19th in the Premier League, unhappy players, no signs of improvement and comparisons with Charlton from last season – to say that things are tough for Sammy Lee is a massive understatement.
At this stage, one would have accepted it as routine if the Bolton board sacked Sammy Lee and went after someone else (is Neil Warnock still looking for a job?). However, the board must be commended for their testicular fortitude in sticking by Sammy during Bolton’s torrid start to the season, one that has seen them installed as favourites alongside Derby to be relegated (harsh, but that’s arm-chair critics for you).
In fact, the Bolton board is so staunch in their support for Lee that they backed him over Speed, to the point that Speed was demoted back to being ‘just a player’. Lee and Speed disagreed in their public statements on the issue:
“I want him to focus on his game at this moment.
I don’t want anything to distract him. I want everybody – coaches and players – to be fully focused on their game.”
“It was my decision. I decided it wasn’t working out. I want to concentrate totally on my football.”
Lee doesn’t want Speed to interfere with his work. Speed realises that Lee isn’t going to listen to him. Relationship dissolved and because Gary Speed is a model professional you can expect him to give 100% for Bolton every time he’s asked to play.
I don’t know who’s right and who’s wrong – Lee’s responsible for the current results but it’s not as if Speed is SAF in disguise. Lee has to be given more time but even at this early stage there are always signs of whether a manager is going to work out or not. Right now Bolton’s biggest problem is motivation, although even if they had that they wouldn’t be in the top 10 (they don’t really have the players at this point to push past teams like Everton and Blackburn and Portsmouth).
Gartside can back Lee all he wants, but to make it work, Lee has to get the team spirit back – and he’s not going to do that by picking a squabble with Gary Speed.