A stunning opening day victory over West Bromwich Albion has had fans and pundits alike singing the praises of Parky and the boys for various reasons, such as Josh Magennis’s fearless leading of the line and Jason Lowe’s terrier like display in the middle of the park. However, one overriding theme appears to be that many of Bolton’s players look lean, mean and ready for action.
When everyone had caught their breath after the ‘Miracle at the Macron’, Parky eluded in an interview some weeks later that the slide down the league that almost resulted in relegation was, at least in part, down to the team running out of legs. Of course, some of that was due to the age of the squad and how thin on the ground we were last season. Though I can’t help but feel that a few players were probably sent home with both congratulations and more than a gentle suggestion to pull their finger out in the gym.
The message appears to have been heeded. Yes, we all enjoyed watching David Wheater and Josh Vela getting leathered live on Instagram, and well deserved it was, but it seems that was about the last time they were down the boozer this summer. Only a few weeks after they were posting pictures in the gym rather than the pub, and especially in the case of veteran Wheater and his fellow thirty something defender Andy Taylor, they appear to be reaping the benefits.
The addition of players such as Lowe, Murphy and Magennis appear to be personalities that are more than ready to buy into Parky’s renewed demands for fitness, at least in part vindicating Bolton’s apparent patience in the transfer market this summer. In this era where players are essentially elite athletes, we assume that players are naturally at similar levels of fitness to players at other clubs. However, it’s only a few years back that Owen Coyle’s lax training methods left the players not only lacking in tactical nouse, but also lacking the fitness to compete with even less talented sides over 90 minutes.
Perhaps Big Sam has had a word in Parky’s ear, with his and David Moyes over achievements with unfancied squad personnel in the mid 2000’s being based on supreme levels of fitness. David Moyes’s pre-season was particularly legendary, with rumours of Mikkel Arteta complaining he hated Moyes in between violently vomiting. The players don’t have to like a manager sometimes, but they do have to respect him, something this squad doesn’t lack for Phil Parkinson and his methods.
So yes, this is day one of forty-six and if we had lost we would not be losing our heads. However, lets allow ourselves be a little fanciful and wonder if we had been 1-1 at 70 minutes with last seasons fitness levels, would we more likely have wilted into conceding a later goal rather than stealing a late winner ourselves? Me-thinks a gut punching defeat would have been the more likely outcome.
Hopefully Ken and co can get a few more like-minded players through the door over the next couple of weeks, ensuring that we have a squad that can keep up with the physical demands of playing at this higher intensity over the full season. Time and again it has been shown, such as with Neil Warnocks Cardiff last season, that intensity, fitness and organisation can take you a long way in this league. I’m not expecting a promotion push but if we continue to see performances like Saturday then WBA won’t be the last big boys coming away from a battle with Bolton sporting a bloody nose and dented pride.