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Match Preview: Bolton Wanderers v Watford

Bolton are back at the Reebok this weekend, and they welcome 11th-placed Watford to the party. Dennis has a preview, of sorts. He is more interested in the fans than the players today.

Jan Kruger

I don't own a football club, and I never will.  It's unlikely that anyone who reads this blog owns a football club, or ever will.  So why do we care so much?  Jermaine Beckford is recovering from injury, but won't be ready in time for Saturday's match.  Why do we care so much about another man's groin?  Tim Ream will once again be playing out of position at left back.  Why do we care so much about his mediocrity?  Dougie Freedman will once again choose a starting XI that most supporters hate.  Why do we care which employees are rated highest by their boss?  Thousands of people will follow the match from places like New York, Sydney, Paris, Madrid, Philadelphia, even Madagascar and South Korea.  Why do they care so much about events on the other side of the world?  We will do this, but our owner will not attend the match in person.  Why do we care so much about Bolton Wanderers?

We care because owning a football club is a legal status.  It's a financial position.  We don't envy Eddie Davies because he is rich (well, maybe it's a little because he is rich).  We don't resent Phil Gartside because he is powerful.  We, as fans, are convinced that we could do better.  We have not invested the cash, we don't have the cash, but we've invested the time.  We have made an emotional commitment to our club.  And we can't break it.

A billionaire can buy another club.  Plenty of men have owned multiple football clubs.  Supporters do not have that option.  Even if we try, our investment is not transferable.  We can't divest our shares.  No matter how upset we get at the club, the players, the owners, the managers, we can't abandon Bolton Wanderers.  The same is true of the Watford FC supporters.  They have known highs and lows, they have stuck by their club through good and bad.  Some of them will travel hundreds of miles tomorrow to watch a football match.  A football match that is likely to be boring, poorly played, and end in an unsatisfying draw.  They, just like us, are invested.

I believe that this emotional investment is a good thing.  It's why we are all here.  That said, it is not, by definition, rational.  And certainly, the opinions we form based on this investment are not rational.  Nor should they be.  Explaining to a fan that a transfer cannot be completed because of the financial fair play regulations is a fool's errand.  It's akin to telling your girlfriend that she is not getting a gift on Valentine's Day because it is a money-making scheme invented by greeting card companies.  It might be true, but it's not getting you laid.

All that aside, most of us like being in this state.  We like being emotional about our club.  We like being irrational in our belief that we will win tomorrow's match.  Hell, we even use the pronoun we to describe the club.  So when the team sheet comes out tomorrow, we will complain about it on Twitter, or at the pub, to anyone who will listen.  When the players walk out on the pitch we will cheer, as if it were us stepping onto the field at the Reebok.  And every time something happens on that pitch, we will react.  It might be raised arms, it might be a punch in the air, it might be a strange, involuntary grunt, it will certainly be emotional.  And we like it that way.

Enjoy the match.