The Surprising Feeling Of Looking Forward To The Next Match

Michael Steele

Call me jaded. It's been a nearly non-stop downhill tumble for the better part of the last two years as a Bolton Wanderers fan. From the dizzying heights of sixth place in the Premier League to where we are now. Yet, this weekend brings a fresh slate and with it, hope.

There's no overwhelming feeling of fear in the buildup to this weekend's clash at the Reebok against Bristol City. There isn't this worry about which mistake from the previous weeks, months, and nearly years will be repeated and ultimately lead to a loss. There isn't an inevitable belief that there will be some unexplainable lineup decision that seemingly only a fool would make. Instead, with Jimmy Phillips and Sammy Lee leading the charge this weekend, it seems that things are looking up.

The only way that the story of this weekend can get better for Jimmy Phillips is with a resounding win (something we've yet to have in the Championship). Phillips is a Bolton boy, born and bred. A career defender that made hundreds of appearances for Bolton Wanderers in two different stints, and ultimately finished his career as a Trotter in 2001. He then became a youth coach before being named director of Bolton's academy.

We certainly don't expect wholesale changes to the side when Saturday comes but we do expect a breath of fresh air. Phillips and Lee have ramped up training and are bringing science (gasp) and numbers (whoa) back into the mix as they look to get the best out of an underperforming squad that should, by all accounts, be challenging for the top of this league.

We won't know who the starting XI will be or who will sit on the bench until an hour or so before kickoff (with the exception of Jay Lynch, who will be in the 18 man squad). Maybe the youngsters like Joe Riley will be given a chance to shine. Maybe Martin Petrov and Chung-Yong Lee, wingers who have been forced onto the wrong side of the touch line, will be allowed to redeem themselves.

What we do know though is that both Phillips and Lee are thoroughly enjoying their time in charge (and it seems like the lads are too). Speaking in his prematch press conference, Phillips reflected on the last week or so:

"It has been very enjoyable and has been a chance for Sammy Lee and I to put our ideas across to the players," Phillips said when reflecting on the last week-and-a-half.

"We have been really pleased with the response and I like to think the players have enjoyed the sessions, especially considering some of our ideas may be new to them.

"We got the five lads returning today from international duty and thankfully they are all fit. They have missed out on a week's training so we will make sure that they have all the information that we have put across to the other lads over the last seven or eight days.

"The slight changes we may have done with the players have been done with the sole aim to improve them and hopefully get a winning performance against Bristol City.

"Myself, Sammy and Julian are certainly football people. We love to get the ball down and build play up from the back whenever possible, but sometimes the state of the game will dictate how well we can do that.

"But we have certainly enjoyed the last week and we are all looking forward to Saturday."

For now, the speculation about who will succeed Owen Coyle as Bolton Wanderers manager takes a rest.

COYWM.

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