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Writing them off before a ball has been kicked

Laurence Griffiths

Football fans are a notoriously fickle and often negative bunch. They are often happy to voice their opinions on a wide range of subject matters and when the action in response to said opinion isn't up to their standards, they're happy to voice their opinions some more. Opinions sway with results and the tiniest hint of decline sends fans panicking.

Thus far this season, Bolton Wanderers haven't been in a slight decline. No, the club has been in freefall, comfortably occupying the foot of the Championship table without a win in their first eight matches. It's not (for the most part) that they have been unlucky not to win, it's that they have been outplayed by just about all of their opponents. In the 4-1 loss at Blackburn Rovers, the Trotters were firmly only bottom for the vast majority of the match. In the 3-1 loss at Brighton & Hove Albion, the Trotters let up for four minutes and saw their lead disappear, a winner get scored, and the dagger get firmly stuck in.

There has not been one well-performing part of the team. The strikers have not yet scored a goal, the midfielders seem incapable of holding the ball in the center of the park, and the defenders are letting goals in at just about every turn. It seems reasonable that manager Dougie Freedman would want to bring in reinforcements. Yet, instead of bringing in a player on the caliber of, say, Jesse Lingard who scored four goals in his debut for Birmingham City, the Trotters signed the trio of Liam Feeney, Neil Danns, and Kevin McNaughton. The Trotters signed a winger, a central midfielder, and a fullback.

Whether those three players were the correct moves or not remains to be seen but one thing is for certain: a lot of Bolton Wanderers fans are determined to not even give the players a chance to show their worth. The comments on Bolton's Facebook postings for the players were rife with negativity:

"Another no mark player brought in by a no mark manager, Birmingham get Jesse Lingard and we get Neil Danns and a guy who can't get in Milwalls first team squad!!! It's over!! Conference in 3 years with this tosser in charge"

"Really had enough with people saying "let's give the guy a chance". We are bringing in other team's reserves!!! At the age they are they ain't gonna get better!!! If we'd brought in youngsters for the future on cheap transfers (NOT LOANS) fair enough. We need a change of manager, chairman and transfer policy NOW!!!"

"We've signed a winger who can't get into Millwall's first 11... What are we playing at?"

"brilliant signing .... A MILLWALL REJECT!!"

"Another wank championship reject how many more are we bringing in bwfc back to the phil neal days here we come"

There are hundreds of examples and it all makes for terrible reading. Whatever happened to giving players a chance? It seems that fans of Bolton Wanderers are more than happy to write off their players before they've had a chance to kick the ball.

It isn't just with loan signings either. Many fans will remember when the Trotters signed the pair of Chris Eagles and Tyrone Mears from Burnley ahead of the 2011/12 season and the supporters had immediately turned their back on the two players for their Burnley past. Eagles, of course, showed his worth to the fans in the Championship, scoring 12 goals for the Trotters last season, but despite being the team's offensive catalyst, still took a lot of hate from the stands when his form dipped in the middle of the season. Tyrone Mears, despite being a perfectly competent, if unspectacular, defender, has not seen his reputation recover despite doing little to nothing wrong in a Bolton shirt.

The atmosphere for these players becomes poisonous right from the off and with it comes a dip in confidence. It seems that more than half of Bolton's signings experience this with the fans not even willing to watch them play.

If there was better talent available to the Trotters either through the clubs making them available or Bolton being able to afford them, surely they would have jumped on that. It's not the case though and the Wanderers are trying to make the best of a bad situation by reinforcing the ranks as best as possible.

No one is saying that criticism isn't fine but it's criticism based on quite literally nothing that is the issue. If Liam Feeney, Neil Danns, or Kevin McNaughton goes out and have a poor game then by all means, go ahead. That hasn't happened yet. Don't write them off before a ball has been kicked.