Astonishingly, I'm about to back one of the Anderson's public appeals: we must back Phil Parkinson. As I will go on to indulge, the arguments against PP are understandable and justifiable but I believe, at the core of those complaints, is a genuine lack of gratitude and realisation for what he has performed. Before I go anymore deeper into my appreciation of him - let's understand the negativity surrounding the former Colchester, Charlton, Hull and Bradford manager.
As someone that went on record, a few times, in September saying "we will not stay up with Phil Parkinson in charge" (immediately before always insisting I still wouldn't sack him regardless); I understand the calls for his sacking. The style of football is to say, politely, attritional. It is the cliche of percentage tactics to an excruciating new level. The idea behind Parkinson's style is fairly obvious; if you don't concede, you dont lose a game of football. Wanderers took time to re-adjust to 2nd Tier standard and the first 11 games were a winless onslaught of deflating 5 at the back flat midfield and target man. A system that went onto score 0 goals in 7 games across the back end of August and whole of September; astonishingly dull. At that stage, I felt no hope. We were gone and I'll admit, I believed Parkinson's time at Wanderers was meeting an abrupt end due to the financial issues of relegation - which seemed a formality under his leadership. It was a toxic yet sterile time where the apathy of support from the 2015-2016 season seemed to be creeping slowly back into the Trotters' support.
However, as proven by his success at Colchester, Parkinson instigated a real chance of survival. After taking the U's into the 2nd division for the first time in 15 years, Parkinson masterminded a 10th placed finish for the Essex side on a shoestring budget, only slightly bigger than the one he has to deal with this summer (I know).
Now, before I go onto to talk about the October turnaround, I will happily acknowledge the boost given by the returning Sammy Ameobi and Josh Vela as Karl Henry signed on. (I've acknowledged how wrong I was about Henry many times, including this link.)
The international break was perfectly timed, it gave a 2-week period for Parkinson to drill into his players the new system (which showed signs of improvement at Villa Park) and embed the new men. The 4-2-3-1 with proper full-backs matched with the solidity of last year's central defensive two rather than three showed, in abundance, the desire for a balanced set up of a limited group of players. Admittedly, the attacking style of 'knock to Madine, Vela chase and press' didn't evolve but it was far more effective when there were bodies around the pair. After an extremely entertaining win against Sheffield Wednesday in mid-October, three ensuing matches saw Wanderers drop points from winning positions. It didn't matter, the belief was there, the template was there: Wanderers could do this.
Since then, the Whites have placed themselves 2 places outside the relegation zone having played their final match of 2018's opening month. I thought if we were 4-5 points off at Christmas, we'd be in a competitive position. We're simply exceeding expectations and there are calls for Parkinson's head. Once the style has become ineffective, sure, all arguments for him become null and void but if Bolton stay up this season; it'll be a miraculous escape from the off-pitch situation prior to the season combined
with the cataclysmic opening weeks of the season on-the pitch.
The most remarkable statistic to support my view is as follows: only 2 Bolton managers have a greater win % than Phil Parkinson since the beginning of the 20th Century: Jimmy Armfield and Bruce Rioch - you simply don't sack someone with the record and effectiveness to back him up. In 10 years he may get his deserved acknowledgement, this man deserves far more respect.