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Five Things We Learned: Bolton vs Ipswich

Chris takes a look back at five things that have stuck in his craw since Sat'dy

Does anyone have the number for the job club?
Does anyone have the number for the job club?
Matthew Lewis

1)      The strikers


I've defended David Ngog on occasion. I can see that he's got skillz. I think that 95% of his game is top class. He has excellent technique and an admirable work ethic. However, the 5% that is missing is the actual bit that governs being a striker. The lad is afraid to shoot.

When Jay Spearing delivered a fantastic through ball to Ngog to run onto in the second half, I didn't even bother getting out of my seat. I just knew that he wouldn't score. In fact, he didn't even get a shot away despite being (offside) a good yard in front of the defender as he ran (ambled) in on goal.

Unfortunately for him, and he's a nice guy, his time at Wanderers has run out. He just doesn't deserve to be in the side. His appearance in the first team is taking away a position that someone else could occupy equally well.

His goal record at the club is approximately one in every six games. For a team who have traditionally lacked a 25 goal centre forward we just cannot afford a passenger like Ngog. He needs dropping and soon. I don't rate Craig Davies, for example, but I absolutely believe that he would offer more of a goal threat than David Ngog - he would bring a ‘battering ram' approach to our game which would offer at least some variety and we know that what he lacks in finesse he absolutely makes up for in twatting the ball as hard as humanly possible.

Jermaine Beckford is another one. I understand why Dougie Freedman bought him, but he's another striker who is seemingly wrong for Bolton Wanderers. He is, for comparison purposes, an Ivan Klasnic who is being asked to play like Kevin Davies, as yet another few hundred Matt Mills wonderballs (as I'm sure he believes them to be) sail towards his head then I wonder what he thinks himself.

He was up against a tough and experienced central defender in Christophe Berra, who, lets face it, dominated him completely - this I put down to Beckford being poorly utilised by Bolton Wanderers and by extension Dougie Freedman.

I pointed above to Ngog's pathetic response to an excellent Spearing through ball - had that pass gone to Beckford instead then I would be much more confident that a goal would have been scored. Who knows, I might even have stood up in anticipation.

Our strikers are hopeless, just hopeless. At a struggling side like Bolton Wanderers you need to rely on your senior players, strikers especially, to drag you over the line in games and Saturday against Ipswich Town was yet another example of us not being able to trust our strikers, which is a massive problem.

The January transfer window is a huge opportunity for Freedman (or whoever the manager is) to pack off Ngog before his contract ends and reinvest whatever paltry sum we receive into a proper striker. I shudder when I think of the money that we have spent on Ngog. If the £4m fee is correct then I would presume that he's on circa £20,000 per week - so over a three year contract he'll have cost us nigh on £7m.

At least we'll have saved some money by not paying him much in terms of goal bonuses, the shithouse.

2)      Give youth a chance

What must Connor Wilkinson think? I don't know a lot about the lad, but Jesus wept he must be wondering what sort of club he's joined.

He scored an impressive four goals for the reserves against Blackpool this past week, and what is his reward? A seat in the stands with the rest of the lads. You'd have thought that Bolton Wanderers were a club with a glut of striking options, all of whom are on top of their game, rather than a club with a bunch of soft-arsed shitbags who couldn't hit a cow's arse with a banjo.

Dougie Freedman came to the club just slightly over a year ago now with a reputation and indeed most likely a mandate to develop our youngsters and integrate them in the first team. By a quick count whilst having my toast this morning I worked out that he has integrated approximately none of them. I do not count sticking them on the bench and not using them as integrating. Let's not forget Megson's efforts to bring Temitope Obadeyi and Danny Ward into the first team by handing out meaningless cameos in lost-cause games.

If a reserve striker is scoring goals on a regular basis, and the first team strikers are not then it is only logical to replace one with the other. Wilkinson has been doing that and should at least be on the bench. A game such as that on Saturday where we are obviously struggling for goals would have been an ideal opportunity to throw on fresh legs and try something new.

I seem to remember the manager hailing Tom Eaves as having made fantastic progress last season - where is he now? Whilst not the finished article by a long punt he would at least fit into the side and the style of play that Dougie is employing by performing the ‘Kevin Davies' type role. He would be a round peg in a round hole - but instead we're persevering with Jermaine Beckford and David Ngog in roles which are completely unsuitable - Beckford as a target man, and Ngog as a striker.

One benefit of living in Preston is that the County Ground in Leyland is a five minute drive away. Well, that and Mick's Curry Pot.

I have seen the likes of Andy Kellett, Chris Lester and Samni Odelusi develop from raw kids into good, solid prospects. I again refer to the failure of the senior experienced professionals and have to wonder whether we could really be any poorer for trusting in the coaching of Jamie Fullarton and co and give the kids a try in the first team. There is absolutely no point in opening these fancy academies with their top notch facilities if we're afraid of pitching graduates into the team and seeing what happens.

I absolutely appreciate that the manager's neck is on the line and that is clearly has faith in the first-teamers, but he is being let down by the same names on a regular basis and I think it's time that he started to live up to his reputation as a promoter of youth and looked to the reserves for other options.

