I have no idea… Do you?
After the Forest game, I had a sinking feeling. Obviously, a lot of that feeling was to do with the defeat, but coupled with the sense of the loss was a state of confusion. I felt lost. I didn’t understand this feeling because normally after a defeat, I’m angry or upset, depending on the game. 10 minutes after the game at the City Ground I wrote this article. I don’t entirely know what I’m trying to say… Can you decipher my confusion? Or am I talking crap? I don’t mind either way because I need some guidance, pilgrims…
Vital Bolton is for the fans, by the fans. It can be as serious or as jovial as we like it to be. As long as I`m careful- as editor- the articles are of a certain grammatical standard and no offence is caused, I can write, pretty much, anything I want? As long as it`s associated with Bolton Wanderers, of course.
But in this week`s write-up, I`m scratching my head. I`m struggling with things associated with Bolton Wanderers. In the 25 years I`ve been following the Whites, I don`t think I`ve had this feeling about my team before. Don`t misunderstand me, I`m not throwing the towel in on this season, I`m not giving up on Dougie, or the team, or anything like that. I`m trying to understand my home football team again. The team I thought I was familiar with. The team I knew inside and out. Or at least I thought I did.
All this soul-searching wasn`t triggered by the defeat at Forest. The defeat against Forest didn`t come as a surprise to me. It probably didn`t come as a surprise to any of you either. We`ve been beat before. We`ve been beaten by bigger margins, by lesser teams. When we won the league with 98 points and 100 goals, we got trounced by Southend 5-2 about 3 games into the season. This unnerving feeling enveloping me at the moment isn`t to do with results; it isn`t to do with performances. It isn`t to do with players really either. It`s the fact that going to Nottingham Forest and being trounced didn`t come as a surprise to me. After a battling draw at Burnley, a brilliant first-half against the promotion favourites and a commanding display in Shropshire, why did a 3-0 drubbing not come as a shock?
I honestly believe, the Bolton Wanderers I`d become familiar with is gone. I don`t recognise this Bolton Wanderers I see today. I`m searching for the essence of this Bolton Wanderers. The essence of a team, I believe, every fan knows about. For 23 of the 25 years of following the Wanderers, I`ve known the essence of the team. Now, I don`t think I know or understand it anymore.
I can just about remember a couple of games when Charlie Wright was manager. I`ve got a pretty good memory of the Phil Neal days. The Rioch, Todd and Alladyce memories are vivid and they all had something in common. They all had the essence of Bolton Wanderers running through them. We all know the quality of these managers` teams varied. Some varied dramatically. But to me, the essence of a team isn`t about quality, or lack of it. It`s giving the fans that sense of familiarity. Like you`re part of the team. Like they`re playing for you. Like you know what they`re thinking. Like you know what`s coming. They won`t give up. Who the saviour will be and if it`s not him then someone else will pick up the mantle.
The game against Forest showed up all our weaknesses and they shone like beacons: Our defensive frailties, our lack of creativity and our blatant lack of a goal threat. But at some time or another we`ve had these shortcomings in the teams of old and in the teams of old, we knew something would get done. We could identify a problem a rectify it. Sometimes it would happen quickly, sometimes it would take perseverance, but it would get done.
What are our problems now? How do we rectify them? Who can we turn to? Which player can we rely on to get us out of this mess? Who will drag us up off the floor with the scruff of our necks when we`re 1-0, 2-0 or even 3-0 down? Anyone? No-one? I don`t know?
Not only do I not know, I feel I`m searching for the answers to questions I don`t know are being asked.
I hope I can feel attached to my team again soon. Because at the minute I don`t feel I know the Bolton Wanderers I’ve been following for 25 years and that scares the hell out of me.