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5 Things: Bolton v Burnley

Chris takes a look back at the latest defeat and wonders what we have learned....if anything

Tom Shaw

Well that was shit.

Spent a good portion of last night planning this article, before realising that my laptop charger has broken and so it would be pointless making a start - so forgive me if this is just a stream of consciousness thing.

So let's go:

1) Team Selection

Dougie Freedman has been in charge of Bolton Wanderers since October 2012. He is a moderately successful football manager, but one of limited experience.

In fact, his career statistics as a manager are pretty unimpressive.









Win %

Crystal Palace








Bolton Wanderers








Career Total







I think this is reflected in his team selections.

Last night's re-introduction of David Wheater smacked of an inexperienced man who is unsure of his best team. This was reflected in the performance of Wheater who performed as well as anyone could be expected given his six month absence through injury, but to play him against two of the most in-form strikers in the league was nothing short of madness.

We have all spoken about the supposed partnership between Medo and Jay Spearing - yet he perseveres with the two. It was a negative approach to a must-win game, and one that in my opinion cost us the chance of taking something from it.

I appreciate that he is being cautious with the fitness of Mark Davies - and with Millwall at the weekend then there is an argument for keeping our best player fresh. However, we all know that previous managers have made similar decisions in keeping our main men out of important games with an eye on upcoming fixtures, and it is something that doesn't sit well with me.

Taking Burnley as local rivals out of the equation, in our position we cannot afford to play a weakened side against anyone, and choosing Medo and Spearing as a central partnership is about as weak as we can be.

2) Lukas Jutkiewicz

This was the first time that I had seen the Middlesbrough loanee in the flesh (to my recollection), and I was surprised to find myself impressed by his performances.

However, I think he was completely and utterly thrown to the lions by the manager. Whilst he made a decent fist of playing as the lone striker, he was given absolutely no support by his teammates, and had to resort to battling two experienced centre halves by himself. When he did win the ball, and he frequently did, he had no-one to pass to.

Had the manager chosen to play a more attacking midfielder behind Jutkiewicz other than Liam Trotter then I think we could have made an impact upon the Burnley defence.

Not once did the midfield press beyond the central striker. Not once did Jutkiewicz receive a decent cross from either Chris Eagles or Chung Yong Lee. Not once did he have the opportunity to lay the ball off to an onrushing midfielder.

I can't remember Jutkiewicz having a shot on goal, but I do not blame him for this - I blame the manager for picking a side and a tactical approach that meant we didn't stand a chance from the off.

3) Liam Trotter

I was a fan of the lad when I saw him play for Millwall at the Reebok Stadium last season.

I thought he was a physical but steady presence in their midfield and this led to a tough game for the Bolton players against him, and so when I heard that we signed him I was looking forward to a dynamic addition to our midfield.

However, from last night's display it appears that we have signed someone who runs like a man dragging a fridge through treacle.

He appeared unsure as to his position at times. He was played behind the central striker (Jutkiewicz) and yet at no point gave his teammate any sort of support.

Trotter is a big lad, but he appears to have the relish for a tackle the likes of which we haven't seen since....Chris Eagles.

It's early days and I am certainly not writing him off because I have, like I said above, seen him absolutely dominate a midfield. I just question whether his best position is behind the striker.

I think that role would be better served by someone like Andre Moritz (for ten minutes, LOLZ), Chris Eagles or Mark Davies.

4) The Complete Absence of Spirit and Fight in the Team

We know we're not very good.

We as fans can accept not being very good - because for the majority of our Bolton Wanderers-supporting life we haven't been particularly good.

However, what I cannot accept is the meek acceptance from a good number of the squad that I saw on display last night.

I can fully appreciate, as displayed in Marc's tweet above, that some of the players feel that the negativity of the crowd is a monkey on their back, but at the same time there is no excuse for the sort of spineless indifference that I saw on the pitch last night.

Burnley are a perfect example of how we should be. They are (and I mean this with no disrespect), an average side, much like we are - but the difference is that they are well organised and drilled, and clearly knew their roles. They believed that they were superior to Bolton Wanderers from the off, and had the same belief to see the win through.

This was the complete opposite of the Bolton side who played like they weren't arsed.

I know this is a generalisation often thrown at professional footballers today and usually I'm not one to subscribe to it, but last night it was apparent to me that this is a squad who collectively are hanging on by the skin of their teeth until the summer when they can move on.

As an example, our captain Jay Spearing must know that he is not the best footballer, and what sets him apart is the drive and desire to make the most of his talent. Yet on several occasions last night he went into hiding. Actively avoided being involved in the play. For a captain this is nothing short of treason.

Can you remember him putting in a single tackle last night? I can't. Lots of pointing and shouting, as per usual, but not much else.

This indifference spread throughout the team. We all know that Chris Eagles couldn't tackle a decent meal, but the players are not even going through the motions any more, they're just not bothered.

5) So Where Do We Go From Here?

I have been pondering this question ever since I got home from the game last night. Once I'd defrosted my feet (tip - if you know it's going to be a cold one, don't wear a pair of Sambas) I began to put together my own master plan.

a) First thing I would do is sack Dougie Freedman. He's had long enough now to make an impact on this team, and it seems clear to me that he is unable to arrest this slide. I sympathise with his position in terms of finance and in terms of the performances of this feckless bunch of lazy shithouses that he has inherited.

However, I think the time has come when you have to say "thanks Dougie, but it's just not working". Conversations about whether we can afford to sack him are relevant, of course, but with current form in mind can we afford to keep him?

b) Next job is to hire someone with genuine managerial experience to see us through the next dozen or so games until the end of the season.

I've already written about how I would hire Neil Warnock for this task. A man of immense experience of this division. Someone like Warnock would, in my opinion, be better placed to organise the side and get more out of them than the current manager can.

He would also be prepared, I reckon, to step aside in May and we can begin the process of long-term planning (again).

c) Play two strikers. We're no longer in a place where a point is good enough. We're no longer able to think that we are 'above' being relegated like those idiots at Wolverhampton. We have to face up to the serious possibility that we could well be a League One club by the time August arrives.

The only way we are going to avoid this fate is to go on the attack. It's clear that we cannot defend, and so to try and outscore the opposition is the way forward. As I mentioned above, Jutkiewicz would thrive on a partner, and I think to give him a partner would be a positive move.

There's a striker who used to play for Barnsley, think his name is Davies. I like him.

So it's not much of a master plan, but I'd much rather we went down fighting than with a whimper as we are at the moment. Our fate should be in our own hands but instead we're accepting it without a struggle.