I’ve got a secret to tell, but you have to promise not to tell anyone. Okay? Good. You see, I think I’m starting to like Bolton.
(I’ll pause here for a minute to allow you to compose yourself. Take your time, I know how shocking this statement is.)
I’ve never liked the Trotters. I can’t remember a year when they were in the relegation race — let’s be honest, they’ve been in a few — and I didn’t say to myself, “I’d be alright if Bolton go down.” In fact, it was probably more like, “I want Bolton to go down.”
So why have I hated the Wanderers so much to this point? I can easily link most of my bad sentiments towards the club to two people: Sam Allardyce and Ivan Campo.
I don’t need to do much explaining for my disdain of Big Sam, as he’s recently been pouring gasoline all over the fire that is his idiocy. Plainly put, the guy clearly thinks he’s a top level manager, but his results and his teams’ ugly style of play clearly show he’s not. That said, I have found him to be immensely entertaining the last few weeks due to his diarrhea of the mouth. (the The best column to date on the topic labels him the “Sarah Palin of football”… brilliant.
Then there’s the fat Spanish gnome, Iván Campo. This guy has rubbed me the wrong way for ages, and I even hated him when he was playing for Real Madrid. Even going all the way back to those days, he was still a fat, lazy dirtball. He was just as prone to be found napping around midfield as he was to taking out your best players legs. And he’s ugly. Mature? No. Accurate? Yes.
Other than those two, I just haven’t liked the way the club have played the last few years. They’ve been a dirty team that’s prone to playing super direct, traditionally English soccer. Knock it long, lose it, knock the other team, take the ball back, repeat.
Throw in Owen Coyle’s traitorous move to the Reebok Stadium from Burnley (whom he had guided so far, and clearly crushed when he left), and I really felt like we were well on our way to yet another season where I despised them.
But then a funny thing happened. Coyle slowly started morphing the team into a slightly better Burnley.
Just look at what he’s done in his short time there. He was given access to virtually no transfer kitty, though picking up Martin Petrov on a free from Manchester City was brilliant (Though I initially questioned Citeh‘s reasoning for letting him go, the recent play of James Milner and Adam Johnson reminded me). But for the most part, old snaggletooth Owen has been forced to make due with the players at his disposal.
In addition to getting more out of his men than previous gaffer Gary Megson ever did, Coyle has also had a noticeable impact on the team’s style of play. Mostly gone are the days of completely direct, brutish football that “prospered” under Megson and Allardyce. Instead, Coyle has gotten his men to play the ball on the ground a bit. While they’re not playing tiki-taka like Barcelona or anything, it’s nice to see them move the ball around more methodically and purpose for a change.
A string of good results has resulted. Aside from the 1-4 drubbing at the hands of Arsenal, they’ve taken points from the games they should, and stolen a point against a team they shouldn’t. This is a noticeably different trait than their previous habit of dropping points against… well, pretty much everyone.
And while many would have suspected that losing out on a second loan spell for Arsenal starlet jack Wilshire would have spelled grim and doom for the Wanderers, Coyle’s put his faith in the most unlikely of replacements…. the young yank, Stuart Holden.
Stu has been a revelation this season for Bolton and has easily been one of their standout performers; even the Trotter faithful are in agreement on this front. While he’s no Wilshire by any stretch, Holden is also rapidly developing and showing potential shades of being a star player. Without a doubt, Stu’s presence on the pitch has been a component in their new style of play. And he’s already proving to be more creative than big club players in a similar role such as Liverpool’s Lucas or Manchester United’s Anderson.
And if nothing else, you want to root for a team one of our boys is playing for… right?
However you might feel about it, I think Bolton have so far this season proven they are worth giving a second chance. While I’m not expecting them to go skipping through the league, knocking off Chelsea and running off with Tottenham’s Champions League place, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them finish in the top half of the table either. I’ll root for them this year, if nothing else.
Now whatever you do, just don’t tell anyone I said that.