After all the optimism, the renewed belief and, perhaps foolishly, the overall view that one could finally start looking forward to Bolton Wanderers matches again, we get this. As I write this report the players will be turning up at Lostock to begin training. I don’t want to be writing this, and I am sure they don’t want to be training, but here we are.
The match we all witnessed yesterday was a fiasco. Each time we suffer a disgraceful and embarrassing defeat, we ask if it is the new low. Tranmere 5-0, Rotherham 6-1, Accrington 7-1, Lincoln 5-1, Leyton Orient 4-0. These are all results just from the last year or so. After all the positive strides we had seemingly made in November, and though I did worry that an improvement in calibre of opposition would see us struggle, I did not see another of these results coming.
Bolton have never conceded 6 goals at the Reebok. Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Atletico Madrid have come here and none of them did this to us. I hope we have a long and positive future in the coming years, but even after all of us have gone, the record will show that Port Vale were the first to score 6 goals against Bolton at the Reebok. It’s a disgrace.
In a match report I would usually go through the key incidents of the game, but we all know what happened, when they happened and who was at fault. You don’t need me to tell you. What makes me so angry, and what frankly appals me, is that I wasn’t even surprised. I saw Port Vale score 6 goals against my team and my mind immediately said “well, it’s just one of those days that we have”. This is wrong. It’s not Bolton. It can never happen again.
Some of these players need to know where they are playing and that 5 good games does not make a season. They are playing in League 2. This not the big leagues, this is the shit tier where nobody wants to be. Call me disdainful if you like, you know I am right. Anyone who is playing in this League is doing so either because things haven’t panned out for them yet, or it is too late for their careers. This is nobody’s pinnacle, and if it is you shouldn’t be in the game.
Ricardo Santos falls into the former category, I think. He has shown that he is a very good defender. The hype around him has been nothing sort of ludicrous, however, and I think we as fans should take the blame just as much as the club. The constant talk from both parties about how brilliant he has been seemed like a bit of fun, this game showed it isn’t. The best players don’t rest on their laurels by being player of the month. I truly believe he is capable of playing consistently great, despite being exploited yesterday. Santos is not the only one who played badly yesterday (Baptiste, Delaney, Crawford and Kioso were all appalling), but his is the example that stands out. As much as it is fun when we are winning to laud these players, we are in League 2. I used to watch Okocha, not Ali Crawford. Bergsson not Santos. N’Gotty not Baptiste. These lads are not celebrities and treating them as such leads to results like this.
Eoin Doyle was fantastic in this game. Nathan Delfouneso played through the pain and was useful. Antoni Sarcevic never stopped running. Gethin Jones was always willing and scored a good goal. These lads come away with some credit. The player who comes away with the most, in my book, is George Thomason.
Would it have helped to have Tutte there to screen the defence? Probably. To lay any of the blame for this loss at Thomason’s door however would be shameful. He may not be defensively sound right now, but the young man is great to watch. He passes accurately, he always wants to be on the ball, he has the confidence to beat players. I would love to see him in the team again.
So where do we go from here? I think laying down the law and showing the players how unacceptable yesterday was will help, but it isn’t enough. Evatt has spoken about changing the culture at Bolton, and I think he has gone some way to doing it. My fear is that the culture now is not one of despondency and defeat, but of overconfidence. He was too cocky when he came into the job and we all bought it. It took our awful start to kick it out of him, but the recent wins have allowed it to seep into the players.
Confidence is an easy thing to lose when you believe your own hype. Santos, Kioso and Baptiste played like people who thought whatever they did would work out for them. This is the reality check and it needs to be heeded. I never want to have to write a piece like this again.