Phil Gartside. From the heart.
‘I was so excited to meet the great man, but didn’t know what to expect. From the first minute I was completely at ease. In his customary manner he greeted me, warmly shaking my hand, saying, ‘nice to meet you cocker, just call me Lofty’. I am proud and I feel very privileged that I got to spend time with him, talk football, listen to his stories and share his memories.’
Say what you like about Phil Gartside, and a couple of seasons ago most of what was said wasn’t nice, when he stood up in Bolton Parish Church early yesterday afternoon to deliver his eulogy at Nat’s funeral service, the words that he spoke were simple and filled with warmth to the man who will forever be Bolton’s greatest ever football player. Those words above are just a sample of what he said, and I know that we’ve all read them already. It would have been very easy to lapse into hyperbole, but the chairman never did.
Regretfully, I wasn’t able to get back up north yesterday, but was able to watch the service online. Seeing the crowds lining the streets later when I turned on North West Tonight, I don’t know if I would have found a space if I had come. The great and the good spoke words that simply echoed what Phil had said. Big Sam, Colin Todd, Reidy and Bobby Charlton all spoke as though Nat was their best mate, Reidy in particular telling a story of Nat still being at his physical peak just after the club had signed the callow scouser. And there was Frank Worthington, still chatting up the ladies. You can’t imagine two such disparate characters than Nat and Frank and it makes you wonder what the former said to the latter whenever they met at Burnden.
Probably ‘now then cocker, fancy a pint?’
Life, I suppose, has to return to some sort of normality for the club now and, in case you hadn’t noticed, we are now just five days from the end of the transfer window. Mr. Vinegar had stated that we would know by Wednesday/Thursday whether the Carlos Vela loan was on. By my watch, it’s now Thursday and, although the Mirror are reporting it’s on, it’s been on since New Year’s Day and still nothing. So my watch might as well be saying last Thursday or the Thursday before.
Right now we need bodies and although I was more reticent on Vela coming than I was Wheater (Vela wasn’t even on the bench for Arsenal’s Carling Cup Semi on Tuesday, despite playing in all their previous ties), it is now a matter of numbers rather than style. I still think he’s a luxury player, but if he can give the current forward line some competition, then all the better.
The manager has confirmed that Lee Chung-Yong will be back at the club on Monday and will be in competition for a place against Wolves on Wednesday. With him remaining tight lipped on SWP, or anybody else besides Vela for that matter, it appears we are going to have to flog Lee until he collapses. While he may not be the player that he was last year, he is a better answer to the right side than either Taylor or Petrov being, for a start, right footed.
SuperKevinDavies has spoken of the need to get results from the next two games, suggesting that they may be the games that point to where our season will end:
‘We have had a good chat and the next two fixtures are going to be massive. It might depend on what happens for the rest of the season. We want a good cup run, so we have got to win that one, and then we have got Wolves in midweek where we have got to start getting our season back on track after a dip. We have to make the next two games count.’
I’m sure I’ve been hearing this refrain for the past month of so, and it’s started to get tired. ‘We must win’ ‘We have to turn this run around‘ ‘We are determined to get back on track’ have all been tried and it doesn’t seem to have worked. Something needs to change, starting with Muamba and Elmander being benched on Saturday. I’m not excusing either of them for their recent performances which have been, respectively, abject and woeful, but Elmander has played as many games as anyone this season and Muamba isn’t far behind. We talk of tiredness and the lack of numbers in the squad, but central midfield is the one position we have quality back up and, to repeat, the next two games are games we should win without too much bother and with an attacking formation. The return of Klasnic will also allow the manager to take Elmander out of the firing line.
It’s going to be an interesting couple of days leading up to the cup tie and we will return with an actual Friday preview, and not the usual Friday preview done on a Saturday, tomorrow. The joys of annual leave.