Bolton Wanderers. The very name conjures up images of indifference, lethargy and oddly, if you’re Mark ‘Lawro’ Lawrenson Blackburn Rovers.
As a fan for over thirty years I’ve seen plenty of dross. I was there the night we were relegated to Divison 4 under Phil Neal but as time goes by it’s hard to think about BWFC without bursting in to tears as you recall the glory days of Bruce ‘Bruce’ Rioch and Big ‘Sam’ Allardyce when we had World Cup Winners, Euro winners, Champions League winners and…well basically ‘winners’ on the pitch.
Since Allardyce’s departure it’s been pretty much downhill all the way and now we find ourselves staring down the barrel of 2015-2016 without a clue as to how we’ll do.
It could all go great. In Zach Clough we have a genuine, home grown, Manchester lad who many are desperate to label the new Lionel Messi. The fact that the current Lionel Messi is still going strong is irrelevant. It’s crazy but I’ve seen him play and I have to admit I’m getting sucked in to the hype myself.
The EA Sports (it’s in the gaaaaiiime™) FIFA generation are already talking about cashing in on him but I seriously hope the club resist that urge. This is about football and not bank balances (thank Christ) and keeping hold of our best players has to be the goal.
If we can keep him, former Man United goalkeeper Ben Amos, Josh Vela and Mark Davies fit then we’ve got the bones of a good side. Who knows? A little bit of luck, a bounce of the ball here and there and confidence bred momentum and perhaps a top ten finish with an outside chance for the play-offs wouldn’t be out of the question.
Sadly the reasons why we might do well are also the reasons why it could all fall about our ears. Mark Davies, although on his day arguably the best player in the league is perma-injured (see also David Wheater). Clough hasn’t even played a dozen first team games and missed the fizzle-out of last season after dislocating his shoulder in a bruising encounter with Reading.
Neil Lennon could tone down the Radio 5Live love in too. He kept us up last year of course but I’d like him to concentrate a little more on why we lost so many points in the final 5 minutes of games than having #ClassicBantz with Chappers and @robbiesavage8.
It’s easy to say but the Championship is not the SPL and 17,000 miserable buggers at the Macron aren’t going to make teams wilt under the pressure that 60,000 at Celtic Park can.
To his credit Lennon has done more to bring the fans back to the team than his predecessors Gary Megson, Owen Coyle and Dougie Freedman did.
Whereas the others (Megson and Freedman especially) openly couldn’t give a toss about the fans Lennon reminds me of Bruce Rioch. Bobbing around the town visiting schools, popping up in the pre-match Fanzones and generally getting aereated on the touchline rubs off on the players and works its way on to the stands.
There’s always going to be talk of ‘the debt*’ and with his perceived profile Lennon will be linked to any EPL job that comes up but we’ll cross those bridges when we come to them.
In short by 5pm on Saturday I think I’ll have a good idea of how the season is going to go. We open against strong promotion favourites and eternal bogey side Derby County. To be honest a score draw will do, a win will be great, a defeat more than likely.
There are bigger clubs with more money than Bolton in the Championship – hell there are smaller clubs with more money than Bolton in the Championship and we can’t compete in the transfer market. That’s why we need to hold on to our best players and why we need them all to stay fit.
Although my heart says promotion glory my head say ‘mid table and ‘season over by February tedium’ with a final 11th place finish.
It can’t be as bad as last year.
*The dictionary definition of debt is ‘an obligation or liability to pay or render something to someone else’. Bolton Wanderers don’t see it that way so we’ll be fine.