Stretford are coming. Can someone teach our stewards in the away end these four words?
Morning all. I say morning, but only if you are living somewhere where it is morning. If not, good afternoon, good evening and good night.
So it`s the game of the season this weekend. Whilst Bolton have closer rivals in Bury, Burnley and Blackburn, there is always a certain frisson when Stretford come to call. Their fans will look at that and say that for smaller clubs the home game against United is always the game of the season. This may be true for a team that has been in the division for, say, three years, but as this is now Bolton`s tenth season in the Premier League, and attendances have diminished when they come to town, from a high of 27,766 in 2004-05 to 25,370 last season, they are not the draw that they used to be.
Bolton`s two wins at Old Trafford early on in the ‘noughties` were both on the back of tactics that United could not fathom, but this did not stop them coming to T`Reebok in the return game and smacking four past us. After the 2-1 win at Old Trafford I texted a United friend of mine and pointed out the score to him. He text me back “Boing Boing. See You When They Give The Medals Out”. There is no better red than a bitter red. Funny that, when I text him a year later after our 1-0 win, the word “Boing” wasn`t mentioned. I was in Bulgaria at the time with my best man, Dave The Red. He bet me United would beat Bolton and gave me a two goal head start. The loser bought the beer for the rest of the holiday. I got drunk. I got very very drunk. And it cost me nothing.
There were great games later on, Sir Les`s last minute goal being cancelled out by a Fergie Time one by David Bellion in 2004. That`s David Bellion, in a game that United scarcely deserved to get one goal in, let alone two. This was preceded by a last minute Solksjaer goal cancelling out Bruno N`Gotty`s in 2003.
And maybe this is why the United game still holds a precedence against all the others. Yes, they are close rivals, but so are Citeh and South Dingleshire and games against them don`t seem to hold the same grip. The fact that twice we had them and twice they scraped an equaliser and that at the time, in terms of result if not final position, we were their equals. And then, of the next eleven games, they have won ten, regularly scoring four goals.
Of course, for our older viewers, there is the game that epitomises the fixture. The 1958 FA Cup Final when the whole country wanted a team made up of Munich Air Disaster survivors, loanees and neverwheres to win but a Bolton team, who, if you believe Wikipedia cost nothing, overcame them 2-0. We don`t need to remind ourselves of the second goal, but it`s nice to anyway. The goal is 3:17 in and you have to love the Pathe commentator saying “Nat`s charge seemed fair enough.” Which, of course, it was.
I`ve seen shirts round T`Reebok that say “I Only 8 Man U” (which is a bit perplexing as I thought we only hated Robbie Savage (no, the other one)) but I`ve also seen Bolton fans applauding some football that they`ve played. In our house, Mrs X`s hatred of Manchester clubs has turned from United to Citeh due to the money but Mrs X senior still has a downer on the Old Trafford club as they “bought the league”. For myself, having stood in the Stretford End many times, I haven`t got that much of a problem with them, even if they did throw me out once for no reason.
That doesn`t mean that I don`t want to beat them out of sight though.
The manager has been talking about the game and, as he regularly does, talks up the Stretford manager, but then again, which manager bar The Go Compare Man doesn`t these days. Of the game he says:
“We will need to have a good shape because if we don`t then they have the ability to pick teams off because they have so much quality and so much pace. We will be positive, like we have in every game this season, but to beat Manchester United then a number of factors have to come together, the biggest being that our players have to play well.”
Naturally, a major factor will be to stop The Crocked Bulgarian`s mate, The Stroppy Bulgarian, from scoring. St Owen now faces a choice. Either recall Jussi, who has finished his three game ban, or keep faith with Shaggy, who has performed well when called upon.
He will obviously recall Jussi as he is without question the better keeper and while his replacement has proved that he may one day be able to step into the Big Finn`s gloves, if that is possible, your big games need big game players and Jussi is still regarded as one of the best in the league and you don`t keep him on the bench because his stand in has performed well. Just because Doris Biggleswaite stood in well for Judi Dench when she had a cold when playing Lady MacBeth back in 1978 didn`t mean that, when Judi reported fit and well, the director said “Well Judi, if you don`t mind sitting on the bench, we`ll wait and see if we can get you on sometime.” Then he may well have seen a dagger before him.
As for the rest of the team it will be pretty much how you were. AOB is still crocked and after Sam Ricketts played well against Villa he will keep his place. The manager has confirmed that Rita will play some part in the squad, but why this is news as he was on the bench last week I don`t know. Maybe he means he may get on.
As for United, after Wednesday`s Carling Cup win over Scunny, The Whisky Guzzling Madman of Carrington will no doubt reshuffle the pack. Ferguson has been talking about the media pressure surrounding Rooney, but if you go around sticking your bits into prostitutes don`t be expecting a quiet life son. I`m sure that there will be some Bolton fans who will be reminding young Wayne of this fact come Sunday lunchtime. His lack of goals has been a worry for United fans, never mind England and a crowd getting on his back from minute one has the means to get his ire up. And we know what happens then.
St Owen has been talking of turning T`Reebok into the same kind of cauldron of a ground as Burnden Park and, while the crowd has got to players at times, Jens Lehmann being the one most remember, sometimes it seems that the fans are listening to the commentary on Wanderers Player. Some may see Rooney as a soft target. If he is, he only has himself to blame.
The word is that Rio Ferdinand will be making his first league appearance of the season, which I`m sure he`ll be grateful for the first time he sees SuperKev come barrelling towards him. I`d be more worried if Jonny Evans was playing in defence and maybe this rumour is being put around to give us some sort of confidence. I`ve long considered Ferdinand to be less than the sum of his parts, the press talking him up when his lapses in concentration have proved the opposite. If he does play it may be the chink that we need to finally, finally, win that game.
Anyway, I`ve rambled long enough and Mrs X is calling me from her sick bed to go and get some more soup. We`ll be back to give you one of our famous template previews tomorrow. Until then, that’s C-4. Not only will it turn this house into dust, but it will also separate every part of you from every other part of you.