It is almost exactly three months since Neil Lennon took over the reins from Dougie Freedman at Bolton Wanderers in mid-October.
Despite differing opinion amongst fans at the time of his appointment, the former Celtic man’s time at the helm has been largely promising.
When the Northern Irishman took over, Bolton were rock bottom of the Championship with just five points from 11 matches and looked doomed to a season in the relegation zone.
To make matters worse, they were experiencing something of a munity from fans, with protests calling for the heads of both Freedman and chairman Phil Gartside.
Fast forward three months and the Trotters have accrued 25 points from the 14 games under their new manager, a big improvement which has seen them rise eight league places.
The club also went eight games unbeaten between November 4 and December 28 and are currently without a loss in eight matches at home in all competitions.
This is a formbook which had become inconceivable in the dark final days of Freedman’s time, and which has served as something of a vindication of Lennon’s appointment.
Even more pleasing is that Wanderers have made steps towards the lofty targets set out by the new boss at his first press conference.
“The first thing is to try and get out of the bottom three and build from there,” Lennon said upon his arrival. “We’ll try to work hard on the training ground and instil confidence.
“We’ve got five points but the players are capable of achieving a play-off spot if we find some momentum and consistency.”
Although Wanderers are currently 11 points off the play-off positions, they also have a seven-point cushion above the relegation zone, a clear sign of solid progress.
Lennon’s fire for the game and drive to bring the club back to success seem to have made all the difference to a squad of players who looked short on both morale and motivation before Freedman’s departure.
Indicative of how well his new players have taken to his methods and attitude has been the manner in which players have been talking about the former Leicester City man since his arrival.
Speaking after Lennon’s third game in charge, a 3-1 win over Brentford in late October, Trotters midfielder Neil Danns explained the impact his ‘intensity’ was having on the players.
“I think the gaffer is stamping his own game on the club, he used to play with a lot of intensity and that is rubbing off on us,” Danns said at the time.
“I think everyone can see the difference in the side and everybody is delighted. In training he is intense but in a good way and the boys seem to have taken to it.”
This kind of enthusiasm has been clearly reflected on the pitch and Lennon has generally got the improvement and consistency that he called for.
The Championship total of 25 points from 14 games since his arrival includes seven wins, four draws and just three defeats, in addition to an FA Cup third-round victory over local rivals Wigan.
It has not been just a simple case of an upturn in form, however. Bolton’s squad, added to significantly only by the recent arrivals of veteran strikers Eidur Gudjohnsen and Emile Heskey, seems revitalised by Lennon’s approach.
With a combined age of 72, the signings of the pair were questioned by many but it seems to have been a calculated gamble, with both having already contributed valuable goals to the club’s cause.
However, with the reinvigorated Lee Chung-Yong and out-of-favour Jay Spearing amongst those rumoured to be leaving the club, Lennon has spoken publicly about his desire to add to his squad this month.
It is a big if, but if Lennon can bring Bolton out of January with more quality in his side than he went into the month with, the club could find themselves returning as top-half Championship contenders.
Main image courtesy of Bolton Wanderers FC via YouTube, with thanks.