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Does Bolton's Pre-Season Form Matter?

It's a long-running debate, but should we care if we win or lose in pre-season?

Synonymous with failure and a rubbish captain
Synonymous with failure and a rubbish captain
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The first game of pre-season saw an all too familiar performance and result as Bolton Wanderers slipped to a poor 2-1 defeat at the hands of League Two side Mansfield Town. The Whites were two goals down inside 15 minutes as their diabolical defending continued despite a summer away.

Given it was the first game back, it's to be expected that the side wouldn't be firing on all cylinders and that mistakes would be made. However, looking back at Bolton's pre-season form over the last few years, the alarm bells are certainly beginning to ring.

Pre-Season Form

Last pre-season saw Bolton defeat Oldham Athletic 2-0, with goals from Liam Feeney and Gary Madine, and edge to a 2-1 victory over Port Vale, with goals from Madine and Neil Danns. They also lost twice on a pre-season tour of Austria, with a 2-1 defeat to Sturm Graz and a 4-1 hammering at the hands of Paderborn, and suffered a 2-1 loss at the mighty Morecambe, before rounding off pre-season with a 2-2 draw at home to Charlton - which in itself was very strange.

At this point Wanderers were looking in average shape, Mark Davies and Darren Pratley had both scored a goal, as had Stephen Dobbie, and new recruit Madine had sparked rumours as criminal as his social life by scoring three goals and leading us all to believe that he was a world beater. And we all know how that ended up.

The previous pre-season saw Bolton triumph narrowly over Port Vale and Rochdale, and pick up a win, a draw and a defeat on a tour of Denmark. They also lost to Vitesse Arnhem and were held to 1-1 draws by both Tranmere Rovers and Macclesfield Town.

In the 2013 pre-season Bolton failed to win a single game in their four warm-up matches. This saw defeats to Rotherham United - which we've now become disappointingly accustomed to - Carlisle United, Real Betis and a 3-3 draw at Shrewsbury Town.

And a year before that, ahead of our first season back in the Championship, Bolton defeated Morecambe 2-0 and Tranmere 3-1, lost to Hamilton Academical and drew with Jamie Thomas' new club Ayr United, Falkirk, Crewe Alexandra and Barcelona B.

So in the last four seasons Bolton have won just seven games in 26 pre-season fixtures, taking what would equate to 30 points. Over a Championship season that form would equate to 53 points, which would have seen us finish 17th in the campaign just gone - against largely League Two opposition.

So does pre-season matter?

Well yes, of course it does. If you go into a season fresh from losing to teams you should be better than and beating - i.e. Mansfield, Morecambe, Rotherham, Carlisle and Hamilton - it's not exactly a confidence booster, is it? So logic dictates that you should be looking to gain form and momentum, and trying to remember that winning feeling during pre-season.

Bolton haven't won an away game - no, Helsingor doesn't count - since last April, and are three games away from a club record for most away games without tasting victory - in addition to the pretty poor pre-season form alluded to above.

But worse than that is the negative vibe and losing mentality that has become intrinsic with the club and the consistently disappointing players that remain since those long-ago days of the Premier League.

The likes of Mark Davies and Darren Pratley should no longer be at the club, and the latter remaining captain is a disgrace to every paying supporter.

Moving these two on should have been the key priority of the new board as soon as last season ended, rather than releasing a whole horde of academy products that might have given an ounce of effort and actually wanted to play for the club. Meanwhile, the rumoured re-signing of David Wheater, who is equally synonymous with the club's spectacular fall from grace as summarised here by Liam, reeks of desperation and is a total waste of time and money.

So yes, pre-season matters - especially this pre-season given the absolute shambles the club finds itself in. We have to build a positive atmosphere around the club and that starts with creating a positive vibe among the playing staff, which hasn't existed in about six years.

Put short, we need to get rid of the players that got us into this situation and start winning some matches as soon as possible.