3)      Dougie's use of subs

It is now Monday and I'm still wondering why the absolute fuck Lee Chung-Yong was substituted on Saturday. We are a dull side lacking in creativiy and one who suffers from poor ball retention yet our glorious leader chose to withdraw the only man who was leading the way in both areas. He was having his best game for weeks, maybe even months and yet he was taken off.

I have no beef with Chris Eagles, and would like to see him back on the field, but I think that removing CYL for Eagles was a massive mistake.

I've seen the twitter mob baying for Neil Danns' blood lately, and having had chance to see him up close I really don't see why or how he deserves such anger - he has a decent work rate and seems earnest enough. I would have left him on, moved him into the centre and subbed either Medo or Jay Spearing who were very poor at the weekend.

Then you could have brought Eagles on and stuck him on the left and put CYL on the right....IN HIS PROPER POSITION. I hate wingers playing on the wrong side as much as I hate full-backs playing on the wrong side, are you listening Dougie?

I read, with some amusement, the usual suspects online baying for Freedman's blood because he dared to bring Darren Pratley on with a few seconds left. Checks with more reliable sources showed that Pratley was brought on to replace Danns who had suffered an injury. So Dougie you get a free pass with that one.

4)      Going to the match on your own

I've been going to the match with my brother and mum for nigh on 20 years. This weekend however brought about a perfect storm of him being at a doo and my mum being on holiday. Faced with the choice of stopping at home and doing some jobs or going to the game on my own like a proper loser then there was only one decision to be made.

I bribed the Mrs with a pub lunch, and made my way to the game.

I arrived at the ground about 20min before kick-off, and went to claim my regular seat in the East Lower. As the regulars arrived around me, questions were asked and I'm sure judgements were being passed on this sad pathetic billy no-mates at the game on his own.

The game kicked off and things were a little strange. I was unable to pass comment to my brother about incidents in the game, and being forced to keep my ideas and thoughts to myself was driving me crackers. The awkward silences between me and the guy who has sat in the next seat for 12 years, but whose name I am completely unaware of grew more and more frequent. However, the kindly soul who sits in front of me did at least offer a fruit pastille to the pasty loner in the seat behind.

As the second half wore on, so did my frustration. I couldn't keep my thoughts to myself any longer, and decided to just get on with it. Obviously, being a home game at the Reebok, singing wasn't a problem because it just doesn't happen - but as yet another Medo and Spearing pass went astray I couldn't restrain myself.

I celebrated the goal in a more muted fashion too - no back slapping with my brother, just a simple throaty exclamation of joy and, to be honest, surprise as Medo popped in the free-kick to put us one up.

The Ipswich Town goal was more of a typical affair, as yet more defensive frailty from Wanderers allowed the visitors a way back into the game that they scarcely warranted. I had my head in my hands bemoaning our inability to keep a clean sheet or to see out a game.

With five minutes left I decided to leave. Normally as I exit the ground I'm discussing and debating the game with my brother, but this time I shoved my earphones in and listened to the latest edition of ‘Fat Man on Batman'. I had pretty much forgotten about the game by the time I got to my car.

Going to the game on your own is a unique experience. I'm not sure I'd recommend it.

5)      Does he stay or go?

I've been toying with this one since Saturday and even before that, if I'm being honest.

I like Dougie Freedman. I think he talks a very good game and identifies faults and problems that I think I have also spotted. However, what concerns me is that the difference between the game that he talks and the game that he brings is massively different.

It is barely a year since he came to the club, and I remember grand statements which immediately won the fans over such as ‘this team does not know how to see out games; I'm here to sort that' or words to that effect - yet a year into his reign and we are still making the same mistakes that we did under the previous manager.

Freedman clearly knows what is wrong with Bolton Wanderers, but appears to be unable to go through with the necessary in order to remedy it. There remains a huge problem at the club, and a year of the hardline approach that he had to take has yet to remove it entirely. We still have a squad of overpaid and underperforming footballers who, at the risk of falling into footballing cliché, do not appear to want to play for him. There appears to be a distinct lack of leadership both on and off the field.

Those who are pro-Freedman and those who are anti-Freedman are both right, in a way. There is a definite trend in football towards short-termism - no names mentioned SUNDERLAND, and the top managers in the game tend to be those who have had time to develop a club and who have stability as a key component of their tenure.

When Dougie Freedman was appointed he brought Lennie Lawrence with him - Lawrence being the old head to Dougie's youth. The problem with Owen Coyle was meant to be that he didn't have an experienced sounding board to check with and to take advice from, but now we do have that in Lawrence and yet we're as bad if not worse than we were under Coyle. He took a tough ride from Bolton Wanderers fans by the end of his time in charge, which was well deserved - but I fear we're seeing another manager make the same mistakes again.

I would love him to stay and provide long-term stability which I think the club is desperately in need of, however I also think that if we lose on Saturday against Bournemouth then it'll be curtains.

My mind wanders to possible replacements, and I was speaking to a friend at the weekend who was disappointed that Nigel Clough has already been snapped up. I was initially wary, but was won round by the sense in appointing someone like him. Someone who has been through the learning curve of putting his time in the lower leagues and working his way up.

I fear that we're in a dangerous position with an inexperienced manager who does not appear to know what it takes to get us out of the mire.

I wonder if anyone has Gary Megson's phone number.......