clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Bolton Wanderers: Where Have All the Heroes Gone?

Whatever happened to the heroes? Whatever happened to the heroes? No more heroes any more. No more heroes any more

Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

When I first started going to watch Bolton Wanderers in the early 90s there was a whole boatload of players who you could describe as being 'heroes'.  My first love was Andy Walker, before he decamped to Celtic and ruined my life. Then it was John McGinlay with a side-helping of Keith Branagan.

All valid candidates for hero worship I think.

In later years it was Sasa Curcic, Mark Fish and of course the one and only Kevin Davies.

I loved Kevin in a way that I have loved few people in my life. I absolutely adored his no-nonsense style which rubbed the higher-ups in the Premier League the wrong way for the best part of a decade. I admired the way that he made the most of his career, came back from the knocks and the set-backs to truly epitomise the 'Captain, Leader, Legend' epithet that Chelsea fans attribute to John Terry (a man undeserving of such a tribute).

The point, however, is that in the current era, there's a staggering absence of heroes in the world of Bolton Wanderers. Why is that?

These days players tend to move more frequently, meaning that emotional attachments are harder to form, but at the same time is there something in the character of the modern footballer that makes them harder to like?

I cite our former captain Matt Mills as one example. I suspect that a decade ago his sort of ball-busting, shouty captaincy would have been right up my street. I think that I would have been a huge fan of his.

The trouble is, I'm just not.

Is it me getting older? Is it something in Mills' make-up that winds me up? Is it his beard?

I don't know for sure, but he is just one example of this train of thought. The present Bolton squad are just not very likeable, are they?

From their dubious on-field performances to their pant-wettingly irritating Instagram and Twitter accounts - do they do it on purpose? They put themselves out to the world on social media, and then have a good old cry when supporters do the same via websites such as this.

Footballers these days are transient, with few hanging around for any sort of decent length of time. I wonder if that's why we immediately love the likes of Josh Vela and Zach Clough - they're our own, and they're forging the paths that we all wanted to do as children. To grow up at the club and move through the ranks to the first team is the life that we all dream of.

Our mob haven't resorted to the sort of Yaya Toure nonsense that we see in the Premier League, but it seems that some can't help themselves.

Do we have a cult hero any more? We had Ivan Campo, we had El-Hadji Diouf - who have we got now? Where is the rebel, where is the anti-hero? They simply no longer exist.

The modern approach to football is a sanitised version of that which I found at the football some 20 years ago. It's unrecognisable in most aspects.

I wonder whether I'm just at the point where I realise the futility of falling in love with players like I once did - they only let you down, and then they leave.

Take Zach Clough for example. An absolutely unbelievable prospect - possibly the best that we have had in a decade, but the likelihood is that if he starts the new season in the same vein as he finished the last he will be sold in January. Just like that he'll be gone. Another potential club hero gone. Never to return.

On that subject, Eidur Gudjohnsen completed his European sojourn via Barcelona and Monaco, among others, and is perhaps the only person in the squad who could potentially go down in history as one of our most famous players. But when you think about it objectively, he has only played some 80-odd games for the club - about the same as David Wheater, or Neil Danns.

So I guess the closing element of this piece is a bit of a call-to-arms directed at the current squad.

Do you want to be a hero? Do you care?

We want to love you, we want to idolise you - make us dream again. You have the platform. I would love to look back in another 10 years and have the same happy memories about Conor Wilkinson as I do about Kevin Davies. I'd love to think back to Josh Vela's glory years at the club and of course I would love Zach Clough to still be at the club in twelve month's time. Maybe that's a dream in itself.

The club has been through a transitional phase in the past couple of seasons, it's time to emerge from the other side and start to build new legends, new heroes and new memories to last a lifetime.

In Lennon I trust.