I never thought a game against Brighton and Hove Albion would be so important to my football club. A few years ago, when we were flying high above the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool, I looked down the leagues and took a particular note of the Seagull`s plight. Their ground was sold, and they were made to play in something that barely resembled a venue for sport. They had severe financial problems, and dropped into the third tier of English football. Their shirts even said SKINT across them. This may have been a sponsorship from a record label, but hey, it was certainly apt.
I was pleased to see their rise over the past few seasons, as if I am one thing, I am a sucker for an underdog. A takeover and Gus Poyet`s arrival in 2009 has led to a promotion, a move to a stadium the fans can be proud of, and a transformation into a club that plays exciting winning football on the fringes of Premier League promotion. Some of my previous feelings towards Brighton may have been pity. Now I fear them. I know what defeat against them today means for our season and the tsunami of confidence we are currently riding on.
I`ve felt like a winner this week. We haven`t had much of this in the last few years, and I`m loving every second of it. Times like this run, where I can be so proud of my football club, is the very reason we put up with all the lows. All the times as a kid where United fans made me feel like I was supporting the wrong club. Defeats at Cardiff and Wembley. Drawing with Stoke at the end of last season to send us down. We accept all this heartache and agony for mere seconds in the sun. I hope I don`t anger any Andy Warhol fans in my crude rejigging of his famous quote into a battle cry, but if we all get our 15 minutes, let`s hope ours stretches past today and all the way back to the top.
Dougie knows how important this game is for our season, and this is demonstrated by the extra effort being put in by all associated at the club. He told the club`s official website:
“I know Brighton inside out and so do the player (sic). What we are doing now because of where we are in the season is working more in the visual room. The analysis guys are working overtime and it is credit to them how hard they are working. We did a lot of work on Friday morning on what Brighton like to do, where they score their goals from and their weaknesses.
“The players will understand exactly Brighton`s strengths and weaknesses on Saturday. We have got players in the team who are fresh and can hurt Brighton and with our state of mind right now we can approach the game feeling confident we can opposes (sic) ourselves on Brighton. I have done my homework but it is more about how we play. The supporters want to see commitment and I want to install tactical knowledge into that and hopefully they will be the ingredients to win the game.”
Bolton Wanderers Team News:
Adam Bogdan is out for a couple of weeks. A few of you have been quick to defend Lonergan after I criticised him midweek. I stick by what I said, in that he`s a decent stand-in but nothing more. Our weak point today. Mears and Andrews are both still out, as is Mark Davies for way too long. I expect a similar lineup, but I hope that SKD`s role is from the bench and not the start.
Player to watch: Craaaaaiiiigggg……
Davies! I hope Dougie selects this lad to partner David Ngog up top. He was great off the bench yet again against Blackburn, and we will need his pace and movement to stretch a team as fluid as Brighton`s. I thought he was going to be a bad buy, a contingency plan at best, but I am very happy to be wrong. Turning out to be a steal at 300k.
Brighton & Hove Albion Team News:
Craig Mackail-Smith is out for the rest of the season, which is fantastic news for us. Wayne Bridge is also a doubt with a hamstring injury, which is a shame. Pratley would`ve run rings around him.
Player to watch: Leonardo Ulloa
The Argentinian striker has scored four goals in seven games since making the move from Almeria in January. Tall, strong and fast (from what I`ve heard), Zat Knight is going to have to be at his best today.
Match Facts & Stats
Brighton have also been on a spectacular unbeaten run of late, winning four and drawing two in their last six games. They also have a great away record, which when coupled with our recent fortressification (I know that`s not really a word) of the Reebok, means that it`s very hard to predict how this one is going to go.
But I think we`ll snatch it. 2-1. Last minute again, just to punish the people near me who leave with eight minutes left of regular time. Mugs.
We can`t lose today, because I`m simply not ready to go quietly into mid-table anonymity. We`re Bolton Wanderers Football Club, by far the greatest team the world has ever seen, and we are going to get back home to the Premier League. You guys with me? COME ON YOU WHITES!!!!!!!!
Ipswich away next Saturday, then a two week gap before we play Charlton at the Valley on Easter weekend.