There has been quite a turnaround for the staff and fans of Bolton Wanderers this week. Finding ourselves 2-0 down during the first 5 minutes against Barrow I had felt that might be it for Ian Evatt and his big project. Having gone on to snatch a draw in the dying embers of that game seemed to feel like a season defining moment however. Could this be where we finally look the team that we had been billed to be all summer? I’ll admit to some scepticism about coming up against Cambridge United, a team in rampant goal scoring form. My scepticism was ill founded however. We looked the better team. We had a beautiful goal (incorrectly) chalked off and kept their attackers quiet for the entire afternoon. We deserved a win and would have had one if not for a fluke goal. For once I can’t wait for the next game.
Turning The Corner
As I mentioned in the introduction it certainly feels as though something has clicked in to place after the Barrow result. The team have certainly got to grips with the formation and style they are being asked to play. It would be foolish to accredit such a marked change solely to tactical familiarity. Perhaps the main factor has been the psychological boost afforded by such a turn around at Barrow. To come back from a 2 goal deficit, twice and snatch a draw right at the end has injected a large dose of positivity that has been seriously lacking at the club. Mixed with the tactical familiarity and you’ve got a potent combo which make conditions ripe for a bit of a run. Whilst we can only afford to take one game at a time I hope we can look back at this point of the season and say this was a pivotal time.
What’s that cliche? Can’t judge a book by its cover. I will confess to having been underwhelmed by the midfielders arrival during the summer. Signing a 30 year old who had spent the majority of his life in League 2 seemed to be lacking the necessary hype, fanfare and CV to join the crew of ‘HMS Piss the League’. Boy was I wrong. From his very first appearance he stood out as a shrewd capture. He is confident on the ball, reads the game well and is always looking to turn and make a positive pass. This last point is especially welcome given that some of his colleagues in the middle of the park have been content to pass sideways and backwards. Sure it makes for impressive possession statistics but it meant that every attack seemed to break down before the half way line. Tutte boasted the best pass success % of the midfielders and defenders, didn’t lose the ball in possession and his heat map shows that he slotted in seamlessly to cover the rampant, Peter Kioso, when we attacked down the right. One of the first names on the team sheet.
Brockbank at LWB
The young defender has acquitted himself well during his last two games in an unfamiliar position. Ian Evatt has even singled him out post match to say he could play anywhere, something I don’t doubt having seen how well he has adapted to this foreign role. It has also been interesting to see a right footer on the left with the benefits that brings. Both Nathan Delfouneso and Arthur Gnahoua’s heat maps show they drifted on to the left wing, making runs beyond Brockbank allowing him to cut back and cross with his right from the edge of the box to decent effect. With that said I’d rather have our strikers running in to danger zone to make space for a left footer and so I do want to see Brockbank in for Baptiste ASAP. Jamie Mascoll and Liam Gordan haven’t had the best of starts but with others coming in to form it might be time to give them another chance to impress.
The Disallowed Goal
My god it was a beaut’. I was screaming bloody murder at the laptop screen for someone just to shoot and it seems I was both wrong and right on that call. It had a great build up, culminating in a nice interplay between Eoin Doyle, Ali Crawford, Antoni Sarcevic and Harry Brockbank. Brockbank eventually slotted home with Wanderers snubbing multiple chances to shoot instead choosing to pass. Had it not be incorrectly ruled offside it would have been a goal of the season contender not to mention a goal that was peak fancy football. If Ian Evatt can continue to get this team to play with the poise shown here we’ll be in for some great football this season. It’s such a shame that the linesman has deprived Harry Brockbank of a special goal.
Storm In a Teacup
“I’m certainly not going to put my arm around him and rub his head...we set a high bar. It always amazes me when pundits talk about not critising players in the press...it’s up to him how he develops...a lot will be down to how he takes it to the next level.” - Chris Wilder after a mistake by Dean Henderson last season.
“He’s not doing well...but I have to say to him, and I did say to him, that he has to improve...I and everyone else at the club has total confidence in his quality. It is true he can do better and he knows this because he is critical of himself. I hope there is improvement in the next games.” - Carlo Ancelotti on Jordan Pickford’s recent poor performances.
I am not a big fan of calling a player out publicly in the press but there is a time and a place and I will say that I think Evatt has got it right here. he may be young but that also means learning that first team football comes with a greater weight of expectation and criticism. If the manager doesn’t say anything, the press and fans will. At least this way the message is controlled and fair. I don’t think Evatt summed it up quite as eloquently as he could have but it is quite shocking to see quite how many people seem wound up at a regularly used phrase.
There has been a lot of focus on the term ‘man up’ in the last few years with more attention being paid to male mental health issues (something I have personally written about on this site). Whilst this phrase in a particular context can be very damaging to a man struggling mentally or hiding their emotions it shouldn’t mean the phrase stripped of all other context when used elsewhere.
As a preface to this next point I work as a nurse which is a 9 to 1 female to male ratio work environment. No one would ever dare say it when someone is struggling mentally (as many do in healthcare). Yet I hear the phrase at work regularly because we all understand it to mean that we will rise to a challenge a difficult situation or an unpleasant task. Context is key. The fact that the phrase stems from a more sexist time doesn’t change that the vast majority (including my many female colleagues say and hear it regularly) don’t interpret that way anymore. South Park nailed how a phrase can change despite being rooted in thinking we find unacceptable today in their episode ‘The F-word’ if you want an interesting take on this.
Evatt has now apologised for the blunt way he phrased his criticism. Hopefully we can move past it and not engineer offence in the future.