come about as a partial result of the work done by Sammy Lee and Jimmy Phillips and now the players are reverting back to their earlier season ways because that (JP&LSL) influence has started to wear off since Dougie has implemented his own ways and brought in his own people/coaches?
That fight, that vigor and that passion all seem to be lacking for large parts of games much like we saw in the early part of the season. Where has it gone? There were so many weak tackles today I would have lost count if I tried to tally them up. So many aimless and misplaced balls - and I don't just mean poor passes I mean thoughtless, lazy, half-hearted.
If Dougie Freedman really was happy with the way we performed today then I really hope one of his back room staff tell him straight. He needs to take a long, hard and critical look at how we really performed and do something about it because he won't do anything to fix it if he doesn't even think it is broken. And that is what worries me the most.
So was Freedman initially riding on the back of what JP and LSL had put in place before he arrived? Did the Jimmy Phillips effect live on for a few games once Freedman was installed as manager? And does that account for Freeman's initial positive start?
Freedman has now had a decent amount of time to start getting the best out of his team and it just is not happening. Bolton drew toady against a not particularly good Millwall team. They came to the Reebok and could have won. What did Freedman say? "I’m absolutely delighted with what the lads are giving me at this moment." What did Phillip's say after a superb win against Bristol? "It was not a god start but we managed to find some gaps and got a result, there is a lot more work to be done to tighten up at the back but the players are responding and enjoying the sessions" (paraphrasing). Is that the difference?
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Life long Wanderer, season ticket holder and avid blogger!
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