Kevin Nolan has revealed how Gary Megson has stamped his authority on Bolton Wanderers and told players to do it his way or face being dropped.
Megson inherited a team trying to pass their way out of trouble but they battled their way to a point at West Ham on Sunday and the new manager looks set to continue with Bolton's traditional forthright style. Nolan is back in central midfield after being played out of position then losing his place under Sammy Lee, but Megson appears ready to upset regulars if they do not work with his plans.
It may mean resting some of them for Thursday's Uefa Cup tie away to Bayern Munich, as the new manager considers the weekend match against Middlesbrough to be the priority in the battle to climb out of the Premier League relegation zone.
Nolan, after scoring his late equaliser at Upton Park, feels there is renewed belief at the Reebok Stadium following Megson's arrival. "He's come in and given a bit confidence," the 25-year-old said. "He's basically told us what he wants and if he doesn't get it we're out of the team.
"He's been a breath of fresh air for the lads, the lads have been fantastic to him like they were for Sammy.
"It's just unfortunate results didn't go our way earlier in the season but, hopefully, we can turn the last two draws into wins. It's a massive game against Middlesbrough next week."
Megson was an unused substitute for Norwich's stunning win in Munich 14 years ago, but a win over Boro is the priority, not another upset against the German giants. "We have to make sure we are picking up results in the Premier League," he said. "It is a big game and I've been there with Norwich, although I didn't play. I did the warm-up of all warm-ups and never got on the pitch.
"It's a great stadium and a terrific occasion but our big, big game is Middlesbrough at the Reebok."
Although Nicky Hunt suffered a dislocated shoulder at Upton Park, there was jubilation among Bolton players when they rescued a point. Bolton have appeared to be suffering since Sam Allardyce left last season, but Nolan believes the players are all pulling in the same direction. "This team is strong, we stick together and we're committed," he said. "We're all looking for one thing and that's climbing the table as soon as possible. We've all got one goal and I think we'll get there in the end."
Nolan has been free-scoring in previous seasons, but the goal he prodded home at West Ham was his first of the campaign. "The goal was for the people who supported me through the tough times," he said. "It felt like a massive relief. You could see by the celebrations that we're in this together and will get out of it together."
While Nolan was delighted with his late intervention, the West Ham manager, Alan Curbishley, was disgusted and urged his players to be more professionalism after failing to close out victory. Curbishley's men were 90 seconds from a win at Upton Park but chose to attack in stoppage time, allowing the visitors a last chance to give their small travelling support something to cheer.
"We needed a bit of professionalism," Curbishley said. "One or two needed to get their foot on it and run it into the corner. If it had been Bolton, [El Hadji] Diouf would have run it into the corner and attracted a foul. The last thing we wanted with a minute to go was a long throw to go in there with lots of bodies. It was a typical Bolton goal."
Bolton had been putting pressure on the hosts after George McCartney opened the scoring with an acrobatic 19th-minute volley, his first goal in club football.
Danny Guthrie hit the post, Gary Speed went close after feeding off typical Bolton knockdowns, and Kevin Davies also skimmed the bar with a header.
Jonathan Spector also cleared off the line and when it looked like West Ham would be earning a place in the top half of the Premier League, Nolan struck to earn Bolton a share of the spoils.
"You think it's not going to be our day but they kept going and the jubilation you get from that point is terrific," Megson added.
"You have two choices – either the white flag goes up or you keep going. They certainly kept going."Reuse content