Someone pointed out to me tonight that it has been fifteen years since I first arrived in Bolton to study at the Bolton Institute (now University). At the time, Bolton Wanderers were in the second tier of English football, just as they are now. Bolton started that season managed by Colin Todd. That team got off to a poor start, earning only six points in the first seven matches of the season. Todd was no longer the manager after that. Phil Brown righted the ship a bit over a one month spell as interim manager, and then Sam Allardyce came into the Reebok Stadium. The rest, as they say, is history.
In the 4th league match of that season, Wanderers lost at home to Manchester City. Then they lost some more, and finally the manager changed. I think a lot of supporters hope to see the same progression this season. I don't think it is possible. I look at that squad. Eidur Gudjohnsen scored 21 goals that season. Claus Jensen, Gudni Bergsson, Mark Fish, Ricardo Gardner and Dean Holdsworth were in that squad. Kevin Nolan made his senior debut. That just doesn't exist in the current iteration of the club.
Brighton & Hove Albion have struggled out of the gate as well. They have one win and two losses. This match is important for both sides. Somebody needs something positive to happen. I am not very confident that Bolton will provide something positive.
Wanderers problem, for years now, has been a poor defense. You can blame Dougie Freedman. You can blame Owen Coyle. You can blame Phil Gartside. Hell, you can blame Gerald Cid. It doesn't matter. The fact remains, the back line has been horrible, again. To be fair, Freedman tried to fix this problem. He brought back Kevin McNaughton to play right back, and the Cardiff City Loanee has played well so far. But now McNaughton is injured, and won't be fit to face Brighton on Saturday. Freedman brought in Dean Moxey to play left back. Moxey lasted about sixty minutes into the first match of the season (a terrible sixty minutes), and had to be subbed off because of injury. We have not seen him since. Dorian Dervite was brought in to strengthen the center of defense. He had a horrible 30 minutes in the first match and is clearly fourth in the pecking order among center halves. Liam Trotter was signed permanently after a brief loan spell last season to shield the back four. He has been horrible in a couple of appearances as well.
It's the same problems and same mistakes that we have been watching for four seasons. These mistakes are being made, in large part, by the same players. I see only one solution. Give the kids a chance! This weekend, we are without both of our first choice fullbacks. Give the kids a chance! Lets start Hayden White at right back and Oscar Threlkeld at left back. See what they can do!
People love to talk about forwards. A lot of ink has been spilled on Jay Spearing. But the truth is, it all comes down to the back line. It's all I will pay attention to, it's all I care about. If the back four defend well, Bolton will get a result on Saturday. If they don't, and chances are they won't, more of the same.