It’s Time to Give Darren Pratley A Break

pratleyThe West Stand at the Macron Stadium was a hostile place as Bolton eased past Cardiff City on Tuesday night.  At least it was for Darren Pratley.

“Pratley!!!!!!!!!” yelled one spectator, at high volume. any time the ex-Swansea midfielder went near the ball, as though the word itself was an admonishment.

“Keep on walking,” advised another as Pratley went to the touchline to get a drink, during a break in play.  There’s a grim humour in such determined and persistent barracking of one’s own player, even if it is self-defeating.  However, whilst it’s no one’s place to tell those who pay their hard earned cash how to behave, it’s unfair not to give credit where it’s due – and against Russell Slade’s team, it was.

Pratley began the move that led to Liam Feeney’s first goal, and laid on the killer ball across the face of the penalty area for the second.  In between he frequently mopped up after an off colour Mark Davies lost possession.

This isn’t to suggest that there will be Premier League teams waiting to pounce in the January transfer window, for Pratley has been criticised with some justification in the past, but it appears that he has a role to play in Neil Lennon’s plans, and it wouldn’t hurt to give some encouragement.

In the wake of what turned out to be a comfortable victory, most of the plaudits have gone to Craig Donkey Davies and deservedly so.  Regular readers of this site will know that he hasn’t been a favourite, but the big man worked tirelessly and gave Cardiff’s defenders no peace at all.  Such defending from the front gave Bolton’s midfield more space in which to work and allowed a rejuvenated Lee Chung-yong to work his magic.

Whilst there were a number of notable displays, Bolton’s performance as a whole was patchy.  It’s still too easy for the opposition to move the ball through midfield, and going forward the Whites were often ponderous, with misplaced passes aplenty and a lack of movement.    Of course, Project Lennon is still in its infancy and such things will improve with confidence and more familiarity with the new man’s methods.

Disappointments?  The attendance of 12,961 was the lowest for a league game since 2001 and referee  Geoff Eltringham was woefully inconsistent, awarding twenty fouls in favour of the visitors to just five for the home side, mainly because he was fooled by Cardiff’s players falling over more convincingly.  The Welsh side won’t be troubling the top flight any time soon, based on this evidence, but a few members of their squad may be up for an Oscar.

And still the Wanderers remain in 23rd place in the Championship despite three wins in the last five games.  That’s because there are a number of sides in that area of the table who shouldn’t be. Those clubs are now starting to pick up points,  so it will be necessary to wait until the mid-table teams can be reined in, before an ascent can begin.  Based on the last few matches, there shouldn’t be any doubt that that will happen in due course.
- Richard McCormick



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Is Neil Lennon Really the Right Man for Bolton?

Lennon_unveiledSunday was an intriguing day for fans of Bolton Wanderers. In the morning, talk was of Daniel Taylor’s piece in the Guardian that covered disastrous transfer dealings, the undue influence of agent Mark Curtis, incompetent financial management and the recent court case which so damaged the reputation of the club. It neatly summarised articles that have appeared on this site over the past three years.

Attention was deflected in the afternoon with the appointment of Neil Lennon as new manager. Lennon’s arrival has been greeted positively on the whole, apart from a few meat heads who seem to believe that Bolton is a hot bed of sectarianism. If there have been Orange marches in the town they must have happened when no one was looking.

The former Celtic man had been approached by the Saudi Arabian club Al-Ittihad, but reasoned sensibly, that in a Middle East climate with his complexion, he’d turn pink and crispy in half an hour.

Lennon’s first job will be to call dial-a-ride for Lennie Lawrence. The old lad was asleep in a corner when Dougie Freedman bit the dust and has been wandering about the stadium looking for his boss ever since.

The Hobbit

The Hobbit

After that, there’s the small matter of hauling Bolton out of the relegation zone. Taking on a job with so many difficulties shows confidence. Either that, or the new man doesn’t appreciate the size of the task. He comes to a club which is bottom of the league, with a £160 million debt, a chairman who doesn’t know right from wrong and a hobbit for a captain.

