It's an emotional time for Wanderers fans. We've been suffering a mid-season slump, we've had five away losses in a row, getting only 4 points from the last 5 games. And then, last Saturday the incredibly sad news of Nat Lofthouse's death reached us. The loss of a legend, the one man that embodied Bolton Wanderers more than any other, has shaken the club from top to bottom. This game will inevitably be shaped by his memory. Bolton have failed to beat Chelsea at home since October of 1997, if there was ever a time to break a streak like that, now would be it.
Form wise, this is the worst time in the season to face Chelsea. We haven't been producing the pretty football that fans were spoilt by in the first half of the season, and the results have been correspondingly mediocre. This undoubtedly has something to do with the absence of two key players: Stu Holden (injury) and Chung-Yong Lee (Asian Cup), but it's not the whole problem. Unlike our bad performances under Megson, the players do look like they're trying, but their efforts just aren't good enough. Something has gone in the chemistry. It's now over a year into Owen Coyle's reign, and for the most part it's been highly successful, but the pace at which we were going may have been unsustainable. This game will be a crucial test to see if we can regain the form we had.
Chelsea meanwhile had been undergoing a slump themselves. That is, until we went to the Bridge and lost 1-0. Their results since haven't been magnificent, but they are certainly on the ups. In all likelihood, they will be padded by the presence of both John Terry and Frank Lampard. This fixture has historically been a confidence booster for the Blues. Bolton haven't won against Chelsea for 14 games, have failed to keep a clean sheet in the last 20 meetings, and have failed to score in the last four. Even under Big Sam, when the Reebok was a fortress, we couldn't beat Chelsea. It's time to put a stop to that streak.
The most important man in our history passed away last weekend. He makes me proud of my Bolton heritage, proud to be a Wanderer. This Monday, I want Bolton to do him right. Play with his memory. Play for his pride. This is a man whose heart never left Bolton, let's show everyone why. We are the one and only Wanderers.