Bolton play Sheffield Wednesday in this year’s Boxing Day fixture at the Reebok – twelve years to the day since they faced the same opposition at home. Then, the Whites were on their way to the Premier League. The chances of that happening this time are about the same as the three wise men pitching up as substitutes.
New manager Dougie Freedman has been in charge for ten league games this season, the same as Owen Coyle, and the improvement is slight, with three points more, the same number of wins and alarmingly, only one goal less conceded. So much for Freedman’s defensive credentials.
The cheery optimists will point to just two defeats in those ten games, but it’s actually two losses in four now, both against teams lower down in the league. It’s too soon for a definitive judgment on Bolton’s latest Glaswegian, but first impressions look a bit sickly.
Last time out saw five goals conceded at bottom of the league Peterborough, with defending that would have disgraced a pub team. There was a genuine chance to put a winning sequence together, but a lack of commitment by those pulling on the white shirt put paid to that.
No review of a game between these two sides would be complete without mentioning the former manager they have in common. It is of course Gary Megson, who laid the foundations for Bolton’s departure from the top flight.
A full analysis of the Ginger One’s wrecking-ball influence can wait for another day, but with the finances at Bolton in a hopeless state it’s worth mentioning three other names: Johan Elmander; Gretar Steinsson; Danny Shittu. £13 million spent and not a penny recouped. There’s also the £4.5 million, six feet seven inches of gormlessness that is Zat Knight. There’ll be no money coming in for him either, unless he’s dismembered and the body parts sold to medical science.
After getting the gardening boot from Bolton, Megson pitched up at his adopted home town club. Then he was sacked again. This time undeservedly. Oh, how we laughed.
Sheffield Wednesday are on something of a roll – for them anyway. Two matches ago, after an avoidable defeat against whipping boys Bristol City, manager Dave Jones had to deny that he was preparing to quit. But a couple of winning performances since then have lifted his team out of the relegation zone.
Kevin Davies will be missing for this one, having picked up his fifth yellow card of the season. David N’Gog wasn’t there for the last game. He could have been injured, ill or have nipped off the team bus for a wee and got lost in the Fens. Given that club policy is to tell the fans as little as possible there is no way of knowing – just look at the Marvin Sordell situation.
Bolton ought to have too much for the visitors. The squad is ordinary, but there are one or two individuals who can operate at a higher level. However, given the couldn’t give a toss attitude that pervades the Reebok these days, it would be no surprise if half the team turned up stuffed with Turkey and still pissed from the day before.
If that sounds a bit weary then so be it. All but the youngest of fans will know that things have been worse. But having been in or around the top flight for the best part of two decades, there a feeling of decline that’s hard to shake off. Dougie Freedman has much to do if fortunes are to be reversed.
Manny Road wishes its readers a hopeful Christmas and a more prosperous New Year.
– Richard McCormick