The darkest hour of Bolton Wanderers’ history seems to be lasting for an eternity. With the administration process slowly edging towards a takeover by Football Ventures Ltd, the perpetual state of anxiety which has become a staple of the mindset of Bolton fans in recent years has intensified, whilst other sides are announcing new additions to their playing staff and getting excited for the season ahead.
As former players, some worth remembering (others certainly worth forgetting), move on to football clubs that pay wages on a regular basis, our squad depletes further. If a deal is not completed in the coming days, Wanderers may find their talent pool significantly limited. Of course, academy talents will be able to follow in the footsteps of Clough, Vela and Holding and get a chance to carve a career in the game, but it may mean further bad news on the field in the season to come. Starting the season with at least a 12 point deduction is a tough enough ask without a squad composed of mainly academy talent.
Rather than wallow in our self-pity or point the finger at the administrators attempting to secure the long-term future of the football club, let us look forward to the possibility of brighter times in the years to come.
Because we don’t come to watch the players wearing the badge, we come for the badge. My son will never see Jay-Jay Okocha send Roy Keane back to school with his masterful footwork. He will never see a 17 year old Kevin Nolan score at his beloved Anfield. He may never see his team win at Old Trafford (let alone do it back-to-back). He might never see his team play in European competition. Christ, let’s be real, he’ll be lucky to support a team playing in the Football League altogether.
Wherever Wanderers may be, he will still feel the magic of entering his spiritual home for the first time. To a grown man, The Macron (but to those of us of a certain age will always be The Reebok) is a half empty aging relic of happier times gone by. To a young Wanderer who knows no better, it’s a thing of wonder.
He will still feel the adrenaline coarse through his veins when his team score, whether it be a late equaliser at the Allianz Arena, or the opening goal in a 2-1 defeat away to Accrington Stanley.
He will one day know the taste of a lukewarm can of ale on an early Saturday train to an away day free from the shackles of his old man. He will save up for a pair of Adidas trainers, desperate in the hope that he will be the only one wearing them in search of a knowing nod of approval from a seasoned “away dayer”.
He may one day himself feel the inner conflict of debating whether or not to inflict Bolton Wanderers Football Club on his own son.
That is what football is about. Rain or shine, in good times and bad. Yes, it’s crap when you watch your side draw at home to a team from Whereisthatonamapshire, but sometimes, just sometimes, it can be make moments that will follow you to the grave. I only need to write the name Aaron Wilbraham and the moment comes flooding back.
The good times will come back again, I promise you.
When Saturday comes, it’s about the badge on the shirt rather than who wears it. Four letters, arranged in red and blue, that mean so much. Our club, so close to extinction, didn’t die. Through fortune rather than people power, that crook Anderson is long gone. And if that isn’t reason enough to turn up to on Saturday with a faint modicum of hope, I don’t know what else will get you there.
I can’t wait to see 1,800 Wanderers fans do what we do best in Buckinghamshire on Saturday - stick two fingers up to the EFL and the football gods and sing their hearts out for the lads in white.
This town and the people that call it home needs its football club. It’s in our blood. It was the club of my grandfather, it will be the club of my unborn son, of our town, of me, of you. We’ll never die.