It isn’t many teams that can claim to have started their season four times, but this current Bolton team certainly can. In an ironic bit of symmetry, they first kicked off the season with a 4-0 win against today’s opponents in a match that even Fabrice Muamba scored in. This set off a run of defeats not seen in Premier League history at the beginning of the season.
Given a mop down, the version 2.0 of the season started at Wigan Athletic in October and again brought a win before a further seven losses in the next eight games had many scratching their head before saying ‘You know. I think that guy Pratley may not be as good as the manager thinks he is.’
Given another shake down and a fresh coat of paint, the season again kicked off at Blackburn Rovers just before Christmas, where a good performance and a 2-1 victory was followed by, considering what had gone before, a good run. In the next six games, Bolton won two, drew two and lost two. A perfectly respectable run and one that saw us outside the relegation zone.
Then, disaster. And so we find ourselves, four defeats later, at Start Of The Season 4.0. For the first time, the season starts at home and against the same opponents who the original season started against. They have a different manager but are in the position that many thought they would be in at the beginning of the season. The surprise is that a change of manager and the influx of expensive players on good wages hasn’t stopped the slump. Or, maybe, that shouldn’t come as any surprise at all. They say that QPR have too many good players to go down.
I’m sure West Ham 2002-03 would come as a reminder that that is just not the case. There are more games left this season than there were when we beat The Hammers at T’Reebok in April 2003. But the similarities are stark. Lose and we are in serious problems. Draw and we give ourselves at least a chance. Win and hope remains, especially with our respective run ins.
‘We recognise that our opponents on Saturday spent huge sums of money in January, but we have to make sure we are at our best. We have shown that when we are, we can win games. We have to look to start the game well because we know that if we win the game on Saturday we will move out of the bottom three. That will be our motivation and drive, however, the only way we can do that is by playing well. We are looking forward to it and want to put smiles on our fans faces. An immediate smile will be placed on many fans faces if the names Pratley and Knight are not mentioned.
‘With the ability that I have in the squad, in terms of creative ability and the goal threat that we have, I feel we’ll create chances and hopefully take some. Bolton is never an easy place to go. Everybody can see that, irrespective of where they are in the league at the moment. They’re still a very difficult side to overcome on their patch. We’ll have to perform really well and, if we build on what we produced against Everton, I’ll be very happy because I think that will be good enough.‘ Apparently we’re a strong side at home, according to Mark Hughes. Excuse me whilst I have a coughing fit.
Bolton Wanderers Team News:
SKD is available but please Mr Coyle do not attempt to sully our memories of him any more by playing him from the start. Please. Pretty please. Look, I’ll be your best friend.
Elsewhere, Marcos Alonso played in midweek for the reserves but had to return to Spain after the death of his grandfather so is a doubt.
Player to watch: Darren Pratley
No, this is not a joke. I could quite easily have put Zat Knight there. Simply, the game will stand or fall on whether or not either or both play. So you don’t even need to look for him on the pitch. Look for him about 11:45 when the teams are announced.
Queens Park Rangers Team News:
Djibril Cissé has returned from a three match suspension after grabbing Roger Johnson by the throat (I’m sure Jussi can sympathise).
Adel Taarabt is being monitored after he reported tightness on his hamstring whilst ‘One Size’ Fitz Hall is just too far away from match fitness to be considered. On loan Stretford player, Federico Macheda is definitely out.
Player to watch: Djibril Cissé
He’s mad, he’s bad and he’s possibly dangerous to know. All accusations that could be levelled on jail bird Scouser and No.1 Smiths fan Joseph Barton. But they could also apply to the Lord of the Manor of Frodsham.
Cissé is one of those personalities in football who can truly be called a one off. Not for his ability, although were it not for the broken leg he suffered whilst playing for Liverpool in October 2004 he may have scaled larger heights than he has, but for his personality. Silly hair, silly wedding outfits, grabbing Roger Johnson by the throat. We could probably forgive them all.
Scores goals as well and before his suspension, he looked the ticket to get QPR away from the bottom. How he will fare coming back into a side still in trouble remains to be seen.
Match Facts & Stats
Since first meeting at Loftus Road in Division Two as late as 1967, due in no small part to QPR playing most of their football in the old Third Division since the entered the Football League in 1920, Bolton hold a 13-9 lead in head to heads, extending that to 8-2 at Burnden Park/T’Reebok.
QPR have not won a game at Bolton since winning by the single goal in a Premier League game in 1995. Since then it is played four, won four for Bolton, the last game in a promotion season of 2000-01.
Bolton have three leading scorers in the fixture, Alan Gowling and Frank Worthington, who both scored three times in the late 70’s and early 80’s, and John Byrom in the 1960’s, including two in a 6-4 win at Burnden in 1969.
Having met just three times in the Premier League, five players lead the scoring charts for Bolton in the fixture. Scott Sellars, Gary Cahill, Ivan Klasnic, Fabrice Muamba and Danny Gabbiadon, the first time an opposition player has led the scoring charts courtesy of this own goal in August.
Martin Atkinson took charge of the reverse fixture in August and also officiated the win at Blackburn in December, so has proved to be a lucky omen so far. He has shown two Bolton players yellow cards, Gary Cahill and Nigel Reo-Coker.
As for QPR, this is the fifth game this season and QPR have taken just the one point from games Mr Atkinson has overseen involving them.
2-0 and a climb out of the relegation zone. Plus Lofty the Lion ‘accidentally’ steps on Joey Barton’s foot. Then his crotch. Then his head.
A week off the league as we travel to Spurs in the Cup. Suffer the little children.