Date: 22nd December 2010 at 11:01pm
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You may be wondering what Paul Robinson is doing up there. Well, read on…

As we run up to Christmas, and as the clock on Gardening Leave watch hits eight days to go, not a great deal has happened in the Wonderful World of the Wanderers since yesterday. OK, Stuart Holden, who is looking forward to the Christmas schedule, has been voted the player of the year so far by readers of The Guardian, but that`s it really.

So I thought I`d start my mid season report card, focusing on the back. It’s not as bad as the report cards that were sent home to Mr and Mrs X Snr from when I was at the school that also spawned Mike Harding, Terry Christian and the sixth Doctor Who. In fact, the report card is not bad at all.

GOALKEEPER:
22. Jussi Jaaskelainen
Sometime in January, Jussi is set to enter the list of the top ten most appearances for the club, becoming the first non-UK national to do so. In this day and age, and considering he has had two nasty injuries in his time, this is no mean feat. As for his playing, he still does what he does best, and while his distribution may still leave a little to be desired, he still stands head, if maybe not shoulders, above any other goalkeeper that we have.
His right hook to Roger Johnson`s face may have been looked to be an aberration if he hadn`t had a little kick out at Stephen Hunt during the Wolves game. But, then, again, it was Stephen Hunt. Who, as we all know, is a Jeremy Hunt.
Shot stopping, taking of crosses and all round commanding of defence gives Jussi a 7/10. Needs to start keeping clean sheets though.

1. Adam Bogdan
With Ali Al-Habsi loaned out to Wigan, Bogdan took his place on the bench and must have thought, much like Al-Habsi before him, that all he was going to catch were splinters in his backside. He reckoned without Jussi southpawing Roger Johnson. He could have leant on his post against Birmingham and couldn`t be faulted for the defeats at Arsenal and Burnley. This is partly due to the Burnley defeat being more of a team effort. Likely to start against York in January, he has shown he is capable of standing in for the Big Finn. Whether that will be on a permanent basis remains to be seen. 6/10

DEFENCE:

2. Gretar Steinsson
Stuck one game short of a hundred games for the club, Steinsson hasn`t managed to get back into the side since he received his fifth yellow card of the season against Everton. For this he can count himself unlucky. A resolute performer, who can play as a defensive or attacking right back, he has found himself behind a player who can pretty much offer the same thing, including long throws in Sam Ricketts. It would seem that he may well have to wait for Ricketts to be suspended or injured before breaking back into the team, although you would expect him to reach the hundred mark against York. 6/10

18. Sam Ricketts
For Ricketts, you can pretty much read Steinsson backwards. No, not nossniets. I mean that if Steinsson hadn`t have got suspended, the probability would be that Ricketts would still be on the bench. Probably had his best performance in a white shirt against Newcastle and, as has been stated so many times before, is a sound back up if a central defender gets themselves hurt. 6/10

5. Gary Cahill
Strangely, for a player who is rated at £15million and whom everyone thinks will have left us by January, Cahill has had a decidedly average beginning of the season. Unfortunate to get sent off against Arsenal, his defensive partnership with Knight has not had any real criticism while the team have been winning. However, the goal against Citeh was nearly as much Cahill`s fault, for letting it go through his legs, as it was Knight`s, for meandering upfield And Sunderland scoring on Saturday was due partly to Cahill not being able to stay on his feet. On the other hand, his positional sense sometimes makes the job he does look effortless, and he is one of the best tacklers in the division. Not quite up to the standards that he set himself last season, but I`d still take him over Lescott, Brown and Upson. 6/10

12. Zat Knight
Last season`s most improved player under St Owen, he continues to make a mockery of the player who looked like the only good thing he was for was scoring own goals. As with Cahill and Jussi, however, the major concern is no clean sheets since the beginning of the season and his nodding off on Saturday allowed Welbeck to steal a march on him and score. He and Cahill probably still remain the better defensive partnership and he even chipped in with a goal against United. And no one saw that coming. 7/10

4. Paul Robinson
I`m going to be honest with you, and I expect you to be honest with me. If there was anyone who encapsulated the Gary Megson era, it was Paul Robinson. We didn`t want him and the old joke that West Brom fans would have paid for the fare north wasn`t as far fetched as you would think. He tackled wildly and badly, he had a continual red face (leading an ex editor to name him The Angry Dwarf) and was generally rubbish. If Bolton had a weak link, Paul Robinson was it. It didn`t get much better early on this season, with his tackle on Diaby at The Emirates being so late the stewards were sweeping up by the time his foot connected. And then he said it wasn`t a bad tackle, which gave him more bad press.
However, little by little, he has started to become the kind of player that Bolton fans love. Whilst lacking in skill, he makes up for it in passion and when that passion is directed in the right way, it lifts the team. His fist pumping at the end of the Blackburn match even had this hardened blogger applauding him, and anyone who knows me will know that I am not his biggest fan. For all the plaudits surrounding Elmander`s goals and Holden`s midfield play, Paul Robinson has been the surprise of the season. Well done small fella. 8/10

So there you go. Paul Robinson has been the defender of the first part of the season. And I bet you, as well as me, didn`t see that coming.

The great journey is on tomorrow, so the probability that we will return Xmas Eve. And you can put a banging donk on that.

 

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