Your love for Bolton Wanderers may draw you into one of those conversations (that turn into arguments) with a friend or member of family who hates football. The conversation or argument regarding the beautiful game will be relatively evenly-keeled until the anti-football party questions your sanity, stating ‘why do you like football? It’s just 22 men kicking a ball around a field’. This will stump you momentarily. There will be a lengthened pause while your brain processes the notion and unfortunate truth the anti-football party has effortlessly raised. It’s effective in it’s simplicity and hard to argue against. The science the point relies upon means stripping football to it’s fundamentals and making the pro-football party feel belittled for worshipping something so banal. You soon realise, however, anything and everything can be stripped of it’s complexities. The anti-football party may love a certain singer or pop-group whose profiles can be reduced to ‘moving around on stage exercising their vocal chords to make certain noises and sounds’. A certain A-list Hollywood actor who has won Academy Awards is diluted to just ‘pretending to be someone or something else’. Whatever your pleasure, it matters not what their actions are, it’s the result of their actions that sets them apart. The fundamentals of a surgeon cutting someone open with a scalpel results in saving a persons life, whereas 22 men kicking a ball around a field results in a plethora of emotions unparalleled to anything the pro-football party experiences in their lives. Obviously, no comparison to social importance of a surgeon, just to make a point.
I love football and I will argue for football if the situation arises. Of course, there are particulars that surround the beautiful game I find difficult to argue in favour of, especially in these unwarranted days of austerity, but on the whole, I will stand in it’s corner. The game at the weekend, however, I found myself in unfamiliar territory. My feelings during the match against Middlesbrough on Saturday, if stripped of complexities, could be placed into the ‘anti-football argument’ category. After kick-off, 3pm, the game for me culminated in 22 men kicking a ball around a field. I hadn’t experienced a sudden bump on the head or undergone a complex personality transfusion. I was in complete control of my mental faculties but the wonderful game of football played second fiddle to fundamentals of a ‘result’ and ‘3-point’. My appreciation for tactics, wits and skills were replaced with… Well, nothing. Unless anxiety and looking at my watch can be related to football? I cared not whether Eagles meant to shoot or merely cross the ball. Just that the round thing crossed the white line in the right place and the net moved to alleviate any doubt. Was that Eagles’ 10th goal of the season? So what? It’s nothing personal, Chris it really isn’t. I’m sure my beloved Whites prepared for the game. Prepared like a team would, who needed to perform to a level to clamber back into the play-off places. I’m sure they trained their socks of and studied videos of ‘Boro’s players. Trained and studied to the point of exhaustion where they slept like babies and our manager had sleepless nights wondering if the training and studies were adequate. I cared not. As soon as the final whistle blew my thoughts directly switched to three things: the other results of teams effecting Bolton, the standings in the league table after such results and the next fixture, away to Cardiff.
It’s all Bolton’s fault I feel this way. We shouldn’t be doing mathematics regarding the league table Rachel Riley would find tricky, we should be getting drunk with our South Wales rivals by now. Not because I promised myself but because the promise was bestowed upon me. I don’t know if I’ll appreciate the game against Cardiff. Whether I’ll recognise the effort or skill of our players. That towering header by Zat Knight, that fingertip save of our ‘keeper, whoever it may be, or that rasping shot from Sordell, Davies or Eaves. In my world at the moment, Bolton don’t have 2 games remaining, they have 180 minutes to salvage a season that looked doomed 120 days ago. If Wanderers make the play-offs, I won’t appreciate the knock-out tournament like the neutral will. If we go to Wembley, I’ll be a shell of a former football fanatic. When the dust settles and this season comes to a total end, I just hope when my eyes finally open, this team from Bolton are kicking a ball around the fields of Old Trafford in Manchester and the Anfield pitch in Liverpool.
Thanks Al, much appreciated.