It’s not a ‘safe’ appointment, but in truth, those don’t really exist. At Celtic, Lennon won three SPL titles, two Scottish Cups and had a win percentage of 69% – the same as Jock Stein. But he was a manager in a one club league. That said, fashioning a win over Barcelona looks good on anyone’s cv.

Some might have preferred Chris Hughton, who has more Championship experience. The ex-Newcastle, Birmingham and Norwich manager is well liked in the game, but wouldn’t have set pulses racing, and after two years of Freedman’s brand of sterile anti-football, that’s badly needed.  If you’re still looking for positives, at least be reassured that there won’t be any more signings from Crystal Palace.

In addition, Lennon can’t do worse than the last Northern Irishman to manage Bolton. That was Jimmy Mcilroy in 1970 who lasted eighteen days and had a win percentage of 0%.

Outside of Bolton, Ginger Two isn’t universally liked, to put it mildly. He’s been sent bullets and parcel bombs and attacked both on the streets of Glasgow and whilst standing on the touchline in a game at Hearts. Compared to that, enduring a few ‘Lennon Out’ banners should things go badly will be a piece of cake.

Welcome to Bolton Wanderers, Neil Lennon. May you do well.

- Richard McCormick



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Goodbye Dougie Freedman. It Wasn’t Nice Knowing You

tits2At last Bolton Wanderers have ceased to delay the inevitable and dispensed with the services of Dougie Freedman.   The sacking is long overdue.

Manny Road called time on Bolton’s hapless manager last October in the Dougie Freedman Experiment Isn’t Working, but he was kept in situ – not least because the Scotsman provided a much needed diversion from how badly the club was being run.

“Dougie has worked tirelessly off the field to improve the infrastructure of the football club,” said chairman Phil Gartside announcing the dismissal.  Gary Megson was also credited with the same task, which makes you wonder how much restructuring one club needs.

Freedman leaves Bolton at the bottom of the Championship table with five points from ten games, below Blackpool who had only eight players at the start of the season.  After today’s fixtures the club may be cut adrift, seven points from safety.  Always mediocre, his recent efforts have been disastrous.

Some would argue that Freedman wasn’t backed with transfer funds and there’s truth in that, but there was no shortage of players who arrived (and departed.)   The principal fault was the same as that of Megson and Owen Coyle,  failing to construct a midfield that could hold it’s shape sufficiently to protect the back four.   It’s a damning indictment for a defensive minded manager.

Added to that his constant tinkering with the line up, ignoring how players had performed in the previous game, left members of the squad confused and unmotivated.    If a good display won’t result in future selection, what’s the point?

According to one ex-player, Freedman arrived at the club, not with an open mind, but with the idea that there were Premier League egos that needed to be dealt with.  Consequently, he alienated parts of the dressing room from day one.  Since the sacking, former fringe players Jay Lynch and Gregg Wylde have also expressed dissatisfaction with how they were treated.  One suspects more will follow. This site also reported on the premature departure of Andy Robinson and how it wasn’t quite as fed to the media.

Freedman’s treatment of Kevin Davies was also bizarre.  Bolton’s then captain may not have been as effective as he once was, but he still had a role to play.  His exclusion from the squad was down to politics – an influential figure who had to be side lined.

What will the former Crystal Palace man be remembered for?  The worst start to a season for Bolton Wanderers in 111 years and the heaviest defeat since 1982.   Apart that, not much.  The past two years have been a non-event.  Dougie Freedman isn’t the worst manager that Bolton have had, but he’ll be the one most quickly forgotten.

 
- Richard McCormick




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Get Bolton Wanderers Tickets for £10 Per Game!

icd-logo-small

Bolton ICD Support Group is offering Wanderers fans the chance to get tickets to selected home games for £10 per adult/child.

