A year has now passed since Neil Lennon took the job as manager at Bolton Wanderers, so in my latest Shoot blog, I will take a closer look at his first 12 months in the dugout at the Macron Stadium.
Bolton, in truth, are in a similar position to when Lennon succeeded Dougie Freedman last October, with the Trotters currently residing in 22nd position in the second-tier, having just picked up a solitary win so far this season.
In a role which will make or break his reputation as a manager, his first anniversary has coincided with many ups and downs during what has been a year of change for all concerned with Bolton Wanderers Football Club.
Having won near enough everything there was to win during his time with Celtic, the Northern Irishman was keen to try his luck south of the border, and Bolton came calling in an attempt to salvage their season.
With the eyes of the media firmly on him, Lennon’s first game in charge of the Trotters was a 1-0 win away at Birmingham City, a fixture in which he found himself sent to the stands, six days after his appointment as he enjoyed a winning start at his new employers.
In the months that followed, the 44-year-old improved things considerably at the club, as he guided Wanderers to a respectable 18th-placed finish at the end of his half-season in charge.
When he initially was instated as Bolton’s manager, Lennon reignited the passion that the beleaguered Wanderers had lacked since the departure of Sam Allardyce seven years earlier. Indeed, he enjoyed a fine start to his first job in England, with wins against the likes of local rivals, Wigan Athletic and Blackburn Rovers, before the New Year further enhanced the feel-good feeling.
Lennon used his limited resources to good effect, as Eidur Gudjohnsen and Emile Heskey were brought into strengthen the attacking options, while he looked towards the future by handing starts to academy graduates Zach Clough, Josh Vela and Tom Walker.
However, the second half of the season turned somewhat sour, with long-term injuries and suspensions taking their toll on proceedings at Bolton, and ultimately as a result, Wanderers tailored off in the closing weeks of the 2014-15 term.
The crippling financial situation that the club find themselves in at the moment continues to frustrate Lennon, who missed out on several key targets in the summer months. A changing of the guard occurred in the pre-season months, with Bolton relying upon free transfers and loan recruits in order to strengthen for the new season.
The likes of Ben Amos, Derik Osede, Prince-Desir Gouano and Gary Madine were all recruited without a penny being spent on fees – but unfortunately, it is a case of what could have been for Adam Le Fondre, who despite a crowdfund by supporters, moved to Wolverhampton Wanderers on loan instead.
Despite all of the plaudits given to him in his playing, and short managerial career to date, so far, Lennon has struggled to find that winning formula on a consistent basis, and the early stages of this season are worryingly matching the latter part of last term. There is no doubt whatsoever that Lennon’s hands are very much tied to the maximum, with the long-term ownership of Bolton up in the air, as owner Eddie Davies mulls over selling to foreign investors.
For the first time, Lennon has been the subject of criticism from some sections of disgruntled supporters from the terraces, who have been rightly concerned with the direction that the side are heading in – Bolton have won just six times in 2015 – a cause for concern in anybody’s books, but having beaten Barcelona whilst at Celtic, Lennon has to prove that he can cut it on a shoe-string budget when the going gets tough.