Written by Blair Patterson @blairpatterson
After Bolton Wanderers slipped to another heavy defeat yesterday at the hands of Gillingham, Football Ventures, the new owners of the club, wasted no time in confirming the appointment of former Rochdale boss Keith Hill as manager, with David Flitcroft joining him as his number two.
Hill had two separate spells in charge of Rochdale, achieving automatic promotion from League Two on both occasions. His success during his first stint at Spotland, where following promotion he guided them to 9th place in League One in the 10/11 season, prompted interest from Championship side Barnsley. Having made the move to South Yorkshire with Flitcroft following, it was ultimately a short stay as he struggled to put his stamp on the Tykes.
Hill returned to Rochdale, minus Flitcroft, for the 13/14 season and oversaw their promotion back to League One. In the seasons to follow, Hill helped to establish Rochdale as a League One club, and despite leaving towards the end of last season, with Dale facing what seemed like inevitable relegation, he will undoubtedly go down as a legend at the club given the success over both spells. Fans of Rochdale still speak warmly of Hill, and the parting of ways appears to have been an amicable one with an acceptance that it was time for a fresh start at the club and a new challenge for Hill.
What are Bolton getting in Hill?
Well for start, a man with a knowledge of the town and the club. Whilst not an ex-player, Hill is a local lad and many fans hope that his link to the town will give him a head start as he prepares to battle what looks like an impossible task of keeping the Wanderers in League One, following their 12 point deduction, with more punishments possibly to come.
Since Bolton’s move to the University of Bolton Stadium, some fans have claimed that the club has lost some of it’s links to the town, and this has further been exacerbated during the controversial 3 year reign of Ken Anderson. If Hill can get some of the stay away fans back and behind the team, then it will be a great start.
With the club in limbo and only a small number of senior players on the books, Bolton have been forced to play youngsters in the early stages of the season. Despite a battling 0-0 draw against Coventry in the second game of the season, the step up in quality has begun to take its toll on the young side and having conceded 5 goals for the 4th game in a row, it is time for many of them to get a well earned break. However these games have also given the fans a glimpse of the future, and in Keith Hill Bolton have manager with with track record of giving young players a chance.
Craig Dawson, someone Bolton fans know well, was picked up from Radcliffe Borough by Hill and given the opportunity to prove himself in League football at a young age, ultimately earning himself a move to West Bromwich Albion. Will Buckley, whilst not finding his best form in a Bolton shirt, came to prominence from his performance under Hill’s Rochdale, leading to a move to Watford. Dawson and Buckley are two of the higher profile ones, but there are other examples across the football league, such as Jamie Allen of Burton and Andy Cannon currently at Pompey, who both broke into the Rochdale first team under Hill. Hopefully young players like Politic and Brockbank, who have impressed in the early parts of the season despite results, will flourish under the new manager’s guidance and with the right recruitment around them.
Talking of recruitment, Hill’s knack of developing and recruiting strikers, is one that Bolton fans will hope carries on. Scott Hogan, Rickie Lambert and Glenn Murray all played for Rochdale under Hill, and were sold for good money. Indeed, Hill was so good at this, it is believe that as part of his contract at Rochdale he received a percentage of the transfer fee for any players he helped develop and sell on for a profit. Given the ongoing saga regarding Bolton’s future as a club, a lot of recent talks among fans has been about how they become a self sustainable club, Hill’s model of developing players to sell on for large profits would be a step in the right direction.
It wasn’t just the development and recruitment that saw Rochdale secure two promotions under Hill, the football on the whole was good and exciting to watch. A series of Bolton managers in recent history have come under criticism from fans for style of play and negativity, another reason some list as an excuse for staying away. If Hill can can get Bolton playing the kind of football Rochdale played during his successful years there, then the stay-a-wayers will have to find something else to come up with as a reason not come!
It may all sound like good news, however there are some reservations. Given Hill’s success at Rochdale his stature at the club grew. Sometimes it felt like he got free reign from board to say what he wanted to press, the Groundsman, the fans and Rochdale Hornets (who Dale ground-share with) all copped for it one way or another during his time at the club. It also wasn’t uncommon for him to engage in a bit of jibing with fans sat behind the dugout, if they weren’t happy with what they were seeing. Towards the end of his time at Rochdale, the team selections became more baffling, and his habit for playing players out of position was a source of frustration.
What fans are saying about this appointment
The General consensus among the fans on social media and fan websites regarding Hill’s appointment appears to be positive. Former fan’s favourite Kevin Nolan had also strongly been linked with the job, which appealed to many supporters. However given the situation Bolton now find themselves in, the sensible option always looked like being Hill, and he now has a frantic task of trying to get a number of senior players through the door before the transfer window closes tomorrow evening.
Finally, as a fan, I hope he is given the time and the backing by both the fans and the new board to try and turn this club around. Bolton were only a few hours from liquidation and seeing what is happening down the road at Bury, it is important to have some perspective. Our current position is new territory for many of our fans, and league two is looking more than likely for next year, but this week, it feels like after many backwards steps, we have taken one in the right direction.
COYW! Keith Hill’s Super White Army!