Bolton Wanderers has allowed the group to purchase tickets at that price, and at the end of the season will donate £4 to the #defibs4bolton campaign for every ticket sold.

However, there’s a condition.  The group has to buy a minimum of ten tickets per booking.   If that condition isn’t met, then the offer for that game can not go ahead.

To order tickets, visit the One Bolton, One Wanderers Facebook events page or send an e-mail to boltonicdsupportgroup@hotmail.co.uk

The following games are available:

August
• Sat 16th Nottingham Forest 3.00pm
• Tue 19th Middlesbrough 8.00pm

September
• Sat 13th Sheffield Weds 3.00pm
• Tue 16th Rotherham 8.00pm
• Sat 27th Derby County 3.00pm

October
• Sat 4th AFC Bournemouth 3.00pm
• Sat 25th Brentford 3.00pm

November
• Tue 4th Cardiff City 8.00pm
• Sat 29th Huddersfield Town

December
• Sat 13th Ipswich Town 8.00pm

February
• Tue 10th Fulham 8.00pm
• Sat 14th Watford 3.00pm
• Sat 28th Brighton 3.00pm

March
• Tue 3rd Reading 8.00pm
• Sat 14th Millwall 3.00pm

April
• Sat 11th Norwich City 3.00pm
• Tues 14th Charlton Athletic 8.00pm

The fixtures are subject to change.

Established in 2006 the Bolton ICD (Implantable Cardiac Defibrillator) Support Group was founded to support patients and their families after an ICD has been implanted into a patient. The group was officially opened by former Bolton Wanderers manager Sam Allardyce and team coach Sammy Lee.  Further information can be found by visiting the  Bolton ICD Website.

- Richard McCormick




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The Truth About Bolton Wanderers and ‘Home Sick’ Andy Robinson

Andy_RobinsonWith the new Championship campaign just over two weeks away, there was some surprise amongst fans of Bolton Wanderers, with the news that Andy Robinson had left the club, just weeks after signing.

“We have agreed to terminate Andy’s contract and he has returned south. He was homesick so it was the right thing for him,” explained  Dougie Freedman to the Bolton News.  There was also a terse statement on the BWFC official site.

Bolton Wanderers can confirm that Andy Robinson has left the club.

The young midfielder recently joined from Southampton on a free transfer following a loan spell last season.

But after failing to settle in the area the midfielder’s contract has now been cancelled.

Now the truth.

Robinson had failed to settle in the area to such an extent that he was three days away from signing for a property that he had secured for himself and his girlfriend who was moving from the South.

It was then he was approached by Freedman and informed that he would not feature in the manager’s plans for the coming season.    Robinson was aghast.   There were other options available to him prior to signing for Bolton and he had only agreed to put pen to paper on being given assurances that there would be at least the chance of first team football.

Whilst the senior players went off on tour, Robinson was sent to Lancaster University to train with the development squad.  He demanded a transfer, his contract was terminated and a covering story concocted for reasons that can only be speculated on.

- Richard McCormick



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Delight in Bury at the Cup Visit to Bolton

bury-black-puddingThere was joy on the street of Bury this morning after the town’s football club drew Bolton Wanderers in the Capital One Cup, a team regarded as royalty in this small suburb of Rochdale.

The Shakers have a proud history in knock out competitions having triumphed in the FA Cup at the start of the last century, beating Derby County 6-0, which is still the widest margin of victory in a final.  However, that achievement was dwarfed in a League Cup tie at the Reebok Stadium in 2002, when Bury beat a Bolton side consisting of reserves, apprentices and someone who had only come to read the electric meter.

Andy Preece’s men were not overawed that night, despite the crowd of 12,621, around fifteen times the number of people they were used to playing in front of, and the event is commemorated every year, with a specially manufactured anniversary black pudding and a procession through the town centre led by the local rag and bone man and his horse.

