It's easy to look back on 2015 and say Bolton Wanderers were a shower of shite from the word go, but in my opinion, that's not the case.
When the 2015/16 fixture list was released in June, I knew we'd have our work cut out before the end of September. Don't remember our opening games? Here they are again, just to jog your memory:
8th August - Derby County (H) (0-0)
11th August - Burton Albion (H) (0-1)
15th August - Middlesborough (A) (3-0)
18th August - MK Dons (A) (1-0)
22nd August - Nottingham Forest (H) (1-1)
28th August - Blackburn Rovers (A) (0-0)
12th September - Wolves (H) (2-1)
15th September - Sheffield Wednesday (H) (0-0)
Now I'm sure you'll agree with me that when you saw the fixtures before the season began, our possible league position at the end of September didn't fill you with confidence. I didn't expect us to get a point on the opening day against Derby, it was probably a blessing that we were booted out of the League Cup early doors and our 3-0 drubbing at The Riverside was entirely Neil Lennon's fault - he even admitted it. We should've got something against MK Dons and luckily managed to salvage a point against Forest, but the drab 0-0 draw at Blackburn at the end of August rounded off a bang-average month for Bolton Wanderers.
Into September and we finally recorded our first win; a Zach Clough penalty sealing all three points against Wolves. Another piss-poor 0-0 draw against Sheffield Wednesday could've been converted into a win, although we have to remember that Carlos Carvalhal's side would go on to thrash Arsenal in a League Cup game just weeks later.
So, where am I going with all this? Well, after the aforementioned fixture against the Owls, our beloved assistant manager Johan Mjällby left the club for personal reasons. No longer would we see the formidable trio of Lennon, Parker and Swede prowling the touchline on a Saturday afternoon. No longer would we see those gorgeous blonde locks bouncing around as he bollocked Dorian Dervite for the 72nd time in as many minutes. No longer would we see the unwavering passion of a former Swedish international captain whipping our back line into shape week in, week out. He was gone, never to return. (In all seriousness, Mjällby left the club for personal reasons - I heard his wife isn't very well. If that's true, I hope she's doing okay, mate.)
Anyway, Johan departed and was replaced by Steve Walford, a man who wouldn't be seen dead in a tracksuit and is yet to impress me when it comes to management. The 57-year-old's first game with the Whites was on September 19th, when we were spanked 4-1 away to Huddersfield and Lawrie Wilson was officially declared as a missing person. Walford, has 25 years of coaching experience under his belt, including spells with Premier League Leicester City, SPL Champions Celtic as well as Aston Villa, Sunderland and Norwich, to name a few. A defender by trade, I thought he'd be a revelation. Turns out I was wrong.
With Mjällby at the helm of our defensive coaching duties, I strongly believed we were a good, solid side at the back. Derik and Prince looked to be forming a partnership in the spine of our team, we were rotating full backs with freedom and seemed, on the whole, to have found our groove when it came to keeping the ball out of the net. So what changed? The truth is, I have no idea. Walford came in and we got worse and worse, conceding a total of 14 goals in 7 league games, compared to 6 goals in 7 league games when Mjällby was with us. I wouldn't say Walford's games were against stronger opposition than Mjällby's either, if anything they were easier (all things considered, including form at the time). This weekend Walford faces Huddersfield for the second time, and if I were him, I'd be looking for some personal redemption when it comes to Wanderers' defensive performance.
On the whole, what I'm trying to say here is that I think we're really struggling without dear Johan - he was clearly doing something right. Whether or not he'll ever return to management I don't know, but one thing's for sure: we need him now more than ever.
Let's hope 2016 brings us a little more good fortune at the back