If you're like me, at 4:54pm on Saturday 16th, a small piece of you died. Many folk describe it like a kick in the stomach, but the pain duration of a certain impact on the gut is minuscule compared to a Bolton loss. Not only a loss, but a loss which had me looking to the heavens for answers. I knew the actual God must be a busy fella, but I was hoping for a football God; a deity who has a Sky+ box with access to every game, who can manipulate results with x2, x6, x12 and x30 at his fingertips. I thought it may be true after QPR sold their soul to the football Beelzebub for Premiership survival, there must be a football God? During my wait for divine intervention during this Spring Break, I decided to quest for my own answers using Creation's alternative... Science.
One thing I know for certain, fans of every football team, regardless of league or ability, at some point in their term, will suffer. Even Man Utd fans will argue they suffer when they go out of the Champions League or when they win the Premier League by only 15 points. Suffering is suffering I suppose. However, the Vital Bolton posts this week have been hard to read. Not because they were hurtful or misguided, but because fans have been suffering, not only for the loss on Saturday, but in their search for answers as to where things have gone or are going wrong this season. Early on, or before we signed Craig Dawson, census was the amount of goals yielded was the problem. Recently, for the majority of fans, it's lack of goals scored. Well, truth is, my findings have shown, it's neither.
Yes, it would be nice to score more goals, a la Watford, or to concede less, a la Leicester, but neither will guarantee a win, only aid the likelihood of 3 points. Compounding the point further, neither of the aforementioned teams find themselves in the top-two of the league. Hull City, however, do currently occupy one of those automatic promotion places and they are neither free-scoring nor water-tight. Hull have scored 55 goals, same as Bolton and conceded 45, only 5 fewer than the Whites. Not that significant a difference, right? Maybe not, but their away totals are staggering. They have scored 23 goals (2 less than Bolton) conceded 26 (a -3 goal difference) but have won 9 games... 6 more than the Wanderers... 6! That's 18 points! (Yes there are other examples of such statistics, like Huddersfield only scoring 19 away goals, 6 fewer than the whites and having 6 more away points, even though they've conceded 10 more away goals, but I'll stick with Hull.) How can this be? Have Hull City been lucky? Did they play depleted opposition? Or is it the 3 new Egyptian signings? No, no and no. Two words... Steve Bruce.
We all understand which players are good Championship players, those players who thrive one league lower than the elite but just fall short in some aspect of their game to make that leap up. Well, same can be said of managers and Hull City have an excellent Championship manager, probably the best. Steve Bruce, without spending any time as a player in this league, has mastered the Championship. He knows what it takes to be successful at this level. He doesn't think too far ahead; next fixture or even preparing for the Premiership, he crosses that bridge when he comes to it. Regardless of how many goals his team scores or how many they concede, they get the win. He is the equivalent of the Championship Fergie.
There are other good Championship managers. Malky Mackay has had a lot of practice and is now the expert, Ian Holloway knows the score and Billy Davis has the touch at the right club. There are more of course, but in my opinion, there is good news for Wanderers fans. I believe we also have a Championship specialist, who as a player, has been there, seen it and definitely done it. The t-shirt he received was a Crystal Palace one, which questions his loyalty, but there's no questioning his desire to be successful. We've witnessed an example of his Championship mastery over the last few months. In the last 12 games, roughly a quarter of the season, the Whites have played 12, won 6, drawn 4 and lost 2 culminating in 22 points and automatic promotion standard. You may argue why Dougie didn't start off his Bolton Wanderers tenure that successfully, but his job was a mind-sweep of what his players thought they knew about playing in this league. Unlike what has happened at Forest recently, something like that takes time, whatever your ability as a manager. The Hull 4-1 thrashing aside, the form of the Whites hasn't improved much. In fact, the Wanderers have been second best in large periods of the unbeaten run but have come away with the spoils. That's mastering the league.
The L.A Raiders used to have a slogan for their club which resonates, 'Just win, baby!'. When Bolton are winning there is no need to dissect performances or highlight shortfalls in the team. They're winning, that's all that matters. As long as Bolton Wanderers score 46 goals in a season, they have a chance of securing maximum points in any given Championship campaign, however unlikely. If they score all the goals in one game, they win only one. A frivolous statement maybe but a fact nonetheless. Of course having a prolific striker is beautiful, but like Burnley have shown, doesn't guarantee success. It just takes emphasis of other players to chip in. Hull City this season have proved that to be successful in this league you need not have free-scoring strikers nor a water-tight back-four, you just have to score or concede in accordance with the game at hand.
An 80's girl-group sums it up... 'It ain't what you do it's the way that you do it. It ain't what you do it's the time that you do it. It ain't what you do it's the way that you do it. That's what gets results.'