2015 had been, to put it in a way that adequately portrays all of our truly feelings, a fucking shit year for Bolton Wanderers. We've slid further and further down the table until we finished the year bottom of the Championship and I don't want to even talk about the deluge of our off field problems here. Because this article is going to be, or at least attempt, probably in vain, to be positive. Like a glittering oasis miraculously appearing amidst a dessert of nothing else but sun, sand and bone.
So here are the top ten goals that Wanderers actually managed to score during the gut wrenching year of 2015. The pickings were slim but please remember this is my personal list and that some goals were selected due to their wider context despite of how good they may have actually been.
WARNING: Contains a heavy dosage of Zach Clough:
10: Eidur Gudjohnsen vs Liverpool
Eidur's goal against Liverpool may have only been a penalty, and a controversial one at that, but it was to put us a goal up against Premier League giants Liverpool. We were leading against a team in a higher division, a team which contained about eight players that all cost more than our entire squad combined - scratch that, cost more than our actual whole club would combined. It was one fleeting moment of being relevant for something good, for something we did on the football pitch. For one beautiful moment it was like the being thrown back in time, a time when beating the likes of Liverpool was the norm. I doubt we'll ever see those days again, but for the slightest moment we got to. A goal to be cherished, even if we did go one to lose.
9: Darren Pratley vs Sheffield Wednesday
A goal scored in a blizzard, and a brilliant one at that. Emile Heskey won a trademarked flick-on from a long punt forward which opened up acres of space for Darren Pratley to run into. He expertly flicked the ball over the head of an out rushing defender, brought the ball down on his chest, steadied himself and fired the ball into the net past a sprawling goalkeeper. A nice throwback to when Dazza Prazza was good.
8: Zach Clough vs Wolves #2
As I said, this list is heavily populated by Zach Clough and this is the little magician's first entry into the 2015 Top Ten. It comes against Wolverhampton Wanderers, and was actually his second in as many minutes. Receiving the ball in space, but at a tight angle, from Tim Ream, Clough has to use his lightening quick feet to bamboozle the defender and create a sight on goal. He did to great effect before his strange, half sliced half bent, finish was too much for the goalkeeper to handle and found its way into the goal.
7: Zach Clough vs Brighton
Yep, here he is again. This time, as the function of a list would suggest, with a goal even better than the last. The winning goal in a drab affair against Brighton, this lovely finish from Clough was one made in the Bolton Wanderers academy. Josh Vela picked up the ball some forty yards from goal and advanced at pace towards the goal, just as Brighton's defenders were closing in Vela's released the ball with a wonderfully weighted pass to Clough. The Little Messi's touch was delightful, spinning as her received the ball to evade the centre-back then dispatching the most delicate of finishes out of the 'keeps' reach and into the far corner. Fitting of the real Messi himself.
6: Zach Clough vs Wolves #1
Haha, it's three in a row for Zach as yet another one of his fine goals makes the Top Ten, this time his first strike in the game against Wolves. A free kick is won just out side the box but far aside on the right, a position much befitting of a left foot rather than a right. Clough payed no mind and, stepping up with the swagger and confidence of a player who's scored hundreds of free kicks before, smashed the ball into the back of the net.
5: Gary Madine vs Blackburn Rovers
The first goal in the list to actually come this season, a goal which on quality alone would be a lot further down this list, if indeed on it at all - but we all know that it meant so much more. Bolton Wanderers hadn't won since September 12th, 107 days ago. Sitting bottom of the table, they need something, anything, to at least temporarily change the club's fortunes around. Up stands Blackburn Rovers and up stands Gary Madine. It had been a feisty derby up to that point, a fiercely contested one which was exciting to watch but wan't producing much in the way of goal scoring opportunities. But Bolton were still in the game with 12 minutes to go, which was somewhat of a rarity in its self. The ball went out for a throw in. With quick thinking Dean Moxey launched the ball to Madine, who controlled the ball on his chest like vintage Emile Heskey. Fighting off Blackburn's burly centre-halves, twisting while the ball was still in the air, Madine managed to meet the ball on its way down to lash Bolton into the lead and to earn them only their second victory of the season. The fans were sent into delirium, causing the Macron's roof to nearly fall off in the process.
4: Saidy Janko vs Fulham
It all started so promisingly for Saidy Janko. The loanee from Manchester United made his debut against Fulham, making a great run and cross to set up the equaliser for Eidur Gudjohnsen. Then as it appeared as if the game was about to limp out to a dull 1-1, he unleashed a thunderous strike from the edge of the box that flew into the roof of the net. Just a shame it never got better than that.
3: Gary Madine vs Cardiff City
The second and last goal from the current season to make the top ten and wouldn't you know it? It's only Gary bloody Madine again. For all his faults, of which there are quite a few, no one can deny him the quality of his strike in the 3-2 defeat to Cardiff. Picking the ball up way out near the left touch line you'd have been forgiven for presuming that the possession would amount to nothing, but Madine drove inside of a defender and when he reached the corner of the 18-yard box he hit a venomous strike that ruptured the far corner of the goal.
2: Eidur Gudjohnsen vs Cardiff City
I don't think I'll ever quite tire of watching this goal. The Iceman in all his glory, scoring absolute beauties for the Whites. Almost dream like. A ball was lofted into the area and big Emile used his barrel-like chest to play it into the path of Eidur Gudjohnsen, who let the ball drop on his left side before rifling a splendid volley with his weaker foot into the top corner. A wonderful strike from a wonderful player, one I miss more with every passing day.
Drum roll please...
1: Zach Clough vs Wigan Athletic
That's right, my number one Bolton Wanderers goal of 2015 was Zach Clough's debut goal against Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup Third Round. Once again, on quality alone it probably isn't quite the best (although it is bloody good in its own right) but the wider context is so much more significant. Bolton fans had been calling for Clough's inclusion to the first team for literally years, we all knew he was good enough for the first team, he only needed a chance to prove it. Well, with his first start he did, and he proved all of us right. He dominated the game, creating three chances for himself with his unpredictable skill before he finally managed to net - but it was worth the wait. A surprisingly excellent pass from Liam Trotter found Clough as he was running into the Wigan box, the defence already a distant memory. With only Ali Al-Habsi to beat he softly lifted the ball over the former White with a cheeky smile on his face to score the winner. And thus a star was born.
Did I make any glaring admissions? Miss your favourite goal of 2015? Let me know what it is in the comments below!