It was a simpler time…..
Hello everyone. Does everyone remember where we were a year ago today?
Short answer: we were flying.
Long answer: we had beaten Birmingham in the FA Cup quarter-finals at the weekend, and we were soon to be making our first trip to the new(ish) Wembley Stadium.
All we would have to do is beat Stoke City, and we were not only in Europe, but we were in with a chance of our first piece of silverware since 1958. I don’t know what the average age of our readership is, but I’m pretty certain it would be the first time us winning anything in most of our lifetimes; if you don’t count the promotions, the Carlsberg Cup, Sherpa Van Trophy or that Barclays PL Asia Trophy that Jay Jay lifted so proudly on a pre-season trip to Thailand.
We were 6th in the league, with realistic ambitions of grabbing a European spot and our first top-half finish since the Allardyce era. We had a team filled with the experience and effort of the recently capped England International Kevin Davies and his workhorse (and at the time goal-machine) of a strike partner Johan Elmander; and packed with young, exciting flair players like Chung-Yong Lee, Daniel Sturridge and Rodrigo Moreno.
This vibrant and potent attacking force was given stability by the strong back four. Paul Robinson, who made up for what he lacked in pace with determination. A solid centre back partnership of England international Gary Cahill and a resurgent Zat Knight, showing the consistency which led him to don the Three Lions shirt twice himself. And Gretar Steinsson, who may not have been the best tackler, but was great in possession and could whip in a beautiful cross from the right, overlapping beautifully with Chung-Yong on many an occasion.
The glue to stick this beautiful footballing behemoth together was the engine and dynamism of a certain Aberdeen-born Texan. This time last year, Stuart Holden was starting to gain a reputation as one of the finest box-to-box midfielders in the country, and had even been named as the best player in the first half of the PL by the Guardian. Huge pressure. He thrived on it. It was all going to plan, and I could confidently say it was the most exciting Bolton team I had ever watched. We had managed to pair attractive football and results in the big league, and when that happens, it’s golden.
Then came 16/3/11. More precisely, then came Jonny Evans’ massive studs straight into Stuart Holden on 16/3/11. A game against United that looked an inevitable draw was lost in the last minute, and despite an impressive win over West Ham, we crumbled.
Moving back to present day. 15/3/12. It’s horrible, isn’t it? Elmander, Sturridge and Moreno left with no direct replacements. Chung-Yong Lee and Stuart Holden have missed the entire league season through horrific injuries; and Davies, Knight and Robinson have become well and truly ‘past it’. We are down at the bottom of the league and there is a very good chance of going down.
And why do I mention all this? Well, I don`t really know. I suppose in a way, to cheer us up. Think of a good time. I`m worried, and it`s nice to reminisce. Plus I want people to remember the team Coyle put together, that has fallen apart due to circumstances out of his control. Plus there wasn`t much news about until quite late on.
Gregg Wylde? We’ll talk tommorow. I’m getting up extremely early. In about four hours. Zzzzzzzzz