Things have taken a downturn since then.  Bury were thrown out of the FA Cup in 2006 for cheating, and each season features either a battle to hold on to their football league status, a fight against liquidation or sometimes both. A few days ago the club’s directors complained to the media that some fans were saying unkind things on the internet, which was installed in Bury recently.

The tie will take place on 12th August, which should give the Gigg Lane faithful sufficient time to save up the money to hire a mini-bus.  Details of the fund raising effort have yet to be finalised, but it will probably be run by www.mannyroadend.co.uk (neat title) one of the busier supporters websites which has around three registered members.

Bolton Wanderers have announced a deal in conjunction with Capital One, whereby childrens’ tickets can be purchased for £1.  Given the status of the opposition some Wanderers fans feel that this offer may be overpriced.

- Richard McCormick



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Come in Wayne Rooney. Your Time is Up

Rooney_MissEngland expects, as the old saying goes.  Fortunately, when it comes to international football the old girl doesn’t anticipate much these days. So last night’s World Cup defeat to Italy has been greeted with a recognition that Roy Hodgson’s side is a work in progress, rather than the usual anger that accompanies such a setback.

England were refreshingly positive going forward, with Rahim Sterling playing the part of pesky, pacy, unpredictable teenager to perfection.  Yet the final pass was lacking, mainly because it was played too soon.  It takes time, and confidence to hold onto the ball that second longer.  By contrast  Antonio Candreva’s cross supplied to Mario Balotelli for the winning goal was sublime.  The ex-Manchester City mad man simply had to nod hello to Joe Hart  and the result was assured.

In defence and defensive midfield, England were lacking, which possibly comes from having two full backs who are better going forward and then they are at defending.  Leighton Baines was stiffed, not for the first time, before Candreva made his delivery, and Glen Johnson who should have provided cover for Gary Cahill, had presumably gone for a chat with someone in the crowd.

Pirlo

Pirlo

It could be argued that the difference in the two sides was Andrea Pirlo, who showed that if you have the right stuff between the ears, then it isn’t necessary to run around like a maniac. The 35 year old, strolled about the pitch, puffing from a cigarette and taking the occasional swig from a glass of Chianti, whilst doing the simple things supremely well, like the step over that gave  Claudio Marchisio space to fire home Italy’s opener.   England had the knackered old carthorse that is Steven Gerrard.

The major disappointment was Wayne Rooney who provided the cross for Daniel Sturridge’s equaliser, but was otherwise hopeless, missing a golden opportunity for an equaliser, mis-kicking a corner to comic effect and failing to provide cover for his left-back.  Granted, being out wide isn’t his favoured position, but the man was given a job and failed to do it.

Wayne has other things on his mind these days.  Like his hair.  Part of the recently installed Rooney Thatch has gone missing.  As one poster on Twitter pointed out, the Chav Master General may be the first man in history to go bald three times before he’s thirty.

At least there’s good news on that front.  New follicles can be harvested from other parts of his body.  The resulting hairs will be curly and Colleen won’t be that keen to run her fingers through them.

Gerrard

Gerrard

After an encouraging start to his international tournament career in the 2004 Euros, Rooney has been a spectacular flop.  He spent most of the 2006 World Cup sulking at being asked to perform a lone striker role, before attempting to castrate  Ricardo Carvalho with the referee a yard away.  In South Africa four years later he spent more effort castigating the fans when walking off the pitch than he did whilst playing on it.

It’s not impossible for Rooney to come good, but it seems unlikely.   On song, he’s a useful addition to any team, but the spells off form seem to last longer as time goes by.  The familiar signs are there – the frustration with himself, and with his situation, which usually precedes him doing something mental.

Roy Hodgson has been brave in this campaign.  There’s a reliance on youth and an enterprising feel to England’s attacking play.  It’s time for a further step.  If Wayne Rooney can’t be accommodated in his chosen position, then it’s time to introduce him to the substitutes bench.

