Comment: History shows Lennon’s ‘hat-trick’ will only alienate Bolton’s squad

They say you only get one chance at a first impression and it’s fair to say new Bolton boss Neil Lennon has used his to let the players he’ll be no soft touch… by banning them from training in woolly hats.

Bolton isn’t exactly the Côte d’Azur, and the Northern Irishman is sure to have at least a few disgruntled, not to mention red-eared, players on his hands.

As an opening gambit it’s bizarrely aggressive and may well backfire on Lennon, who guided Celtic to three Scottish Premier League titles in four years before penning a deal at the Macron.

Lennon’s reasoning is that players don’t play matches in hats, so they don’t need to wear them in training. By that logic, they shouldn’t be allowed to wear tracksuit bottoms or long-sleeved training wear.

Of course the man himself is exempt from his own diktat, which makes it look even pettier, as Paddy Power pointed out in a much-shared tweet.

It’s one thing to lay down the law, but this show of authority seems rather arbitrary.

Lennon could join a long list of managers whose authoritarian eccentricities undermined team morale.

During his time on Wearside, former Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio attempted to revolutionise the club’s ethos, but instead completely alienated his team, who couldn’t see any method to his madness.

Sunderland’s canteen was stripped bare by the Italian, who banned coffee, all condiments and refused to let players have ice in their coke.

Di Canio also stopped his players from singing in the shower because it ‘disturbed concentration’ and mobile phones were nowhere to be seen at the training ground.

If players even had phones on their person they were confiscated, with Di Canio once telling the Telegraph: “If someone comes inside with a mobile phone, even in their bag, I’ll throw it in the North Sea. They’re banned.”

Quite predictably, Di Canio swiftly lost the dressing room and, after an embarrassing run of form, was removed from his post after only five games of the 2013/14 season.

Curiously, Sunderland have a bad track record when it comes to dictatorial gaffers.

Succumbing to the frozen tundra of the North East wasn’t something Roy Keane was ever very tolerant of in his time with the Black Cats, having a distaste for those who had the temerity to wear gloves and snoods.

On snoods, he once told the MailOnline: “Don’t get me started. I don’t know how they do it. It’s very strange.

He added: “If you’re going to wear gloves, you’d better play well. Because that’s the first thing I’m going to throw back at you. You wear the tights, scarves, you’d better play well.”

Felix Magath, recently sacked by Fulham, also had a dictatorial style which tended to rub players the wrong way.

The German is best known in England for ordering the injured Brede Hangeland to apply a block of cheese to his injured knee, to speed up the healing process.

But in Germany Magath was notorious for his strict training regimes, reportedly including medicine balls and long cross-country runs in the woods.

His methods were successful though, maintaining an excellent record in relegation battles before the debacle that was his tenure at Craven Cottage.

Former Middlesbrough and Sheffield United striker Jan Aage Fjortoft, who played under Magath, once remarked: “I don’t know if Felix Magath would have saved the Titanic – but the survivors would have been in top shape.”

Judging from the trail of broken managerial careers that lie in the wake of this eccentric style, Lennon’s reign at Bolton could be short-lived.

On the other hand, with five points from a possible 33 and rooted to the bottom of the Championship, perhaps a kick in the backside is just what his players need.

Clearly previous manager Dougie Freedman’s ‘kid glove’ approach wasn’t producing results, and Lennon’s style is the perfect antidote to that.

And after all, he’s not all bad. Unlike Keane he was benevolent enough to say when it gets cold he might allow his players to wear gloves. Might.

Main image courtesy of Bolton Wanderers FC via YouTube, with thanks.

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