Bolton Wanderers put on one of their best displays of the season against Arsenal at the Emirates on Tuesday evening. Although Bolton came away with another loss, and failed to progress to the quarter finals, they at least came out of the game with their heads held high after keeping Arsenal under pressure for long periods of the game.
Owen Coyle had made nine changes to the side which had slumped to a 7th successive home defeat on Saturday. Out went Jaaskelainen, Boyata, Wheater, Robinson, Eagles, ReoCoker, Petrov, Davies and Ngog.
The players coming in gave a good account of themselves and even took the lead early in the second half through Fabrice Muamba who fired into the roof of the net after starting the attacking move from midfield. Arsenal came back strongly and scored two quick fire goals which were ultimately enough to win the game. Bolton created a lot of good chances and were probably the better team in the second half. A string of good saves and near misses were the order of the day, though, and the Wanderers could not find an equalizer.
Gardner, Pratley, Mark Davies, Adam Bogdan and Fabrice Muamba were all stand out performers for the whites and I would hope they will all start against Swansea at the weekend. The team produced some good football and were in control of the game for long periods. I feel those players deserve there chance to build on that performance as they played with more passion and fluidity than I have seen for a number of months. In my opinion Bolton certainly did not miss Kevin Davies, Reo Coker, Petrov or Jaaskelainen so perhaps it is time for these players to take a step back and give the other lot a go!
Match Highlights Click Here.
Who do you think should start the next game?
I remember a time not too long ago when an unfortunate looking Gary Megson was in the Bolton hot seat and I had a little bit of a hope that we would lose repeatedly to get him out of the job. Too many good results would have meant us keeping the ginger ugly stickee so we needed a bad run to see him finally get the chop. Although at the games I was supporting the Wanderers all the way a tiny part of me was quietly delighted when we threw away a 2-0 lead at home. It meant the pressure was mounting on the man we all loved to hate. Now some Sunderland fans find themselves in a similar predicament with their own manager, Steve Bruce.
On Salut! Sunderland a fan said, "It’s a depressing time and thankfully rare when you are forced to wish defeat on your own team in the pursuit of the greater good. Come on Trotters please give us a good hiding tomorrow so that we can get rid of Mrs Doubtfire. Please. Wanderers! Do us a favour! We can’t go on like this. Please help."
So it would seem that times are hard at Sunderland and hopefully that particular fans sentiment will be echoed by the travelling fans this afternoon. Before the Wigan game was played I was predicting a draw for today but now I am going for a Bolton win and a clean sheet. I may be proved very foolish by 5 pm though. I do feel there is still a lot for Owen Coyle to sort out for us to really start getting consistent results! Prediction: 2-0 to Bolton.
Now I need to get ready and set off!
A Sunderland supporter's website interviewed me ahead of today's big match. Here are my responses. Check out the funny piture of Steve Bruce half way down the page! I hope I managed to sum up some of the moods at the Reebok including a desire to have standing areas, hopes for a plan B from Mr Coyle and a possible wage cap in the Premier League!
Interview by Colin Randall of Salut! Sunderland
Walloped 5-0 in the FA Cup semi at Wembley last season, and 5-1 at ho,me by Chelsea the other weekend but 4-0 winners at QPR. When the real Bolton Wanderers stand up, what do we actually see?
I don't think any Bolton fan currently knows who the real Bolton Wanderers are, unless they are prepared to admit that we are nothing but a bottom of the league team with little chance of finishing above 18th. For those of us with a little bit of hope in us, I think we believe that there is a decent bunch of players in there who, given the correct formation and a good kick up the backside, could drag us out of the mire within a few weeks. However, that could prove easier said than done. We have conceded 21 goals in our last six league games and we look clueless going forward much of the time - a deadly combination if ever there was one.
And is Owen Coyle the man to get you away from the bottom and up to a decent position, giving that you looked for much of last season like finishing in the top half only to fall away towards the end?
