GARY Megson is bound to come up against his former clubs now and again. He does, after all, have 15 of them.
But the Bolton manager’s first meeting with West Brom since he left them in October 2004 was always going to attract more attention than, say, his meeting with Stoke two weeks ago.
Megson fell out spectacularly with Albion’s chairman Jeremy Peace over transfer policy after guiding the club back to the Premier League in the summer of 2004. And the rift angered Megson so much that, four years on, he still won’t mention Peace by name.
“You will never hear me mention his name,” Megson said in the build-up to today’s game. “I haven’t done before and I never will do in the future.
“I don’t want to sully this match by talking about him. However, I will never get over how I think he treated me and my family. But this is about football, not about that bloke.”
Megson, it should be pointed out, had a lot of good things to say at West Brom in general, not least his belief that the Premier League is better for having them in it.
All the same, I suspect that Megson would have wanted more than a point against them to pick up the mood at the Reebok after Tuesday night’s Carling Cup humiliation against Northampton.
Tonight’s final match: Bolton 0 West Brom 0
Commentator: Alistair Mann
Megson is still fondly remembered by many at West Brom for what he did – taking them to the Premier League twice – but he has not yet really managed to win over Bolton’s support.
He wasn’t seen as an exciting appointment by Wanderers fans when he quit Leicester to replace Sammy Lee last October. And even though he kept Bolton in the Premier League, his attitude to the UEFA Cup last season – fielding a side full of fringe players in most of the games – didn’t do much to endear him to the fans either.
Wanderers are in a strange place at the moment. They have, by finishing in the Premier League’s top eight four seasons running and qualifying for the UEFA Cup twice, gone as high as they can realistically go in English football. The only way from there is down – but having survived a relegation scare to finish 16th last season, the big drop doesn’t look as if it will happen any time soon.
And so it is that Bolton look likely to spend the next few years bobbing around in a Premier League mid-table comfort zone. If so, this is hugely significant. Since the glory days of the Nat Lofthouse era, Bolton have had good times, bad times and very bad times. But they have nearly always been playing for something: promotion, the play-offs, survival or, latterly, European qualification. Drifting mid-table campaigns have been few in Bolton.
If the best that Wanderers can hope for is mid-table safety – indeed, if that’s now the target, given that European football didn’t seem to capture Megson’s imagination last season – then where’s the excitement going to come from?
There was a bit of excitement at the Reebok today. Do-heon Kim hit the bar for West Brom – with Ishmael Miller missing a sitter on the follow-up – while Bolton had two penalty shouts rejected and two Kevin Davies goals (rightly) disallowed for offside. But this game was last on Match of the Day for a reason; it was the least dramatic Premier League game on offer today.
Megson could argue that just standing still is an achievement for Bolton. And maybe it is. Sometimes, it’s as much as you can do in life just to chug along, and settle for what you’ve got. It’s not glamorous. But then Leeds tried to shoot for the moon – and look what happened to them.
1=. West Ham: 1 (Capello difference: +1)
1=. Wigan: 1 (Capello difference: +1)
1=. Capello: 1
4=. Blackburn: 1
4=. Bolton: 1
4=. Hull: 1
4=. West Brom: 1
8=. Gubba: 0
8=. Arsenal: 0
8=. Aston Villa: 0
8=. Chelsea: 0
8=. Everton: 0
8=. Fulham: 0
8=. Liverpool: 0
8=. Manchester City: 0
8=. Manchester United: 0
8=. Middlesbrough: 0
8=. Newcastle: 0
8=. Portsmouth: 0
8=. Stoke: 0
8=. Sunderland: 0
8=. Tottenham: 0
(NB: Teams level on points will be separated by Gubba difference: the number of times a team is last on Match of the Day with Tony Gubba commentating. If they are still level, they will be separated by Capello difference: the number of times a team is last on MOTD with Fabio Capello present.)