As per usual!
‘OK, listen up Championship, sixth spot and a place in the play-offs is up for grabs, who wants it..? Anybody..? Who wants the final play-off place..? Nobody wants it..?’
It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t overly effective and it certainly wasn’t convincing, but Bolton Wanderers are proving that if no-one else wants that sixth spot in the table, they will gladly oblige. Little can be taken from Saturday’s game and win we didn’t already know. Our strikers are still huffing and puffing, our midfielders are bossing for long periods and our defenders are being placed under the proverbial cosh at the tail end of the first half and the beginning of the second.
There was a different feel to this game, though. I wasn’t worried, panicked or biting any of my nails. I wasn’t clock-watching, shouting, screaming or cursing when we conceded the lead… AGAIN! There was a different air around this performance like we were being given a helping hand. It wasn’t luck, destiny or any other supernatural force, it just felt like we were surfing on the crest of a wave, carrying us to the desired result. You may argue the penalty was ‘luck’ after our strikers fired blanks or ‘destiny’ had intervened, if not to give us the win, but to condemn Bristol City to almost certain relegation.
To me, however, it was neither. It was something else. Something I can’t put my finger on. Who knows, maybe this was what Dougie meant by controlling the game even without the ball? I certainly didn’t have a ball but I was in control. What’s that? That’s not what he meant? Can someone tell me what he meant then? Anyway, whatever it was, I wonder if that feeling will be present when we play Leicester at the King Power Stadium? If it is… Good golly…
Bolton’s win over the doomed Bristol City was only their fourth win away from home in the league this season but their eighth win in the last ten games and are now only 360 minutes away from gatecrashing a party they were never invited to. The play-off organisers in pre-season handed out invitations to a select few of Championship teams which excluded the Whites who had been pre-approved for automatic entrance to the exclusive Premiership fraternity.
Unfortunately, Wanderers overslept and realised on their way to graduation, the automatic entrance doors had already slammed shut. For a long time it seemed Wanderers’ efforts to gain membership to the Premiership back-door were futile. There were even murmurs Bolton would be booted out of the Championship altogether for their blatant disregard and lack of respect for the fellowship. The Wanderers grovelled, begged, pleaded and carried out necessary initiation tests, from the beginning of February onwards, and now it would seem the footballing architects are blue-printing their play-off scenario with the Whites included.
Bolton’s inclusion in the party-plans, if approved, will be to the detriment of a team who had R.S.V.P’d months in advance. But which team? And will they step aside with a curtsey or put up a fight? If this situation wasn’t rosy enough for the Whites, considering where they were at the beginning of the year, it would seem 3 of the 4 play-off spots are yet unclaimed…and one of those teams shivering is Dougie’s old charge, Crystal Palace. Is it a thought too far to imagine Dougie’s current: Bolton Wanderers facing Dougie’s former: Crystal Palace at sometime in the play-offs? We know football throws up unexplainable coincidences every now and then, but that situation would be incomprehensible, right? Can you imagine what odds Ray Winstone’s head would have given you on that scenario in February?
It’s not out of the question considering Leicester City seemingly don’t want a play-off birth. They’re doing everything in their power to unravel the stitching on their promotion t-shirt. Another one of our remaining games and closest rivals, Middlesbrough, have capitulated like Peter Kay’s ‘Rich Tea’ biscuit in a hot mug of tea. That leaves Brighton, Forest and Palace. It’s easy to speculate on all the possibilities which may occur but ultimately futile. What is encouraging, however, is the knowledge the team who turns up late for the play-off party are usually the ones who go home with the prize.
‘Can you all hear me? Does anyone want one of the play-off places up for grabs for the opportunity to play in the Premiership next season and the £70 million that goes with it?’
‘We’ll have one…’
‘Who said that?’