The jury is still out. We were having a great ride last season for a while with Coyle but then things started to go down hill. It's when things start to go wrong that your team and your manager need to show what they have got, and so far the signs have not been too promising. Don't get me wrong I think I still see more promise in Coyle than I ever did with Megson, despite us currently sitting at the bottom of the pile. At least Coyle seems to have a desire to win and a certain belief, something which we never really had with Megson. The biggest problem with Owen Coyle seems to be the lack of a plan B, an accusation levelled at him even during his Burnley stint. For example, he continues to employ Paul Robinson, probably the slowest person on earth, at left back up against the likes of Daniel Sturridge and Nani and thinks we can get away with it. We get opened up down that side week after week and yet the hole is never plugged - even though we have the lightening quick Ricky Gardner who could play there. The problems run deeper than that but we will be here all day. I think the next three games will be crucial for Bolton fans and, if Coyle continues to make the same basic errors, which everyone else seem to be able to see, the fans could start to become restless.
Bolton and Sunderland have similarities: we were the only club never to have played outside the top flight until 1958, you've been there for 70+ seasons (not consecutive) but you've never won it and we haven't since 1935. Are we now both just scrapping for "honours" in the middle and lower bits of the Premier?
Yes. It is sad but true. I don't see Bolton or Sunderland ever winning or even coming close to winning the Premier League in it's current format. The only way we could really compete is if there were massive changes brought about to level the playing field, so to speak, perhaps the way they do in America for certain leagues where they have a salary cap of about $3 million for an entire teams annual wage bill.
It follows on from there: do you resent the money sloshing around at the top end of the game or just wish Wanderers could get their hands on some of it?
Yes and no. I enjoy us being the underdog to a certain extent and I think pumping tonnes of money into the club would take some of that away. It would be nice sometimes if our board could come out and persuade some of the big players to come to us but overall I don't like the amount of money in football. I have a fantasy that all money available for a football club to spend on transfers and wages should come directly from within the game (as in from what a club earns through sponsorships, sales, tickets etc) rather than outside investors using clubs as billionaire's toys.
Charlie Hurley and Colin Todd spring to mind as men who have served both clubs; El Hadji Diouf is one we' sooner forget, Any thoughts on player/manager links between Bolton and Sunderland?
El Hadji Diouf was a character. And Colin Todd, I thought, was a great manager for Bolton - we saw some great times under him. Not much of a link but didn't Sam Allardyce once play for Sunderland?
I know Diouf didn't really do the business for Sunderland but if he still has anything in his locker I think Bolton could do with his type in our team at the moment. I think he did ok at Rangers last season.
Any good, bad or amusing memories of past encounters between us?
I remember losing to Sunderland on the opening day of the season a couple of years ago. That set the tone for our season and was the first nail in our previous managers coffin. For that, I thank you.
What have been your highs and lows as a Wanderers supporter? Did you ever meet Nat Lofthouse?
I never met Nat Lofthouse no. Unless you mean the lion that walks round the pitch clapping his hands? Biggest high for me as a Bolton fan was winning 4-3 against Reading in the 1995 Play Off Final at Wembley. We came back from 2-0 down and ended up winning 4-3. The difference between those times and now was that we went into every game expecting a win no matter who we were playing. Arsenal, Chelsea, Man Utd - we had a go at all of them when we first made it into the Premier League. Now we seem to go out of games with little more than a whimper. Some of the lowest points in my career as a Wanderers fan had to be during the infamous Megson era. We played some of the worst football I have ever witnessed from any team in any division. Even though we stayed up (in the Prem) it was far more sickening to watch us play during that period than it was even in the relegation seasons that went before it.
What do you make of Steve Bruce? I imagine that being a former Man Utd stalwart doesn't endear him to you but does the uncertainty about his future, and the growing criticism of him by supporters, surprise you?
Steve Bruce? Is he the pigeon woman out of home alone 2 (http://celebmath.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/homealonepigeonlady2.jpg) ? To be honest I consider myself a modern Bolton Wanderers fan and don't base my opinion of a manager on a Neanderthalic hatred of a club he once played for. At times Steve Bruce impresses me, or he has done in recent seasons. Recently, though, many Sunderland fans seem to be on his back and unhappy with the way the team are performing. I know that feeling well although, as an outsider, it is easy to think "what's all the fuss about"? I think, like for Bolton, the next three games could be critical in deciding Bruce's future.
Tell me about the antipathy between yourselves and United. I'd bet you see plenty of there tops being worn around Bolton.
