Bolton Wanderers. The enigma. Fresh from a week of courtroom battles came what seemed to be an easy-ish game at home to early season strugglers QPR. It wasn’t to be.
Here are your five things:
The More Things Change, the More they Stay the Same
We had 9 new players on display today, out of the 14 who set foot on the pitch. The supporters wanted fresh blood in the side and we got it, but sometimes you have to wonder whether the Anderson boys value quality as much as they value quality.
There wasn’t much on display yesterday, with Jason Lowe and Jonathan Grounds being amongst the worst offenders. I was actually quite impressed early on. I though the midfield, sans Vela, looked fairly dynamic and attacking. However as the game settled our lads moved in reverse, often choosing the easy pass back to the defenders as opposed to setting anything interesting going forward.
I’ll talk more on Doidge later, but between him and Magennis, on as a sub, Wanderers showed that despite the two arrivals we still need more up front - quality this time, rather than quantity.
Christian Rhys Doidge
The new lad was onto a hiding to nothing.
He looked eager in the early stages, being impressive in the air and keen on the deck. However, as the game wore on he spent more time on said floor - diving on at least three occasions (including for the goal) - which was most disconcerting.
It’s easy to forget that jumping up from Division 4 to Championship is a massive gap to bridge, and so there should be an element of understanding from all concerned when it comes to his performance, however as a bona fide footballing romantic I remain deeply disappointed, even now, that he didn’t trouble the QPR keeper even in the slightest.
That said, his record speaks for itself and I would hope that Parkinson (and us Bolton fans - never shy usually to judge a player after 90mins) give him the time he needs and deserves to get up to speed.
You know, I don’t really often put much store in the opinion of most Bolton Wanderers fans. I think, on the whole, we’re not the most enlightened or insightful of people.
So it was that I read the reviews of Grounds’ appearances to date with a familiar resignation. After all, we’re the fans who decry one player for not running enough, and then bash another for running too much.
Having been on a six week holiday with my supermodel wife and ideal picture-perfect kids it was my first game of the season yesterday and I was keen to see Grounds for myself because surely it must be that Bolton fans have struck again and decided, apropos of nowt, that he was mince.
They were right.
Joe Muscatt. Mark Little. Marc Wilson. Anyone. Give them a chance.
As mentioned in my ratings piece, Grounds is too tall to be a left-back. It’ll never work.
Phil Parkinson and his Approach
It’s very frustrating to see Bolton Wanderers under Parky. I think it always has. He’s a manager who is performing ahead of expectations and, for the most part, has done so with restrictions aplenty.
However, that doesn’t mean that he’s free of criticism. The manager clearly is the right man for the job at the moment and I wouldn’t have anyone else, but that’s not to say that what he’s doing isn’t right. I understand the paradox that I’ve just presented to you, dear reader, but that’s just where I am at the moment.
I struggle to recall too many games where he has been able to positively influence things with his substitutions. I struggle to recall us coming back from behind to win too often lately and I struggle to see why we go on these streaks under Parky. We can win a few but then as sure as eggs is eggs we’ll go on to lose a few. We seem to be in the latter category at the moment.
Will he stay? Probably. Should he stay? I change my mind every week. I’m not one of those romantic fans who thinks that just because he achieved something remarkable it should mean he has a job for life - that’s how Arsenal got in the mess they were in. Parkinson will know that his job depends on how far above the drop zone we are and so to improve that outlook should help to give him some further job security. At least for now.
The Rest of the Season
Like I mentioned before, this was my first game of the season. Having watched all the other games from the comfort of my air conditioned yacht in Spanish waters I was under the impression that for the most part we were a limited - if effective - team.
However, what I saw yesterday was most concerning.
We struggled with attacking invention. We had no idea how to feed the new striker. We only scored because their keeper couldn’t catch a cold. We had a playmaker on the bench but instead persevered with a slow and ponderous midfield. We still have a pair of central defenders who look completely devoid of any sort of clue whatsoever once the ball is at their feet and even more scared when they have players running toward them.
I can only hope that the Doidge-Magennis partnership begins to bear fruit soon and that we can head to January before we reinforce. My knee-jerk reaction to the game was that we need two new centre halves, another left back, at least two new midfielders and another striker. Will we get them? Who knows.
It has been an absolute bastard of a week and I am really disappointed that Wanderers couldn’t bounce back to win what was a very winnable fixture. Looking at the next few it’s hard to see where the points will come from. 11 points from 7 games is fine, but from 12? Less so. Hopefully the lads can get back on track soon.