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The Burden of Being Brilliant

The curse that is the captain's armband at Bolton Wanderers

David Rogers/Getty Images

So, there you have it.

Another one bites the dust. Or so we think. As administration looms, the powers that be have actually shelled out money to sell a player. Such is the madness that is Bolton Wanderers at the minute. Mark Davies will be fondly remembered for his unrealised potential and plethora of injuries, and possibly one of the best team goals the Reebok Stadium ever saw, at home to Blackpool in 2010. In six years, Davies has registered just 163 appearances, averaging out at at 27 games a year. In fact, the only season he made more than 30 appearances was back in the heady days of our last Premier League season (2011-12). He has scored 14 goals in a Wanderers shirt.

His on-off move to Sheffield Wednesday has hit another snag, but it seems his days at the Macron are numbered.

The captain's armband is a revered piece of kit, a physically unspectacular but symbolically significant object. Special praise is reserved for those "born leaders" so rarely seen in the game: Moore, Charlton, Adams. There's the shout-at-everyone-and-kick-lumps-out-of-the-opposition type (Keane, Pearce, Nolan) and the silent-but-respected-man-mountains (Beckham, Davies), to the downright-stealing-a-living (Fabricio Coloccini).

A captain is your best player, a natural leader, an established professional. Bolton's recent on-pitch leaders have been many, and in most cases, mediocre. Davies, Reo-Coker, Knight, Spearing, Mills, Davies (Mk II) and Pratlinho. The pressure of the position, the club's financial situation, changes in management and old Father Time have seen an end to the tenure of the individuals trusted with leading Wanderers onto the pitch in recent years.

Mark Davies has something very much in common with previous Wanderers who have adorned the captain's armband: they've all left (or at least tried to). Since Kevin Davies' departure in 2012, in which his 4 year stint as skipper came to an end, Wanderers have had no less than 7 captains in less than 3 seasons. Nigel Reo-Coker, appointed vice captain when signed by Owen Coyle on a free transfer in July 2011, wore the armband in Davies' absence in the ill-fated 2011-12 season. Reo-Coker reportedly informed the club that he had exercised the relegation clause in his contract at the end of season awards ceremony. A touch of class from the man who wanted to continue to play Premier League football and signed for...Ipswich Town.

Kevin Davies, who remained club captain in the club's first season in the Championship, was frozen out by Dougie Freedman, leaving on a free transfer in the summer of 2013. Also released that summer was Zat Knight, who captained the Wanderers in Davies' absence from the first team.

Jay Spearing, appointed captain in the summer of 2014, was shipped out on loan to local rivals Blackburn Rovers by Neil Lennon last season. Only at Wanderers would the club captain be sent out on loan to your nearest rivals - madness. Spearing is back at the club, despite Lennon's best efforts in the past 12 months to get rid.

In our wee Jay Boy's absence, Matt Mills was handed the responsibility of leading the team out. Guess what? Mills left on a free the following summer. He now captains Dougie Freedman's Nottingham Forest.

In February 2015, returning club legend Eidur Gudjohnsen spoke of his "pride" as he stepped out as Wanderers captain against Fulham, getting himself on the scoresheet in the process. Gudjohnsen left for the dizzy heights of Chinese football in July of this summer. On a free. Are you seeing the trend here?

Step up Darren Pratley and his trusty sidekick Mark Davies. Davies is reportedly very close to signing a deal with Sheffield Wednesday on a free transfer, and the deal could be completed today. Initially thought to be commanding a fee of £700,000, Sheffield Wednesday's unwillingness to pay Davies the £20+k wages he earns at Bolton, it looks as if he will leave for nothing, if at all. The club's decision to report Sheffield Wednesday for their conduct may have scuppered the deal.

Pratley himself has been linked once more with a move to Ipswich Town. Few Wanderers fans will admit to being content with Pratley's tenure as captain. It seems as if the pressure of the armband has affected his game - he is providing "captain's performances" (i.e. runs himself into the ground but provides very little in terms of quality), but his form when in possession has been lacking of late.

So, what is the cause of the curse? Money (or a lack of it) certainly saw the end of Matt Mills and (potentially) Sparky, and an argument could be made that it was the lure of a trebled weekly wage that sent Eidur to the Far East. However, age is certainly a factor in this case, and that of Super Kev and Zat Knight.

We can't neglect the role of the manager in these situations also - Dougie's disgusting treatment of Kevin Davies, and Lennon's failed attempt to oust Jay Spearing suggest that a change in the dugout is accompanied by a change in leadership on the field.

We might find that the next time the position of captain is vacated, there'll be no rush of candidates at the manager's office door.