If there has been one bright spot during this desperately bleak season it has been the emergence, out of no where, of young defender Rob Holding.
It looked, at one point, as if the 20-year old would never break into the Bolton Wanderers first team. A loan move to Bury last year only yielded one appearance for the Shakers, time sat on the bench and an injury.
He was seemingly behind Oscar Threlkeld, Quade Taylor, Alex Finney and even Hayden White in the pecking order going into this season and, when he did get a start against Middlesbrough earlier in the campaign, he was very harshly criticised by a number of supporters. (It was never his fault that we went 3-0 down so early and easily, it was his first game for the club and at that playing in an unfamiliar back three).
So yeah, going into this season with only one year remaining on his contract it looked as if Holding's long stay at the club would come to an end this summer - it still might, in fact, but if it did now we'd all be a whole lot more upset than we ever thought we would be even three months ago.
With other youngsters sent out on loan, picking up injuries or otherwise not preferred, Holding leap frogged all of them to come into the side. He was first redrafted back into the starting line-up due to an, who'd have thought, injury crisis, for the 1-0 loss at Hull City.
Since that day, 12th December, Holding has been an ever present presence in the team, eventually moving from right-back to his preferred centre-back roll and excelling there. Shinning like a lonely star in the darkest of nights against the completely inept Dorian Dervite.
In his 20 or so appearances since that early December game Holding has become a fan favourite amongst supporters, thanks to a string of performances in which he displayed qualities that called back to the glorious days of when we actually had good defenders.
He carries himself with the air of Gudni Bergsson, he's as cool and collected on the ball as Gary Cahill, he reads the game and is strong in the tackle like Bruno N'Gotty, he's dominate in the air just like Abdoulaye Faye was, and he has that touch of Tim Ream pace and passing ability, too. Oh come on, I had to slip him in some where.
I'm by no means saying that Holding is as good as any of those (apart from Ream) yet, but you can see all the positive aspects from their individual games in Holding, he's young but he does have the makings of a perfect defender.
There's one aspect that I mentioned there that I'd like to discuss a little further, and that is "the air of Gudni". Gudni, the captain and leader of Bolton who will forever be remembered in Lancashire. For anyone to be compared to him in any regard is extremely high praise, and it's justified in Holding's case as he looks predestined to be the next Bolton captain.
That, of course, depends if we can keep hold of such a quality asset when the drop to League One occurs, which I am confident we will after hearing there is an option for an extra year in his contract. So providing that he does remain in a white shirt next year I can very much see Holding leading out the team, with the #5 adorned on his back, whether Darren Pratley stays or not.
No matter what we all think of Pratley, it seems pretty apparent that the captaincy is weighing down on his shoulders, a problem that seems to strike every midfielder who picks up the mantle for us. As leader he seems compelled to get into petty fights on the pitch to defend his team mates, not something I necessarily frown upon, but it is becoming a bit common place.
So next season I propose the arm band is given to the young defender instead, because I believe seeing "one of our own" lead out our team, be our leader, on match days will galvanise the support greatly. It's a real sense of pride seeing our own youth products even play on the Reebok turf, so I can't imagine the feeling of seeing one as captain.
This may all be moving too soon, Holding has only played about 23 games for the club after all, and who knows if his performances will keep at such a high level? But at this moment in time I see no other candidate to be the next Bolton skipper other than Rob Holding.