I think the days are gone where one would be afraid to walk down the street in town wearing the wrong club shirt. Sometimes, as a Bolton fan, it can be frustrating to see young kids becoming glory supporters instead of supporting their local side. The thing is, we are now so used to it that it no longer registers on the radar. I don't think I hate Man United the way some Wanderers fans seem to but I do harbour a dislike of them in some respects. Some of it rational, some not. I don't like the way that "Fergie Time" happens, and it does actually happen - and the United fans I know personally gloat about it. We all know it goes on. Little things like that bug me more than the historical despising of everything red.
This was the Eduardo Question and then became the Walcott Question after Theo (bravely, i thought) admitted he'd dived to try to win a penalty. Now it's the Barton Question. So we have diving and feigning injury covered, but what form of cheating do you most despise and what would you do about it?Perhaps not cheating as much as a Respect thing. I hate players getting in the referee's face and crowding around him. There is only one reason to do that and it is to intimidate and influence the referee (ok that is two reasons). There should be no place for that in football. As a referee myself, I would like to see a rule introduced which meant that even touching the referee, however gently, should result in a straight red card. That way there are no questions, no quibbles. It will stop players from attempting to push the boundaries. I know that is quite an extreme view but it's just what I believe.
Club versus country. Who claims your greater allegiance and why?Club. Every time. Why? I was going to say "because England are rubbish", but if that were true I would not be a Bolton supporter right now either. I just don't feel the same attraction to England, I can take it or leave it much of the time - until it get's to a major tournament and the league season is over. Then I am an England fan as much as the next man (or woman). I still need my football fix. During the season I tend to hate International breaks because it means I don't get to watch the Wanderers.
Name this season's top four in order, and the bottom three and winners of the major trophies.
Bolton top - Champions. Sunderland bottom!What? I win a prize! Ok...Top four. Man United, Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool.Bottom three. Wigan, Norwich, Swansea.FA Cup. Arsenal.
League Cup. Liverpool.
Where will our two clubs finish if not already mentioned?14th Sunderland.15th Bolton.
What one step should BWFC or the authorities take to improve the lot of the ordinary supporter?
Ticket prices should go down. More and more people are out of work. More and more working people are being priced out of the game too. Tickets for away fans too seem to cost an absolute bomb at the moment, often upwards of £40, and when you factor in travel and a day off work it becomes an expensive affair. Other than that, I know its a controversial subject but, standing terraces should be introduced for supporters. The atmosphere at so many modern grounds is so flat that the enjoyment of attending a game in person is being sucked out of the game. A large contributing factor to that is the all seater stadiums. You can go to a lower league club with 4,500 fans and enjoy a better atmosphere than we get at the Reebok every week. Obviously it would have to be properly ticketed and properly policed but there is no reason that the disasters of years gone by should be repeated if done right. Look at concerts and gigs where people stand for hours, people don't get trampled when the crowd control is done properly. They have terraces all over Europe and they seem to do ok too!
Will you be at our game and what will be the score?
I will be there. I think it all depends on the team selected by Coyle. If he picks Robinson at left back again then even Sunderland with your lack of width will get some joy going forward. Also, if Zat Knight starts you might get another own goal out of him. If Coyle was to pick who I consider to be our best eleven and set us up properly I would confidently predict a Bolton win. If he picks the same core of players who have capitulated so many times already this season then we will be lucky to get a point. At this early stage and without knowing the team sheet I'll go for safety; 2-2.
Can you tell me as much as you can in a couple of paragraphs about who you are, what you do and your history of supporting Bolton?
I am a season ticket holder at the Reebok and long time fan. My favourite memories of watching Bolton were in the mid nineties when Bolton took on Liverpool, Arsenal, Everton, Aston Villa and other higher division clubs while we were frequenting the lower leagues. We beat them all. We also went to Wembley twice in 1995 and beat Reading in the Play Off Final to reach the Premier League for the first time in my life. I now write about the Wanderers in my blog when I have the time and I also love to play football. I am currently attempting to work my way up in the refereeing world and also enjoy coaching kids football too.
Did anyone catch X Factor at the weekend? I did.
I like Johnny Robinson but I couldn't help thinking that he sounded just like Herbert the pervert from Family Guy.
Any way, here is the video to prove it!
By the end of the video you will have totally forgotten that it is Johnny singing! Enjoy!
All Wanderers fans seem to have a pretty similar idea of who our best 11 are for the coming weeks but so far Coyle's team selections have left many fans more than a little baffled. Has Coyle realised yet where our weaknesses lie? And will he address them on Saturday against Wigan or will he go with the same, head up backside, attitude that has cost us in recent weeks?
