Bolton Wanderers travelled to table-topping Norwich City on Saturday and, shock horror, actually started the game quite well. It didn’t last, because of course this is 2019 Bolton Wanderers, but at least there was a promising 20 minutes in there. That said, coming back to earn a point from 0-2 down was definitely something to celebrate, until we F’d it again.
My five talking points:
1) Christian Doidge
I do not doubt for one minute his desire. I similarly cannot fault his effort. However, it’s plain to see that the lad is struggling. This could well mean, obviously, that the step-up in class from Division 4 to bottom of the Championship is much, much, much bigger than we all expected and he simply needs time or, more likely, he’s struggling because it’s just a step too far.
His lack of pace puts him at a disadvantage which, coupled with our appalling lack of attacking invention, means that he is often left isolated at the tip of our attacking thrust, such as it is. Granted, he’s decent in the air but more often than not he’s having to win headers in no-man’s-land between the midfield and attack. This makes even less sense when you realise he’s the lone forward, so who is he trying to flick the ball to?
I feel for him, in some ways, because he has been chucked into a ridiculous situation at a car-crash of a club. However, sentiment will not play a part in keeping us up this season. We need to be decisive and we need to find a solution to our goalscoring woes because, on the evidence of Saturday, Doidge is unlikely to be the man. Maybe Mark Beevers is.
Graft alone won’t keep us up. There’s a cigarette paper between him and the other forwards which is a shame because we need someone to stand out.
2) Loads of effort, but it’s just not enough
We lined up with Jason Lowe and Joe Williams (because well of course we did) with Sammy Ameobi, Will Buckley and Craig Noone supporting Doidge.
Is this the most workmanlike midfield in the history of world football? Following on from last week’s criticism of Buckley for the way he celebrated his very rare goal for us you might have expected some sort of backlash but no. I guess having his regular one good game in a season took it out of the lad and he was back to normal.
Lowe and Williams’ continued selection is achieving nothing except giving me a bald spot from where I keep on scratching my head. Why would you play two midfielders so horrifically out of form? I certainly have issues with Josh Vela being a regular in our midfield at this level but he must be equally puzzled as to how he cannot dislodge either of the two. Lowe is the master of the backwards pass and Williams is just......there. They offer nothing.
I do think that Williams was much better than he has been since, well, his debut, but we lost so that’s that rendered entirely pointless.
Despite his goal, Ameobi hasn’t been as consistent as we need to be of late and this continued against Norwich. I tried desperately to remember Noone doing anything and it has been about 48hrs now - I’ve drawn a blank.
To also think we will now lose Sammy for the next game is perhaps not as upsetting as it might’ve been.
I like Ben Alnwick. I think that out of our entire team he’s probably our most valuable asset. Don’t even think about coming @ me with your counter-arguments. Mainly because I don’t have Twitter.
He is our no.1 goalkeeper and I think on balance this is the right choice however lately I have become concerned with some of his performances. We know that his distribution isn’t the best but his shot-stopping was always his saving grace, if you pardon the pun.
I hope that he can find his form again because the goals against Norwich on Saturday were ones that I would’ve hoped to see him do a bit better.
4) Squad Depth
Pretty much non-existent, isn’t it? Despite the comeback, Wanderers still have problems when you look at the squad list.
Noone was replaced by Lloyd Dyer, who can’t be blamed directly for dinosaurs becoming extinct but there is a chance that he was present when the massive meteor hit the planet, presumably coming on in the second half.
Also on the bench was Vela, Marc Wilson, Gary O’Neil, Josh Magennis and David Wheater. About as exciting as an Ed Sheeran concert. I suppose from the five you can expect plenty of effort and running but that’s about it.
Given our perilous financial situation I’m not going to hold out much hope that Ken Anderson will open his wallet and find some money for improvements but to give manager Phil Parkinson options he needs to have more quality off the bench.
Obviously the club went out on a limb in the summer buying all the players that nobody else wanted but this process hasn’t worked and has instead contributed to a squad that might well be larger than in recent years but is just as lacking as any of Lennon or Freedman squads ended up being.
There is little doubt that as a collective the squad have plenty of heart and plenty of battle but what can you do when everything seems to go against you?
5) Ken’s Gonna Ken
Firstly, can I take a moment to congratulate Ken on his massive 1700 word article the other day. It must take a real passion for blogging to get that deep into it on a Wednesday afternoon. Brilliant commitment. I used to be like that.
Secondly, I’ve seen a couple of screenshots that made my skin crawl. One was a photo of Richard Keys but that’s another matter - the second was from a Bolton supporter imploring Ken to get into a helicopter, no doubt someone trying to be edgy in light of the Leicester City tragedy, but instead just appearing pretty pathetic.
Thirdly, what the hell is going on at the club? I’ve read a couple of great articles lately, the first being from this site and the second being from our old mate DowntheMannyRd Tom, here, on Trotters Blog. Both echo my thoughts on the current situation. The chairman has, according to some, done a stunning job keeping us alive. To others he has only steadied the ship and to others he has been at the wheel as we have lurched from crisis to crisis which has left the once-good name of the club firmly besmirched.
In case you care, Tom was always my favourite LOV writer and I think his loss has been keenly felt on this site.
I think everyone who follows the club can agree that the wage situation is particularly unedifying but for me it’s the way that things have been handled that leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
I’ve worked in places where management have had to make tough business choices and they’ve sometimes been in my favour and sometimes not, but I’ve always respected the people making those decisions when they’ve had the guts to look me in the eye when delivering the news.
To hear that Anderson couldn’t bring himself to tell the rank-and-file employees that just four weeks before Christmas they would not be paid on time is nothing short of disgusting. Granted, him being there wouldn’t have made a single bit of difference to those receiving the news but it would certainly have gone a long way to showing some sort of solidarity with them.
I was also interested in Ken’s claim that he doesn’t always attend games given he lives overseas hence him being away for the Wigan match - funny though that he had a prearranged interview with the BBC and the BEN on that date. Surely he wouldn’t have made those plans if he had no intention of actually going to the game. I bet that had nothing to do with the bad feelings sent his way by the fans. Nothing whatsoever.
Selling Bolton Wanderers was always going to be a tough task and it has proved to be exactly that - but there can be little doubt that the toxic atmosphere around the club shows little signs of going away. I would rather the chairman spent his time concentrating on building bridges and making sure every stone is unturned in his efforts to find a new buyer rather than writing lengthy blog posts which only serve to further drive a wedge between club and fans.
I’m sure he’ll take credit for the fact we scored twice despite us coming away with naff all again.
Buy a half-season ticket and a shirt.