The time has come to give Gary Megson his due. Three weeks ago some Bolton supporters held a demonstration demanding his dismissal as manager. They are looking slightly foolish now.
Three wins and a draw later have secured Bolton's Premier League place. You can forget the mathematics – Roy of the Rovers could not conjure the results required for them to drop into the bottom three. They are safe and that is a substantial achievement.
Megson may not be everyone's cup of Bovril, as Crystal Palace's manager, Neil Warnock, has testified in this paper, but when he took over in October Bolton were in such dire straits they were below Derby. Yes, the same Derby who have broken records for failure and who have a goal difference so embarrassing you think it is a misprint.
Bolton go to Stamford Bridge on Sunday three points and five and 11 goals better off than Fulham and Reading. Megson would not tempt fate but he did receive a embrace from his Sunderland counterpart, Roy Keane, who told him: "We'll see you next season."
The players and spectators also sounded a raucous all-clear. Several of Megson's team threw their shirts into the stands and the one youth who invaded the pitch did not try to avoid the police; instead he threw his arms around a startled constable.
Megson was looking ahead to Chelsea – "We'll compete for every ball but we won't kick them off the park because they are in the Champions League final" – and the future of El Hadji Diouf. The Senegalese striker opened the scoring with a difficult half-volley into the top corner. Like Nicolas Anelka, he wants to go in search of Champions League football.
"We get on really well," Megson said. "At times he's as daft as a brush but he's got a fantastic personality and I wish we had more like him. I think we can get him fitter and in better condition. I think we can get more out of him but if someone comes in, makes a really good offer and Dioufy has said he wants to go, we'll have to look at it. It won't happen any other way. Nobody will be able to nick El Hadji Diouf.
"You don't have the kind of season Bolton have had if everything is hunky-dory," Megson added. "When you change midstream it's very difficult. We're doing things now that I'm having to do rather than wanting to do."
Keane's post-match words carried the menace of his tackling. He will get rid of players, he said, some of whom he will pay off. "I can't defend players who give the ball away when they are under no pressure," he said. "This is not amateur football, this is the Premier League. It was so sloppy. It drives me mental."
Goals: Diouf (42) 1-0; Murphy og (83) 2-0.
Bolton Wanderers (4-1-4-1) Al Habsi; Steinsson, Cahill, A O'Brien, Samuel; McCann; Diouf, Nolan, Guthrie, Taylor; Davies. Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Meite, Cohen, Giannakopoulos, Rasiak.
Sunderland (4-4-2): Gordon; Nosworthy (Murphy, 62), Evans, Higginbotham, Collins; Miller (Leadbitter, 62), Whitehead, Richardson, Reid; Jones, Chopra (O'Donovan, 62). Substitutes not used: Fulop (gk), Yorke.
Referee: M Atkinson (West Yorkshire).
Booked: Bolton McCann.
Man of the match: Diouf.
Attendance: 25,053.Reuse content