Rooney_Corner
- Richard McCormick



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Dougie Freedman and the Great Bolton Con Job

dougie_grim

As the football season winds to a close, it appears that Bolton Wanderers have at last hit form.  This is in marked contrast to what was the club’s poorest start since before the Easter Bunny started doing his rounds.

In the thirteen games since losing to Burnley,  Bolton have won 7, drawn five and lost one – comfortably promotion form.  The PR spin emanating from the Reebok Stadium, is that Dougie Freedman’s master plan has at last come together, but just not soon enough.

“The most important thing is that it has clicked,” said goalkeeper Adam Bogdan to Greater Manchester Radio last week. “Unfortunately it’s clicked too late and we can’t get to the play-offs, so all we can do is keep this positive run going for as long as we can.”

The Freedmanistas – that small group of Wanderers fans who don’t think that the manager is a dim witted toss pot who should be shipped back to Glasgow in a sack, are exultant.  Their hero has delivered the goods, with ideas of fiendish cunning that they saw all along.  It’s all nice and bonny for next time round.

Well now boys and girls, it’s time to urinate on your French fries.  How many good sides have Bolton beaten on this wonderful run.  Are your ready?

None.

If that seems harsh, then cast a look at the chart below and note the current league positions of the teams played.

Fixture Result Current League Position of Opponent
Charlton 0-0 Bolton Drew 20th
Bolton 1-0 Barnsley Won 23rd
Doncaster 1-2 Bolton Won 19th
Huddersfield 0-1 Bolton Won 17th
Bolton 1-1 Wigan Drew 5th
Bolton 1-0 Blackpool Won 21st
Yeovil 2-2 Bolton Drew 24th
Bolton 0-2 Brighton Lost 6th
Derby 0-0 Bolton Drew 3rd
Leeds 1-5 Bolton Won 16th
Bolton 4-0 Blackburn Won 10th
Bolton 2-0 Watford Won 13th
Millwall 1-1 Bolton Drew 22nd

Of course thrashing the slum dwellers of Blackburn is always welcome, and a 5-1 win at Leeds was great fun at the time, even if Brian McDermott’s men have lost every match since, bar one – and that was against Blackpool who have the poorest form in all four divisions in 2014.

But the truth is that Bolton have had a ridiculously easy run in. If they had only been mid-table when it began, instead of grubbing about in 17th position, then making the play offs would have been a cinch. Here’s what you could have won Dougie. If you weren’t such a prat.

Results aside, the same problems are still there.  Opposition sides are still given too many chances, due largely to an inability to retain possession and the Bolton manager’s constant tinkering with the starting line up means that he still hasn’t established a core to his side.

But, as with last season, a late run has given a false impression and misplaced hope.  Dougie Freedman is nothing more than a con man.

- Richard McCormick



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Don’t Like Zat Knight? How Dare You!

ceiling-fanWhen Is A Fan Not A Fan?

Quentin X asks the question.

Since I started writing about Bolton Wanderers, back in the heady days of 2008, I have been called a few things by people who have disagreed with my stance on certain Wanderers related topics. Some people think that having a £150 million (and rising) accounting black hole is a good thing because the chairman is a fan. I do not. Some people thought that Gary Megson was a messiah. I did not. And some people called me pond life. And the last time I looked, I didn’t have gills.

However, I have never been lumped into the same bracket of fans who, supposedly, bring the club down. Until last week. There I was, sitting at my desk on my night shift last Monday, when Twitter informed me that I had a message from someone. Let’s call him Max. Max was disgruntled with my article about Zat Knight. And had every right to be as I don’t expect the world and his mother to agree with everything I say. Even my own mother doesn’t do that.

