We all knew it since November but now it has finally been confirmed, as of last Saturday Bolton Wanderers have been relegated from the Championship and will next year play their football in League One. Oh the anguish.
Now with it finally confirmed, even though we've known for ages and the players gave up even before that, this could be a burden off the club's back. A weight off the shoulders. Maybe the team now freed of this 'pressure' may actually go on to put in some good performances now we have nothing to play for at all. Maybe they'll do it for the shop window, maybe they'll do it for personal pride, maybe they'll do it to give us fans something. But, they probably won't.
Actually, scratch that, I think the largely untested youngsters could.
Our fate was long sealed before the new establishment fired Neil Lennon and drafted in academy director Jimmy Phillips as caretaker manager and in the four games he's been in charge he's given first team debuts to three academy graduates: Niall Maher, Alex Finney and Alex Samizadeh. He's brought in the likes of Derik Osede and Tom Walker in from the cold and has started Kaiyne Woolery in every game.
I'm a big fan of Jimmy doing this and giving so many youngsters genuine pitch time in real football matches, my only worry now is that after a string of bad results he's now going to shy away from playing them and instead go with the senior players to try and keep defeats at a more respectable level.
That is the complete wrong thing to do on so many levels.
Firstly the senior players have proven all season, most recently against Derby County, that they are not any better than the kids in the slightest. Secondly, the vast majority of these senior players will not be with us next season, and good riddance. Finally, these kids NEED experience in real, competitive football matches. They will learn so much more about football from one heavy Championship defeat than ten development squad games.
Honestly, I'd rather lose every game for the remainder of this season 6-0 with a side made up mostly of youngsters over winning every game with a team of failures who will not be here next year. These kids, hopefully alongside a good number of new signings, are going to make up our side next year and getting as much experience as possible now, playing against seasoned pros, will serve them far better for next year than any pre-season friendly or u21s game.
We welcome promotion chasing Middlesbrough on Saturday and the game is being broadcasted by Sky. We all know from their Twitter accounts that Jamie Thomas and Samidazeh love to show off, so why not give them an opportunity to do so on such a big, public stage. It's an opportunity they'd relish, and if doesn't work then who cares? They've gained priceless experience by battling against one of the best defences in the division.
Oscar Threlkeld has returned from his successful loan spell at Plymouth Argyle and he does so now as a defensive midfielder. I'm 99% certain he will start in the middle on Saturday and what a great opportunity it is for him to try and contain Premier League quality like Gaston Ramirez and Stewart Downing.
I'm not saying they all should start, but a good number definitely should, with a couple more getting a shot off from the bench. Now Phillips is not under any pressure at all I hope he's given the freedom to drop all of the cowards, losers and jokers who've failed us all this year and go for a team brimming with youth and eager to prove themselves.
I'd go for:
Ben Amos (I'd actually start a young keeper but I can't dream too much)
Maher - Rob Holding - Derik - Dean Moxey (I wish someone else could go left back)
Woolery - Josh Vela - Threlkeld - Walker
Zach Clough - Samidazeh
Yeah, a team like that will probably get hit for six, but so would a team containing David Wheater, Neil Danns, Emile Heskey and Darren Pratley and it really doesn't matter. Lets just throw caution to the wind and say "fuck it!"
We have nothing to lose and everything to gain. We get battered? The youngsters learn from it. We win? Well, wouldn't that be ace?
We know what will happen if the seniors play, they're tried, tested, failed. These kids are not, they are untapped possibility.
Lets just have a go, eh?