Wednesday 2 April ~
When he was chairman of Manchester City, Francis Lee once said that he had never wanted to be a football manager because his job would be dependent on “11 daft lads”. Managerial reputations rise and fall far more quickly than those of players. Paul Simpson would be a case in point. Having achieved two promotions with Carlisle, he got the boot from Preston after a poor run in his second season and is now back in League Two with Shrewsbury. Simpson is still only 41 and his disappointment at Deepdale is unlikely to have done lasting damage. But some managers get stuck with a negative reputation that they can't shake off. In 2000, Gary Megson took West Brom back into the top level for the first time in 14 years, having previously led Stockport to their highest ever League position – eighth in what is now the Championship. Now, however, he has almost become a byword for managerial incompetence.
Megson happens to have a hair colour that prompt unflattering nicknames, in his case the Ginger Whinger. In fact he very nearly got the job held by another redhead, David Moyes. The Everton board were evenly split over who to approach for their managerial vacancy when Walter Smith was sacked in March 2002. It was on chairman Bill Kenwright's casting vote that they decided to approach David Moyes rather than Megson, who was about to take West Brom up to the Premier League for a second time.
Last Saturday, Megson's Bolton lost to ten-man opposition for the second game in a row. It had seemed that the battle to avoid the third relegation place was going to go to the last game of the season. But Bolton are now firm favourites for the drop. Megson arrived at the Reebok after a brief spell at Leicester preceded by a calamitous run at Forest who were close to the relegation zone in League One when he departed. Bolton supporters chanted “Sack the board” at his first home game and it would be fair to say that the fans have not warmed to him since despite a reasonable run in the UEFA Cup.
Megson would argue that he wasn't provided with the means to replace star striker Nicolas Anelka when he left for Chelsea in January. But the root of the complaints at Bolton mirror those at West Brom toward the of Megson's spell there in 2004 and indeed at most of his earlier managerial jobs. It is said that his teams play in a dour, overly cautious style, while the manager has an acerbic manner which has led to a falling out with key players. Bolton's chairman Phil Gartside has said that Megson won't carry the can if the team go down but that may be no more than an attempt to boost flagging morale. If season-ticket sales for 2008-09 seem be affected by the prospect of Megson still being in charge, he will surely be on his way and looking for an eighth appointment in 13 years.