It seems that Parky likes to keep a settled team, but is this holding Bolton back?
Over the festive period I was able to watch Bolton both against Scunthorpe United and Coventry City in two fiercely contested games where we collected 4 points. Any person that was present at both matches will be able to attest that neither game produced a sparkling performance from Bolton yet we managed to dig ourselves out of holes, unlike against both Swindon Town and Crystal Palace. For me, the reason for that is simple: fresh legs saved the day both times.
Against Scunthorpe we had a fortunate but timely intervention by James Henry to get us the 3 points while without the introduction of Zach Clough and Max Clayton we would surely have lost at Coventry. Similarly, against Swindon, after we conceded a rather fortunate equaliser to Ben Gladwin, Parky only gave Clayton a run out for 15 minutes to try and change the game but it was nowhere near enough time and we eventually lost. Of course, there hadn’t been a problem until 10 minutes prior to this but to ask a kid coming back from a very lengthy absence to make the difference immediately with very little time to acclimatise to the game was a hard ask. I think Parkinson fails to see that by selecting the same team every week one might think you will constantly get the same results, but human beings tire and without replacements we are open to suffering from this fatigue.
I had noticed this issue before but had chosen to ignore it given our success, but against Crystal Palace I was tipped over the edge. We had been a goal up and deserved to be so by all accounts, yet we managed to let a lumbering muppet like Christian Benteke (who is NOT worth £32 million by the way) score twice to turn the game around. This was just about forgivable, although I fail to comprehend how Beevers and Wheater dealt with the pacy Loic Rémy and not Benteke (who is similar in many ways to the target men they come up against every week). However, I digress.
The unforgivable thing is what Parky did next: nothing. True he brought on Proctor for Madine but to me that signalled that he thought the game was up and wanted to rest his star striker (yes, you read that right). Clayton and the much maligned Chris Taylor were brought on in the 88th minute because, of course, that was more than enough time for them to make an impact… Unsurprisingly, this impact didn’t materialise and the game was, indeed, up.
It seems odd that I am having a go at Parky given the great strides we have made this season, but he is managing at this level for a reason. There had to be something wrong with him otherwise he wouldn’t be with us. In my opinion, his fatal flaw is his apprehension towards making changes, even when he has seen them work before. So often this season I have been dumfounded that we haven’t used our first sub until maybe the 75th minute. Even if we are winning comfortably or even in a close game where making a change might seem silly, players get tired and the use of substitutions was put in place for that reason. It’s all well and good starting the same team week after week, but the need for replacements is there for Bolton and I hope that Parky will use his squad players more wisely this half-season.