BWFC: You With Me..?
How's the hangover doing? I'm not talking about the one you induced upon yourself after the final whistle. I'm talking about the one that can't be eased by a raw egg cracked into a glass of Alka-Seltzer and Tabasco sauce. I'm not bitter about the outcome of Saturday, how can I be? The fact we were mentioning the play-offs after the season we were suffering under Coyle, is a minor miracle.
To be honest, I didn't feel we would get promoted this season, even if we had made the play-offs. I couldn't envision it. I couldn't imagine it. I couldn't see us getting to Wembley, never mind lifting the trophy. I wasn't feeling any nervous excitement in the build up to 'crunch games'. Not like I should have been. I was waiting for that 'feeling' to wash over me. That feeling when a wave catches your team and it coasts them to the shore of success. I know our home results at the closing stages of the season had the sense of promotion running through them. Our away form, however, meant that 'wave' was constantly breaking. The catalyst for the wave can occur from all forms. It could be a player- like a John McGinlay- who you can just sense is sent from the stars to guide you in your quest. Sometimes the metaphorical wave comes in a literal shift in club fortunes, for example when a new manager brings a Viva la Revolution! Hmmm?
So, with my nerves now settled and my mind at ease, I have questions. My first question isn't regarding Dougie's starting line-up for the Blackpool game (which you are free to discuss in the comments section. I'm sure you have plenty to say). My first question is regarding our current 'Premiership stars'.
I remember, especially earlier in the season, when Bolton were beaten, the opposing manager would brag about how well his team had done. He would brag how Bolton were filled with Premiership players and his team had toppled them. Are we? Would you say Bolton Wanderers have Premier League quality players on their books? Just because we have players who played in the Premier League doesn't mean we have Premier League players. Bradford played in the Premier League once. When they were relegated, were they filled with Premiership quality? More for conversation than statement, is Chungy, Ngog, Eagles, Mavies, Holden et al Premier League quality? If you had the chance to cash-in, whom, if any of the group would be up for sale? I believe Premiership quality resides in several of the players. Extracting that quality, expressing that quality or wanting to prove that quality to the Bolton Wanderers cause, however, remains to be seen or developed. Is Premiership quality what we need? Do Premiership players get you promoted or do quality Championship players understand, succeed and escape the Championship league? Personally, barring several of the defenders, I would maintain as much of the current team as possible, add to the group this summer, blow, shake and throw the dice on them again for one more season.
For the most puzzling of questions, especially after the impact he would go on to make, why wasn't Craig Dawson's loan not restructured to run until the end of the regular season? I'm not saying it would have changed our fortunes or even led to getting that 3rd or 4th goal against Blackpool, but it may have limited the Tangerines to no or one solitary goal rather than the two which were decisive in our downfall. With or without Dougie at the helm this season, Bolton have shipped goals, but with Dawson in defence, we definitely solidified the back line. With Dawson in the team, we conceded 1 goal in 450 minutes of football at the Reebok. With Dawson back in the Midlands, we conceded 2 in 35. Dougie's team selection on Saturday wouldn't have been so glaringly daring had Dawson been in the line-up. Had it not worked out early on- which it didn't- in all probability, the score would have been 0-0 at the time of realisation, rather than 0-2 down and having the proverbial mountain to climb. With the back-line shored-up, the forward players are free to express themselves without having to look over their shoulders. I know Dougie was proud with the deal to bring Dawson on-board and he wanted to maintain his integrity by sticking to his word regarding the terms of the agreement. I get that, but this was for the chance to be in the play-offs. The chance of promotion from a long-time shambolic season. I'm not having a pop at Dougie, in fact, I admire the manager for his honesty. But would Fergie or Steve Bruce have let Dawson leave for no reason without trying to do a deal? I doubt it. I like we have a clean-cut manager and I hate bringing people like Fergie or Bruce into my arguments, but trying to tweak Dawson's deal so it ran an extra week is hardly trying to 'win at all costs'. Eh, Alex?
We're now heading into my favourite part of the year. Summertime is on the horizon and along with longer days, warmer weather (cough, splutter) and barbecues (cough, cough splutter) comes the transfer shake-up where the promise of a new season begins to blossom. I didn`t want to win promotion with a team that only wins 4 league games away from home with a defence that ships 41 goals in 23 away games. So, in a twisted way, I'm glad we missed out on the play-offs. I'm also glad because I want Mr Freedman to feel something. I want him to experience the acid build-up, burning sensation, which renders us fans unable to determine whether we just need to throw-up or require an ambulance. I'm sure he felt it as a player or manager of his beloved Palace. I wanted him to feel it at his new home, Bolton. When we lost Coyle, I'm glad we got a new man in charge who had no affinity for the club whatsoever. I wanted the new gaffer to be completely detached from his new surroundings so he could see exactly what needed to change. We did...and he did. Now, I want him to care about his surrogate family. I want him to feel the 20,000 hopeful pairs of eyes observing his every move. Whether he likes it or not, Dougie Freedman is starting a movement. Not only is he moulding a team in his vision- which I'm sure will continue to develop in the upcoming dealings- but Dougie is winning over a hostile crowd reminiscent of Rocky and the Russians. When the final whistle blew on Saturday and the realisation embedded itself into Dougie's gut, I wanted the acid to burn the lining of his stomach. I don't care if he likes me. I don't care if he likes the fans. I don't even care if he likes the chairman, owner or town. I just hope, at the final whistle, he felt like he'd been punched in the stomach by Ivan Drago. If he did suffer and what he says is true- that he knows what needs to be done- I believe Bolton Wanderers' pilgrims are being led to witness the occurrence of something very special. I'm a believer. Are you with me?