We’ve battered the defence for not keeping clean-sheets. We’ve bombarded the strikers for not scoring. Were both of these failures down to our skill players?
Who`d have thought it? It was the midfield all along.
Dougie Freedman went bold at Bloomfield Road. Ngog, Eagles and Chung took their place on the bench while our three loan-signings took to the field. Beckford started the match and went 90 minutes, so the new-look Whites` didn`t repay Freedman fully for his audacity with a win, but they did hand Dougie a gift-wrapped clean-sheet.
Come on, it`s a start.
I could continue this piece by stating the bleeding obvious: McNaughton slotted in at full-back like he`d been playing for the Wanderers for years; Danns` link-up play and tracking-back galvanised our clean-sheet and nearly got us our win and Liam Feeney ran our left-wing with pace, tricks and crosses reminiscent of? well, Chungy in his prime.
Even if the new-boys hadn`t played as well as they did, they would have still embarrassed our benched ‘stars` by the energy, enthusiasm and pride emanated by their displays.
This is exactly what the team has been missing.
The quality a player possesses doesn`t just disappear overnight, but qualities in a player`s attitude can be eroded over time. Unfortunately, that`s what has happened to our ‘skill` players in the squad over 3 seasons of failure. We have seen- granted, not for a long time. Some would argue never- what Ngog, Eagles and Chungy can do on the football pitch. Their intangibles as footballers were the main reason many had tipped the Whites to regain their place in the Premiership. But like a dripping tap over years of neglect- coupled with the fact that their places in the starting line-up have rarely been in danger when fit- their individual and collective failures have stifled their enthusiasm for the game. Or- even worse- their desire to play for Bolton Wanderers.
The fact our club pays them handsomely whether they win, lose or draw didn`t matter.
A reality check was needed? and they got one.
The three loan-men didn`t give our benched-boys a lesson in how to play professional football… they give them a lesson in how to behave as a professional footballer.
I know the benched-boys were watching, but whether or not they learned their lesson is another matter. Because if Ngog, Eagles and Chungy decide to ignore the traits the loanees showed at Bloomfield Road, they may not start another game again before January.
Whether this bothers the trio or not tells Dougie, the team and the Wanderers supporters all they need to know.