When the announcement came through on Tuesday lunchtime that Bolton Wanderers had parted company with manager Neil Lennon by mutual consent, there was a sense amongst supporters that the inevitable outcome was the correct decision.
The Sports Shield consortium; who are spearheaded by former Trotters forward Dean Holdsworth, moved swiftly to part ways with Lennon, just five days after completing the ownership – in what had been a torrid time at the Macron Stadium for the former Northern Ireland international midfielder.
Lennon’s recent departure did not come as a surprise to me really – in fact, in my previous blog a fortnight ago, I predicted that the then pending takeover could subsequently spell the end for the manager, and it did!
His last encounter in the dugout was typical of how his side have performed on a regular basis all season, as Bolton slipped to a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of the upwardly moving Preston North End. The Lilywhites inflicted a fifth defeat in seven games, a result which was seemingly the final straw.
Academy manager Jimmy Phillips will now oversee first-team plans on an interim basis, as Sports Shield begin their search for a manager to take the side forward in the long-run.
In what started as a relatively smooth transition having moved south of the border following his appointment back in October 2014, the 44-year-old was faced with an uphill battle that even he couldn’t turn around.
Things really didn’t go the way that Lennon hoped in the summer months. Top targets; Adam Le Fondre and Barry Bannan moved elsewhere, whilst senior squad members walked away for free. Assistant manager Johan Mjallby also left, this caused deeper issues than first feared, and Wanderers’ right-hand man was gone.
Off-field events which threatened to force the club into administration, prior to the ratified takeover earlier this month, made Lennon’s job even more challenging. The beleaguered side must now face life in the third-tier for the first time in over two decades, as they currently prop up the standings – residing 11 points adrift of safety with just nine games remaining.
The former Celtic manager arrived in the English game with a point to prove, having won all major honours during his time in the Scottish top-flight, Lennon wanted to make a clear fight of it as Dougie Freedman’s replacement, and all those associated with the club were intrigued to see what he could mould at the Greater Manchester outfit.
Unfortunately; in Lennon’s case, during the 79 games that he presided in his fruitless 17 months, he could only record just 18 victories during that time frame – leaving BL6 with a win percentage off 22.78 (%) – ranking him as the least successful manager to remain at the club for more than 50 games.
It can be argued that Lennon took on a position without prior knowledge of the financial situation which engulfed Bolton. That said; it is a results driven business, something which he failed to put right during a frustrating spell.
Fans had begun to get on the back of Lennon; who to be honest, was fighting a losing battle, proceedings on and off the pitch were dramatically taking their toll. Once the takeover talk really got going, there was an eerie sense that those days in the hot-seat were numbered.
The new owners clearly feel that, despite the ever increasing gap at the foot of the table, the season can still be salvaged, or else they wouldn’t have made the decision what they came to.
Whoever succeeds Lennon as manager at Bolton has a huge job on his hands. It is a shame that it didn’t work out for Neil, however, the new appointment that the board make is the most important for a while – get it right, and the board are on their way to stabilising the ship, potentially for years to come. But get it wrong – and we could be all back to square one!