The Managerial Round Up
Date: Wednesday 8th February 2006Watching the current speculation concerning Big Sam’s future employment, and some of the discussions about his possible successor, I thought it might be interesting to consider the Big Feller’s predecessors. This exercise may be a risk to health for those of a nervous or easily upset disposition, so be warned. Until recent times Bolton Wanderers have been very frugal in the number of managers they appointed. From the first secretary manager (John Somerville in 1908) until the departure of Bill Ridding in 1968 we only had a total of six managers. Then it all turned a bit silly! I’ve decide to cast my critical eye over the extensive period that I have watched our beloved club. This will take the reader on a giddy roller-coaster of a journey from the refined heights of the Premier League to one unforgettable (for all the wrong reasons) season in Division Four – and every stopping off point in between. My personal odyssey starts in 1960 with the Wanderers in the First Division. So, take a deep breath, and we’re off! Bill Ridding 1951 - 1968 Appointed as manager in 1951, Bill had already managed the side to two FA Cup Finals before I started to watch the games. He had been the club trainer (remember them?), prior to this. In fact the FA appointed him as trainer for the 1950 England World Cup Squad, whilst he was at Bolton. His 1958 Cup winning team had famously been assembled for a total cost of £110 (being the £10 signing-on fee for each player). He continued to produce home-grown players but, with the abolition of the minimum wage the club found it increasingly difficult to hang onto the young stars. A decline set in and we were relegated in 1964. By 1968 we had not regained our First Division status and Bill Ridding resigned. Nat Lofthouse 1968 – 1970, 1971 and 1985 What a servant to our club this man has been! On top of his incredible playing record, for both club and country, Sir Nat has also managed the club on three occasions! In 1968 he inherited a side with severe problems. Having no stars, only youngsters, the club was destined to struggle in the nether regions of Division Two through Nat’s tenure. He passed the manager’s job onto Jimmy McIlroy in 1970. His subsequent managerial spells were caretaker roles following the carnage caused by others. Jimmy McIlroy 1970 McIlroy had played for Burnley and Stoke City. He had earned 55 caps for Northern Ireland. After a mere eighteen days (!) he resigned, when he discovered that the Bolton board would accept offers for any of the players. Nat Lofthouse took over the manager’s role again, pending the appointment of a new manager. Jimmy Meadows 1971 Well, this Jimmy lasted a bit longer than the previous Jimmy. He stayed around for a whole eleven weeks, without winning a game! He sold a lot of players though. Lofthouse took on the job yet again, but the damage had been done. We finished bottom of Division Two at the end of the season. Jimmy Armfield 1971 – 1974 We thought we’d spotted a pattern emerging here – but this Jimmy was different gravy to his two predecessors. This was his first managerial role after an illustrious playing career with Blackpool and England. In his second season we got to the 5th round of the FA Cup and won the Third Division title. He brought Tony Dunne and Peter Thompson to the club and we became an established Second Division side again. As for his winning psychology I can you two examples of his forward-thinking style. He restored the traditional navy-blue shorts after two seasons in all-white, and he banned the Stretford Redsox Supporters (Bolton branch tossers) coach from picking up and setting down from the main Burnden Park car park. Top man! He left for the Leeds United job in 1974 and took them to a European cup final. Ian Greaves 1974 – 1980 Happy days! Armfield’s assistant, Greaves took Bolton to within inches of the First Division in both 1975/76 and 1976/77. Third time lucky as we won the Second Division championship, in front of a little club called Spurs. This great side was backed up by big transfers, but they didn’t come off and after surviving in the top flight for a season we were firmly rooted at the foot of the table when Ian Greaves got the bullet in January 1980. Stan Anderson 1980 – 1981 The first of a series of managers who, in my view, would have struggled to manage a chippy – even in Little Lever! Anderson had over 500 appearances for the North East triumvirate of Newcastle, Sunderland and Boro. Obviously a man who hedged his bets! He also had two England caps. (No, I don’t remember either!) He couldn’t save us from the drop, and he couldn’t get us back up again. He got the bullet in May 1981. George Mulhall 1981 – 1982 Another twelve month wonder. A player with Aberdeen and Sunderland, with three Scottish caps to his name, George inherited a side that was breaking up and had to be sold anyway to balance the books. Nine players were released at the end of the 1981/82 season and Mulhall followed them, possibly wondering if there was a more poorly run club in the league system. John McGovern 1982 – 1985 God, this is depressing! McGovern came as player-manager, having won European Cup medals with both Forest and Derby. Only free transfers were available (Déjà vu?) and we struggled at the wrong end of the Division Three table until he left us in January 1985. Charlie Wright 1985 Yes, he was our manager for twelve months! He started with five straight wins – and finished with five straight defeats. In between, more of the same as the previous five years! Nat Lofthouse managed the side yet again for one game, whilst a successor to Wright was sought. Phil Neal 1985 – 1992 My hands shake as I type! It could have been so good, and yet…! One of the most highly decorated players the game has seen showed just how ordinary a move from a class side to a poor side, coupled with a switch into midfield, could make him appear. Truly awful on the field, he presided over our relegation into the Fourth Division in 1987. To be fair to him he then brought us back up in one season and took us to Wembley to win the 1989 Sherpa Van Trophy Final, after a 1987 defeat in the final of the Freight Rover Trophy at the same venue. Indecision then took over and we moved in ever decreasing circles until his departure at the end of the 1991/92 season. Bruce Rioch 1992 – 1995 Three glorious years under the man who gave Wanderers fans the chance to lift their heads again and be proud! He achieved more in three years than any Bolton fan could have dreamed. He brought in McGinlay and Brannigan, amongst others. He then took this marvellous side into the First Division in 1992/93 and the Coca Cola Final at Wembley in 1995. Also, in a never to be forgotten play-off final victory against Reading in 1995 he got us back into the Premier League. His contract expired and he chose to take the Arsenal job rather than renew his contract with us. He only lasted one season at Highbury, mainly due to political issues – but he did buy Bergkamp! Roy McFarland 1995 – 1996 Why? He lasted until New Year’s Day, winning two games in the process, and then departed. Not much more to say really. Colin Todd 1996 – 1999 A master of indecision, in my view, Todd had a bit of an up and downer at Bolton. He couldn’t save us from relegation in 1996, nobody could. He did, however, bring them back in style the following season, with Phil “Suntan” Brown as his new number two. We didn’t survive the following season though, being relegated on the last day of the season on goal difference. We lost the play-off final against Watford in 1999 and started the new season badly. Todd left in September and Suntan took over as caretaker, pending the arrival of a new manager. AND ALONG CAME SAM!! If anyone thinks that the possibility of Allardyce moving on now may be a good thing for the club (and a small minority of posters on this site appear to have that view) I advise them to listen to the voice of experience (boring old fart that I may be). A manager with the style and finesse of Allardyce comes along once in a lifetime! These are our golden days. Enjoy them – you’ll be telling your grandchildren about what’s happened at Bolton Wanderers over the last seven years!