Despite Bolton’s triumphant 3-1 win over Manchester City Under 21s on Tuesday night, the Wanderers manager’s comments about some of his players, most notably Yoan Zouma and James Weir, have come across as less than positive.
Both defender Yoan Zouma and midfielder James Weir have come in for apparent criticism from Keith Hill after lacklustre or mistake-ridden performances against Man City’s young side.
But is it right that Keith Hill is seemingly criticising his players so openly?
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What Keith Hill has said
Hill was clearly unimpressed with James Weir’s effort on Tuesday night as the former Hull man was withdrawn after just 37 minutes.
Talking to The Bolton News after Tuesday night’s match, in regards to Weir’s early sub, Keith Hill said: “If your performance isn’t good enough 10 minutes in or 20 minutes in, or even if you come on as a sub, you’ll be sub-subbed. It’s as simple as that.
“I can’t stand there smiling on the side of the pitch watching people make mistake after mistake and accepting it.”
On top of that, while again speaking to The Bolton News, young Yoan Zouma has also come in for criticism from his manager who said: ““He has got to show more discipline if he is going to be a central defender, progress and build with Bolton Wanderers, he has to concentrate harder.”
“He gets side-tracked and that isn’t sensible as a central defender. How do I put my trust in him?”
Certainly harsh words indeed from Keith Hill who, since he took charge at Bolton, has not been afraid to speak his mind. However, despite Yoan Zouma putting in tackles such as this (see tweet below), Keith Hill does have a point about the 21-year-old Frenchman.
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— Bolton Wanderers FC (@OfficialBWFC) October 30, 2019
Is Keith Hill right to criticise?
In a word, yes.
While a number of fans seem to believe that Hill’s comments could end up creating a rift between the manager and his players, leading to some individuals becoming isolated, much like Yannic Wildschut or Erhun Oztumer under Phil Parkinson last season, there’s something different about Keith Hill’s apparent criticism.
Rather than simply lamenting the performance of his players, Keith Hill wants his comments and actions to be taken on board so that he can “challenge these players to be better.”
Again, speaking to The Bolton News, Hill has come out defending his comments and said: “I want Yoan Zouma to be captain of this football club. I need him to start leading. And while he is leading I am going to protect him.”
It’s clear from Hill’s comments that he recognises the huge potential in the young defender but it’s obvious to anyone who’s watched Zouma this season that he is often very clumsy and has made his fair share of mistakes.
If those clumsy mistakes are removed from Zouma’s game, something that Hill is no doubt trying to achieve, then we could have a properly talented defender on our hands.
So yes, while the critical comments from the manager seem somewhat incendiary thanks to Keith Hill’s no-nonsense attitude, they really are aimed at bringing the best out of his players.