Gary Megson has expressed his sympathy for Rafael Benitez as Bolton Wanderers prepare to host under-pressure Liverpool in the Premier League tomorrow.
The Merseysiders' title credentials are already under intense scrutiny after they suffered two defeats in their opening three games – as many as they lost in their entire league campaign last season on the way to finishing second. The knives are out once more for Benitez, but Megson believes Liverpool's critics are wide of the mark and is under no illusions as to the quality of the team his side will face at the weekend.
"They seem to be getting a bit of unjust and unfair criticism," said Megson. "They've lost a couple of games, which they're not used to and you can see the furore that it seems to have caused. But what I know is that they will put at least four world-class players out at the Reebok on Saturday.
"They'll be right at it because they've publicly come out and said that it's a game they must win and that they can't afford to lose another game all season if they are going to win the Premier League. It's going to be a big, big test for us."
Megson – who continues to endure an ambivalent relationship with the Bolton supporters – is no stranger to pressure himself and will send out a team on Saturday looking for their first points of the new season.
Bolton bounced back from defeats in their opening two Premier League games to record a 1-0 win at Tranmere in the Carling Cup on Tuesday. And while that result will have boosted morale, Megson said that even before the Tranmere match, his players had become well accustomed to dealing with criticism and staying upbeat in the face of adversity.
"They had a spring in their step anyway," Megson said. "I said to the players the other day – the club doesn't get a lot of help or credit, it never has done, from the outside.
"Even when I was at other clubs, Bolton were always viewed differently to others. Maybe you get a bit paranoid, but I don't think so – there isn't a lot of credit when Bolton have done well. But that's just the way it is. Everyone at this football club has a spring in their step.
"It's a terrific football club, the people in it are great people. There's absolutely nothing within the four walls of the club that is an issue."
If a positive attitude is not the problem for Bolton's players, then goal-scoring certainly has been, with Mark Davies' winner at Prenton Park the club's first goal of the season.
Megson has called on his strikers to start firing after a host of opportunities were squandered in the 1-0 defeats against Sunderland and Hull.
And with the transfer deadline nearing, the manager is also hoping to strengthen his attacking options with some late additions to the squad. Top of Megson's wish list is former club captain Kevin Nolan, who left for Newcastle in January only to be relegated with the Magpies in May.
"I didn't particularly want him to go in the first place," Megson said of the 27-year-old midfielder. "It's just an enquiry, we've asked someone to find out if Newcastle would be interested in loaning Kevin back to the football club and we haven't had a response as yet.
"We'll see, because we were told that Newcastle needed to move one or two players about due to the fact they had been relegated."
Another player interesting Megson is Real Betis' Cameroon attacking midfielder Achille Emana. "We tried to buy him last year [when he left Toulouse], but he went to Betis and had a decent season there," Megson added. "They've found themselves in trouble as well though, so whether there is a possibility on that one, I don't know."Reuse content