Karl Henry: Bolton Mentality Was 'Tough to Take'

  • May 19, 2020 | By Chris Mann
  • URL Short URL: http://b-ac.es/1be99

Karl Henry admits to finding his early days as a Bolton player difficult, having entered a club totally devoid of a winning mentality.

When Henry arrived at Wanderers in September 2017, the club were five points from safety at the foot of the Championship table after failing to win any of their opening nine league games following promotion from League One - picking up just two points in the process.

In a remarkable turnaround over the months that followed, Phil Parkinson's side survived by two points after late goals from David Wheater and Aaron Wilbraham saw them beat Nottingham Forest on the final day in one of the most memorable afternoons in club history.

Reflecting on the start of that particular journey, however, the retired former midfielder believes too many players were going through the motions and almost accepting of defeat.

"It was interesting walking into the dressing room," Henry told the Lion of Vienna Suite podcast. "It was a weird experience.

"The club's I'd been at - I'd spent most of my childhood at Stoke City, the best years of my career at Wolverhampton Wanderers and four good years at Queens Park Rangers - it was a different atmosphere.

"I'd not experienced a changing room like the Bolton one before.

"There were a lot of good lads there but there was a mentality that I just found tough to take. There was almost like an acceptance of defeat.

"That's what I found really tough to come to terms with.

"They were a good bunch but it very much seemed to me like there was a big lack of winning mentality, whether that be in training or matches.

"You've got to do it in training every day. You've got to be competitive and at each other's throats. The odd fight is something that's never too bad in that kind of situation.

"I'm not saying people didn't care because they clearly did, it just felt like the lads thought they were punching above their weight."

Despite struggling on the field, players were often seen partying publicly or on social media.

When asked for his opinion on such events, Henry said it is important for team morale that players engage socially but admits having a winning mentality when it comes to work is far superior.

"I'm sure it's a difficult balancing act for the manager," he said.

"You want them to have that team spirit and you want them to get on off the pitch - it's hugely important.

"You need the players to get on, be close and tight-knit. I'm not saying they weren't that because they were.

"There was a decent team spirit but having that and having a team of winners, or a team with a winning mentality, they're different things and if the nucleus of your squad don't have that mentality then those on the periphery aren't going to have it either.

"Every dressing room I've been in, 80% of players are like sheep. The other 20% are those who really mould the dressing room - they are the ones that choose the direction and the rest of the lads will follow.

"To me, it felt like the nucleus of the squad just didn't quite have that mentality of 'we're going to dig deep here' and what it took to win."

Listen to LOVpod Episode 141 with Karl Henry in its entirety.

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Sky Bet League One Standings

Pos Team Pld Pts
19 Rochdale 34 36
20 AFC Wimbledon 35 35
21 Tranmere Rovers 34 32
22 Southend United 35 19
23 Bolton Wanderers 34 14
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Poll

Who is Bolton's 2018/19 Player of the Year?
34.62% Gary O'Neil
19.38% David Wheater
18.92% Pawel Olkowski
9.27% Joe Williams
5.33% Jason Lowe
4.13% Sammy Ameobi
2.85% Josh Magennis
2.75% Mark Beevers
1.19% Jack Hobbs
1.01% Ben Alnwick
0.28% Andrew Taylor
0.28% Craig Noone