Max is of the opinion that Zat Knight is our best defender. I thought, with the date being March 31st, that he was getting in his April Fool early. This turned out not to be the case. Max continued:

“Not rating a player is one thing, ouright slating him when he gives is (sic) all and when he’s better than some is another. Not what I call support. You epitomise everything wrong with some of our fans, you don’t go to game then slate the easy targets”

Zat shows his tender side

Zat shows his tender side

Well, I admit that Knight IS an easy target, but it’s not as if I haven’t been slating him since Aston Villa fans paid for his taxi north in July 2009. The article was based on his history at the club compared to the performances that he has recently put in. So, I was slating the poor player that I have seen against, ironically, the “improved” player that I haven’t.

However, this got me thinking. Am I actually in a position to have a go at the players that I haven’t seen? Does not going to any games preclude me from commenting?

Of course, I’d argue no. There is no formula that tells you when you are allowed to have an opinion and not have one. But, if there were, I’d say it was on my side. Thirty years supporting the club through all four divisions, travelling from University for every home game and not even living in the town for one single day of my life should show I’ve put the mileage in. Granted, I haven’t been this year but I don’t live within two hundred miles of the stadium and work more Saturdays than not. And I have a family who would like to see me on the days that I’m not slaving away. I get to the games that I can, still putting in the miles. And the money.

And his not so tender side

And his not so tender side

Max says on his Twitter page that he is eighteen years old. This means that he probably never set foot in Burnden Park. To him, the pain of relegation to Division Four is as far removed as the last time the club won a major trophy is to me. I’d say that when you add up the number of games we’ve been to, the odds would be in my favour as having been to more. To me, that gives me the right to slate players and praise players as I see fit. I listen and watch (legally or otherwise) enough games to know more or less what’s going on. I wouldn’t say that I could write a 100% accurate match report, but can recognise when a player is playing well or not. Max appears to go to every home game and that gives him the right to do the same.

But that’s me. What about someone who has been to one Bolton game in their whole life and slags the team off? It’s doubtful there is anyone like that, such is the masochistic nature of your average Bolton fan. But living where I do you find a large number of people who don’t necessarily follow the nearest league teams (Wycombe and Watford), but those from north and south London and the one on the border of Salford and Trafford. These are people who have never set foot inside Stamford Bridge, The Emirates or Old Trafford. What right do they have to slag their teams off?

Well, when I was at University, my house mate was an Arsenal fan and had been to Highbury twice, but was apoplectic when The Arse would usually lose to Bolton. He had the Arsenal top, one of those funny little kits you stick in the back window of your car and spoke with a Wiltshire accent. (Should that not be a Wilshere accent? – Ed.)

However, he would pay money every year to just be on the waiting list for a season ticket. That’s a waiting list. He paid money to the club but could hardly get to Highbury. It wasn’t his fault, it was just circumstance. And what of the 22,000 people who couldn’t get into Highbury but can get into The Emirates? Did their opinion only become valid in 2006? Of course not. Most fans, whether they have been to a game or not, will put money into their clubs coffers in one way or another, either by buying a shirt or paying Sky for the privilege of watching their team on television. Is their opinion not valid? Listening to the likes of 6-0-6 or Stan Collymore, you would lean on the side of absolutely not. But an opinion is still valid, even if it is wrong headed in other people’s eyes. It is for those other people to argue the opposite.

And we all know that expression don't we?

And we all know that expression don’t we?

The thing is, if you’re a genuine supporter of a football club, then you’re entitled to whatever opinion you have, be it positive or negative. I would say the further down the leagues you go, the more your opinion counts. I’m sure that the 200 fans who regularly turn up for my local non-league club’s games will be glad to hear that.

Bolton fans, like every team’s fans, like to have a go at each other. It is generally just gently joshing, although there is always a darker side lingering away on some forums. Max had a point that he wanted to make and he made it. And this is my reply.

As for Max, who has great hair by the way, I’ll just say this.

If Zat Knight really is our best defender, then we’re in more trouble than I thought.

Now, which way is Charlton?

- Quentin X

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