The closest we got to seeing the fans dream team was when Wanderers went to Aston Villa and came away with their best win of the season, and best performance. However, in subsequent games the manager seemed to revert to form and, while he did make some changes, largely went with the same backbone as had capitulated so badly in previous outings.
I'll run through the team. See if you agree.
Bogdan Vs Jussi - While Bogdan made some glaring errors against Chelsea I feel he should still start in goal against Wigan. His errors, in that game, were uncharacteristic and are unlikely to be repeated against Wigan. We all know Jussi is on a declining slope whereas the floppy haired ginger keeper still has his best years to come. Keep the faith with him against Wigan and if he cocks it up then we revert back to jaaskelainen.
At the back - Let's start with the easy ones shall we? Cahill, playing well, England International, should start. Wheater, back from suspension, played well against Villa, kept a clean sheet and rattled Villa's post with a header. Wheater in. Right back, for me Boyata. By far the best right back I have seen in a Wanderers shirt since... er. Well, ever. Some people may not agree but those people must be either blind, gay or a woman. (No offence). Left back. We have all seen the way our left side has been targeted by Nani, Sturridge and pretty much any team who has figured out just how slow Robinson is. Robinson recently lost a race against Stephen Hawking - and Hawking didn't even use his chair. We have leaked goals like Kerry Katona drops chicken nugget crumbs and almost all of them have come from our left side. The answer, ladies and gentlemen, is a little known player by the name of Bibi (Ricardo Gardner). He is fast and agile and, if he can stay fit, probably our best option at left back. He played there against Villa and by all accounts had a very good game. For me he should continue there.
The debate - Do we play 4-4-2 or 4-5-1 or do we go for some other combination of numbers that bizarrely adds up to eleven but looks like ten? I think it depends who we play. Seems obvious doesn't it? You would think so but apparently Mr Coyle has only ever heard of 4-4-2 as a formation. Playing Wigan I can see us getting away with a 4-4-2 formation but in future, especially away from home, against the big boys we should be looking to lock down midfield with an extra man. At least for the first half.
Wide - The young Chelsea winger, Gael Kakuta, has recently put his cards on the table saying "I came here to play, no player likes to be on the bench." And that is music to my ears. As much as I try to like Petrov and Eagles something just has not gone right for us this season and while I think Petrov has looked lively and threatening at times I think it would be wise to give Kakuta a go against Wigan. Kakuta is another player who starred in Bolton's away win at Villa when he scored the second goal which killed Villa off. Kakuta in on the left wing. On the right I suppose I will have to go for Eagles. (I suppose we could swap and have Kakuta right and Petrov left as Petrov's defensive frailties won't be as noticable with Gardner at left back perhaps). I certainly would not have any of this nonsense with Kevin Davies or Mark Davies on a flank. No chance. And no need for it!
Central midfield - If only Holden were fit eh? If we were to play 4-5-1 in certain games I would definately have Muamba sat just in front of the defence with Pratley and ReoCoker in central midfield (or possibly Mavies in for Reo Coker). Contrary to popular opinion I don't feel that ReoCoker has been at his best for us. He gives away the ball too easily and shirks many challenges. In my opinion Pratley has been the more productive of the two. In a 4-4-2 system I would love to see Holden paired with any one of Davies, Pratley, Muamba or ReoCoker. We have a lot of decent quality central midfielders in there. The difficulty is knowing who to pick. Against Wigan I would take a risk and play Muamba and Pratley. Mark Davies is too inconsistent. There is no point playing ReoCoker in the same 2 man midfield as Muamba. And I feel we need Muamba to add to our defensive solidarity.
Up top - Personally I don't think there should even be a debate. We have all seen glimpses of what Ngog can do and we have all seen Davies' form slowly sliding downhill. Ngog has to be in. Klasnic, back from his ban, should partner Ngog up front. We know Klasnic is deadly and him paired with the pacey Ngog should be too much for Wigan to handle. If we choose Kevin Davies to start this game I think every Bolton fan should leave.
Tell us what you think!
My first XI against Wigan would be:
Boyata Cahill Wheater Gardner
Eagles Muamba Pratley Kakuta
Life long Wanderer, season ticket holder and avid blogger!
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