In sport, momentum is everything. It gives confidence to those with it and instils fear into those who are tasked with confronting it.
Momentum is often confused with form but they are much different. Form generally involves playing well but this isn’t important and is often not the deciding factor in success, just look at Chelsea this season. Momentum is something different, it is the feeling of the place, the belief in the results and the effect it has on those around you.
Bolton for some weeks now have faltered and it isn’t going unnoticed, the previously shy League One sides are now coming to the Macron Stadium and fancying their chances more and more. How long ago does it seem since we were all concerned regarding our ability to break down sides coming to Bolton to defend?
We’re not the only ones struggling as of late, promotion rivals Scunthorpe United are now winless in 6 and have lost three of those.
So why have Scunthorpe sides slipped whereas Champions-elect Sheffield United have maintained their promotion charge? Why have we lost momentum?
I think the answer to that one is very simple, it is the depth of quality within the squad. In recent weeks, through both injury and suspension, Bolton have lost key men and the effect has been profound.
Let’s start with the skipper, Jay Spearing, who has been suspended for two big fixtures away at Bradford City and Sheffield United. Spearing has his faults but he is arguably the best defender in our side. We were always going to miss someone with Spearing’s experience and tenacity in games were so much is at stake. What was startling for those who like myself attended one of these games was just how much a side can miss one player.
It was the former Millwall midfielder who stepped in to replace Spearing and he couldn’t be a different player.
I’m not going to discuss Liam Trotter as a player in this piece, that has been discussed enough, what I will say is he doesn’t have the dynamism that Jay Spearing has. This is not me criticising the selection of Trotter, but rather acknowledging the fact that Phil Parkinson had very few options.
Another, more profound example, is the injury to the likable full-back Lawrie Wilson. With a long term injury to Lewis Buxton, Phil Parkinson was left with a dilemma.
Parkinson had the decision to make of either moving Josh Vela to right-back where he has shown competency at the expense of one of our most influential players or change the system. Parkinson chose the latter and the system was changed and personally I think this has had a negative effect on our best asset, our defence.
Should Bolton be so short though, with (without checking) the biggest wage expenditure in the league? Clearly, it isn’t as simple as this, Bolton’s inability to move on their highest earners, some of which see little game time, as well as the transfer embargo still in effect has meant that transfer dealings are done with priorities, rather than contingency planning.
I’m sure it could be argued that the signing of free agents can cover positional crises’, the signings of Reece Wabara and Jem Karacan are of a direct result of injuries to the two aforementioned Bolton players.
The problem with this though is that with every new recruit you lose a part of the success you had before, particularly if they are coming in cold without regular football, you are chipping away at the previously successful formula, the momentum.
Having the stronger side is not even half the battle, particularly at this stage of the season.
Just ask the fans of Fleetwood Town and Bolton Wanderers who they think will go up automatically.
Then bear in mind we are on the same points, with a game in hand.