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In Defence of the Scapegoat

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Can we please leave the football fan sadomasochism at home, please? 

Crystal Palace v Bolton Wanderers - The Emirates FA Cup Third Round Replay Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images

I love Bolton Wanderers. I moan about them incessantly, but that's my right as a fan. It's a right we all enjoy. However, whereas my grumbles are usually aimed at those in the boardroom, many choose to turn their ire to particular players.

What makes a scapegoat, I don't know. What I do know is that Bolton fans love one. They've always had them: in the current squad, we have Liam Trotter, Dean Moxey, and to an extent Gary Madine. In recent years Zat Knight, Darren Pratley, Chris Eagles, Liam Feeney, and Abdoulaye Meite have enjoyed the mantle of Bolton Wanderers scapegoat. Nicky Hunt was a special case, where there was a humourous and lighthearted approach - "we all dream of a team of Nicky Hunts" was never sang from the terraces with the same sincerity that Sunderland's Gary Breen and Liverpool's Jamie Carragher received at their clubs.

One fan who sits by me has always secretly wanted Josh Vela to fail: "For God's sake Vela!", the last syllable of the sentence elongated to showcase his frustration, was a common shout last season. This year, it must be said, he's had far less to moan about, but it has been known from one game to the next.

As fantastic as our away fans were at Bradford, there were some that were secretly delighted that Liam Trotter and Dean Moxey had bad games and were substituted - some form of football fan sadomasochism. Despite the fact that we'd come from two goals down away from home against a good Bradford side, some just couldn't wait to take to Twitter demanding that Tro-xey never play for the club again. Shouldn't we concentrate on the positives? Even if we were to consider criticising a Wanderers player from Saturday's game, it surely would be Ben Alnwick, wouldn't it? He was absolutely at fault for the first goal, and can shoulder some blame alongside Mark Beevers for the second. For some reason, and it's a reason unknown to me, certain players tend to escape the criticism they might deserve.

At this point, I can imagine that anybody unfortunate enough to have my Twitter account on their timeline will cry hypocrisy. And you may have a point. It's well known that I dislike Gary Madine. I do however like to think that my comments are in jest, and I give credit on the rare occasions that it's due. There's a line, and the Moxey/Trotter hate brigade are teetering on the precipice of unacceptable criticism.

There's nothing either of these players can do about their ability. They have what they have, and at this stage in their careers, I doubt their talents will develop further. They might be slow, ponderous, one-footed, but there's literally nothing these players can do about that.

They can't be blamed for being picked, either. With first choice players such as Jay Spearing and Andy Taylor out, Phil Parkinson had to turn to his back-up players. And by the laws of football nature, they are going to be below the standards of the players they have replaced.

They further can't be blamed for being paid "Premier League wages". They were offered a contract, they signed it. The blame for a club paying over the odds for a player lies with the club; if anything, credit to the player and their agency for "selling" their talents to a gullible buyer.

My message is simply this - we are enjoying a season where we have a very good chance of promotion, our first in over 15 years. The last four years following Bolton Wanderers have been a nightmare. We've done enough moaning about players to last a lifetime. Let's get behind each and every one of them, even Madine.

If you can't abide Trotter and Moxey, just be comforted by the fact that they're available for free at the end of the season. Be glad they're understudies to better players. Enjoy the promotion push.

Come on you whites!