Clubs that have recently undertaken huge change at the higher reaches of England's footballing hierarchy are usually dismissed by most pundits and commentators as at least one season away from success, a "team in transition" that requires not only to spend obscene amounts of money but time to adjust to a style of play, or more recently, an "identity".
This philosophy is rarely, if ever, applied to lower league teams. Why is this the case? Is it an issue that can only be applied to elite level clubs, or is it a modern buzz word that means in essence very little?
What usually precedes the "transition phase" seems to be a change in ownership, management or playing staff. We Trotters have seen our fair share of change in that respect, and I haven't heard many referring to us as a "team in transition". If we compare Wanderers to England's footballing elite, do the numbers stack up?
Manchester United appointed Jose Mourinho at the end of the 2015/16 season. They currently sit in sixth place in the Premier League, 13 points off the top spot. One £89m Paul Pogba and £260,000 a week Zlatan Ibrahimovic on from Louis Van Gaal, and it's been far from rosy at Old Trafford - before a ball was kicked, they were title challengers; by the time the Christmas trees were being put up in Salford, any talk of domestic success was shelved for this season.
A team in transition. Or, an underperforming club and manager. Last season, United finished 5th with 66 points and a win percentage of 50%. This season, they've drawn 6 games already, and Mourinho has won 47% of games. It's ok though, transition.
Hop across to Stockport, and our sky blue friends at Manchester City are waiting for Pep's genius to soak into their brains via osmosis. Is it full backs in central midfield? 3-5-2? Kompany as an emergency striker? Don't worry if you don't know what Guardiola's identity is: he does, and that's what matters.
Last year, Pellegrini's long goodbye left them with a win percentage of (drum roll) 50%. In fact, their record was identical to Van Gaal's at United, City only boasting a better goal difference to take the final Champions League spot. Puts a new perspective on the whole "you play Thursday" chant, doesn't it? Under Pep, with a vilified Joe Hart leading the exodus, and new charges Bravo, the £50m man John Stones, Gundogan, Sane and Nolito, City's win percentage is 69% so far this term. Not bad, but not the blistering start we expected from the world's best manager. Transition? Maybe. Not all he's cracked up to be? That too.
Liverpool were very much a "team in transition" last year. With Brendan Rodgers sacked after failing to defeat Everton at Goodison Park, Jürgen Klopp took the reigns at Anfield. He's had little more than a year in charge, and two transfer windows to bring in his own players. Some have proved very successful (Mané, Matip) and others less so (Karius, Karius, Karius).
Last time out, the combined efforts of Rodgers and Klopp saw Liverpool finish 8th, 6 points behind City with two defeats in cup finals and a win percentage of 42%. This year, the Reds are second with a win percentage of 69%. Boss, tha.
Chelsea. No-one likes them. Everyone likes Conte. Guus Hiddink replaced the tragic (not that tragic) Jose Mourinho in October 2015 to oversee the least inspiring Chelsea campaign in what felt like a very long time. They had just about broken into the top half and undone Jose's ineptitude, notably dashing Tottenham's title hopes at Stamford Bridge to the delight of Leicester City and all neutrals. 12 wins in 38 left them with a win percentage of just 32% for the 2015/16 season.
Under Antonio Conte, they've won 14 games already this year. A new 3-4-3 system has been implemented largely with some old faces (though N'Golo Kante is proving himself to be the best player on the planet for the second season running). Chelsea are Premier League champions elect, top at Christmas, having won a staggering 82% of their games so far. Conte is evidence of a fabricated term, "transition". There isn't a "transition phase", there are good managers, good players, and form. That is the be all and end all of success in football.
Our beloved Bolton Wanderers could easily be described as a team "in transition", though it's a phrase that rarely trickles down to us peasants in League One. Every man and his dog knows about our ownership issues of late. We have a relatively new manager in Phil Parkinson. There were 9 summer signings in Parky's squad of 18 on Saturday (I could be pedantic and class Wheater as the 10th, but we're splitting hairs now).
We suffered dour football under a poorly equipped manager, an ineffective narrow diamond formation with little Plan B, and an uninspired playing squad, dogged by the newspaper headlines surrounding the club's off-field plight in 2015/16. The stats prove once more that the concept of transition is a myth: last season, we finished rank last in the championship, winning just 5 games (11%).
This time out, we've won 59% of our games, and sit just four points off top spot coming into Christmas. As I said, there's no "transition" in football - just good managers, good players and form. Let's hope the next 24 games are as pleasing as the first 22 this season - bring on the promotion push!
Merry Christmas, all. I'm on dinner duty for the first time. I'm looking beyond this weekend, though. It's really all about building my culinary expertise for 2018: it's a kitchen in transition.