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Sports Shield Must Make Bolton Fans Care Again

It's time to address our apathy towards the club

Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

A long, long time ago in the far away time of University, an ex-girlfriend accused me of being 'apathetic.' For months if not years this word 'apathetic' stuck with me, and without really knowing what it meant I assumed, probably fairly, that she was simply calling me pathetic.

But now more than ever I understand what it meant when she labelled me with this word. I, like I suspect the large majority of Bolton Wanderers fans out there, feel apathy in abundance for a club I have followed for over two thirds of my life - more than ten times longer than I was with the aforementioned girl.

After years of misery with next to nothing to cheer - from that FA Cup semi-final and relegation from the Premier League to the inevitable relegation to League One - change is finally in the air at the Reebok / Macron / whatever it's going to be called in August Stadium.

Less than a week into life at Bolton the club's owners had made bold moves to shake things up. Out went a manager with a meagre 22% win rate and seemingly following him out the exit door will be several high-earning players - of which Liam Feeney is already the first - and his backroom staff.

However, one of the key issues the new owners have to address is getting the fans back onside. Bolton supporters have been alienated by a board that put the club at serious peril of going out of business altogether, haven't been fully behind a manager since Sam Allardyce left nine years ago, and feel disconnected from the blokes that wear the famous white kit.

In the days before the Internet, football clubs were seen as 'your club' and players were 'your players.' It didn't matter if the team was crap - which Bolton were for a long period - fans identified with the 11 guys that crossed the white line no matter what.

Players were largely there for the love of playing football and playing for the club, rather than as a means to picking up their pay packet at the end of the week. That has clearly changed in the modern game, and fans now have less of an affinity towards their clubs' players, who are often overpaid and rarely have any connection to or interest in the club that pays them.

Consequently, fans' relationship with players and clubs has changed. Anyone with Twitter on their mobile phone now has a voice to say whatever they think to and about whoever they want, whenever they want - enabling everyone to be a so-called expert and be more forthright in their criticism and often abuse of players and managers.

No, some of our supposed better, highest paid players haven't been good enough this season; no, our manager didn't do a great job; yes, we're bottom of the league and going down; and yes, the club is in the biggest mess it's probably ever been.

But we now have a clean slate, a debt-free club, new owners and a chance for a fresh start.

Looking to the future

Sports Shield's swift decisions have to be viewed in a positive light. Realistically, Neil Lennon never had a chance as Bolton manager. He came into a situation where we had no money, and the players at his disposal were either not good enough or didn't have any interest in playing for him or the club - but ultimately his record was indefensible and he had to go.

Next season will not be easy in League One - more on that in Tom's article here - and our fans will be vital in supporting the club and whichever players remain after the summer. One of the main (only) positives about Wanderers is the flock of youngsters being given a chance, which is likely to become a more prominent trend for the remainder of this season and heading into the next campaign.

The likes of Rob Holding, Josh Vela, Zach Clough and, around this time last season, Tom Walker have given me some reason to feel less apathetic towards my club, and hopefully they - and fellow young players like Jamie Thomas, Alex Finney and Alex Samizadeh - can be the catalyst to lead Bolton Wanderers back to where we believe the club belongs.