So. You say something random on Twitter about moving back north and the next thing you know you're getting an invite to write for the Lion of Vienna Suite. That escalated quickly.
For those that don't know me, I used to be the editor at Vital Bolton but the daily grind of finding something to write about the club, keeping it new and fresh, almost led to a spell in your local insane asylum. The problem being that the only regular news about T'Wanderers came from the Bolton News and our good friend Marc Iles. The national press mostly avoided Junction 6 on the M61, unless we were taking on, and sometimes beating, the big clubs. And Spurs.
And then I moved south and had difficulty keeping up. Don't get me wrong, living in a place where the Wetherspoons had an open fire and oak beams and the drunks who hung around the bar from 8am to closing time apologised for bumping into you softened the blow. But if Bolton Wanderers in the Premier League were difficult to follow, Bolton in The Championship was nigh on impossible.
So, I've had some quick catch up learning to do. And here is what I found
1. We Moved Stadiums.
I decided as soon as I moved back north to visit the mecca of football, The Reebok Stadium. Having not been for about three years, I needed help from the sat nav. However, even though I spelt it correctly, the sat nav just wasn't having it. What had happened? Had we gone so much into debt that Gartside had had to sell the stadium, melting Nat Lofthouse's statute down for some extra pennies. Had there been a revolt about all the crap kits we'd had to buy that there had been some sort of fan revolt?
Luckily, having found my way to Horwich through muscle memory, I discovered that the answer was more simple. We'd sold out to the Italians. No more home grown support, if by home grown you mean a firm that had long since fled Bolton. And the kit was a lot better than had been forced upon us for the previous twelve years. I even bought you for a knock down price. The last one I'd bought was the black kit that Muamba collapsed in. I don't know if that's a portent of anything, but I'm sure if it is, it's Gartside's fault.
2. Change of Manager.
What had happened to our young, thrusting manager, Douglas Freedman, the man who took us to the giddy heights of seventh just a few years earlier.
It turned out that he had been replaced by John Lennon's cousin. Imagine. But, like a true working class hero, Neil Lennon had steady the rudderless ship that Douglas had apparently left behind and, just like peace, the fans had given Neil a chance. No Mind Games from Neil, at least not this season, had led to T'Wanderers finishing in their lowest league position since 1993, but the fans, watching the wheels of the club in motion, didn't seem too bothered by this. In fact, there seems to be a degree of optimism going into next season. This means that Lennon isn't living on borrowed time.
Coming back from the wilderness, as I am, it feels just like starting over. Let's hope there'll be no instant karma if we don't start well next season. If there is, I'll blame Gartside.
3. We lost less money this year than in previous years.
I still blame Gartside.
4. Tim Ream and Darren Pratley.
Readers of Vital will know that I had a long time hate/hate relationship with Darren Pratley. As far as I was concerned, the man could do no right and was part of the reason why the club lost its Premier League status. Apparently, having found his natural level, he has improved no end. I will still need to see this to believe it but the evidence is highly weighted in his favour. As for Ream, a player who, ironically for an American, couldn't marshall a proper positioning brain into his game, he has been twice voted player of the year. Not bad for a defender in a defence that leaks last minute goals.
Now, I know that there are some LoV writers who wouldn't be able to say a good thing about Ream if they were being water boarded, whilst Beyonce sang Hail to the Chief on a loop and the stars and stripes were being surgically implanted where the sun don't shine. However, there has to be something to it that he has been player of the year twice in a row. Bolton fans wouldn't be doing that through a love of irony would they? Would they? If they did, it would probably be Gartside's fault.
5. Lion of Vienna Suite is no longer run by our colonial friends.
What happened to Mark and Matilda? I blame Gartside.
6. Eidur Gudjohnsen.
I always regretted having never seen Eidur in a Bolton shirt for one reason and another so am proper looking forward to seeing him play next season. I'm not a big fan of going back to something you once left, as ex girlfriends and former work colleagues will tell you. However, Eidur's return meets with my full approval.
The legs may be older, for which I blame Gartside, but the brain is wiser. And I'm sure the same is true for our Icelandic international.
So, now I've caught up, it's great to be back. It's exciting times for this website and it's good to be on board. One day, my dulcets may well appear on the podcast. But I'm still learning how to type again, so we'll see how that goes first. In the meantime, if someone can give me Phil Gartside's email address, I have something to send him.