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Comment: Why Bolton must get fans making right noises against Swansea City

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
The locals are restless but no-one can quite put their finger on why.

Wanderers' slow descent down the Championship table after a promising start has rekindled a sense of frustration on the terraces which has remained largely dormant for the last few years.

There have been flashpoints of anger: See defeat at Burton Albion last season, or the reaction of travelling support at Rochdale in League One. But Phil Parkinson’s time at the helm has been underpinned by the support of a fan-base who have wised-up to the practicalities of being Bolton boss, at least until recently.

Topped up by times of unbridled joy – promotion against Peterborough United, survival in the last minutes against Nottingham Forest – Parkinson’s stock has remained high in his time in the North West. And many would claim deservedly so.

For the first time since returning to the second tier, however, there is a clear directive from supporters that simply surviving in the Championship is no longer enough. Entertainment has begun to seep into the debate, and Wanderers’ style of play is suddenly being scrutinised just as heavily as results.

He has not experienced the same vocal fury lavished upon some of his predecessors, largely because there is widespread disagreement as to whether the manager is ultimately culpable for the current slide.

Whatever reason Bolton Wanderers slipped from their early season grace, the club has become a hard sell to the general public. Investment in this season's squad is higher than last but it is not known by how much. As such, it is tough to gauge whether Parkinson's squad are slightly under-performing, or just playing to type.

There is no universal agreement on the terraces as to exactly where Wanderers should be aiming in May, either.

As recently as last month, Bolton’s owner Ken Anderson said a top half finish was his target, given the club had made their best start to a campaign in this division since the turn of the millennium.

He has since sent out some mixed messages about exactly what is expected of his manager – the most recent of which indicates he does have his backing to continue beyond the international break.

Parkinson wisely side-stepped any target-setting in pre-season but even he admits the collection of players currently at his disposal is stronger than it was 12 months ago – ergo should the club be higher up the league, or at least making themselves easier to watch?

Saturday could be a good barometer of the current state of play. Wanderers have kept the ball better and produced more shots on target in the last two games, almost as a direct response to the pressure which has been piled on the manager’s shoulders.

A style of football which is easier on the eye may appease some of the manager’s critics but only if accompanied by results.

Whereas it was difficult to miss public shows of anger towards previous managers like Phil Neal, Gary Megson or Dougie Freedman – the most visible show of dissatisfaction towards Parkinson has been the growing number of empty seats at the University of Bolton Stadium.

Unhappiness with the current situation at Wanderers is being voiced with apathy, not venom. No banners, no chants, and widespread disagreement about exactly what, or whom, is to blame.

Anderson has attempted a call to arms via his website column, the regularity of which has certainly diluted its effectiveness.

Parkinson has done the same, insisting the best thing during times of trouble if for everyone to ‘stick together’ and brave it out. He is correct, of course, and fully deserves respect, but he has been in football long enough to know his words will hold little sway until results improve.

As things stand, only Wanderers’ players can make a difference. Their performance against Swansea must be something to lift the spirits of those watching. Their challenge, to prove those right who say they are an improvement on last season’s squad. Their reward is to offer some hope to supporters that the next seven months are to be more than a constant battle against the drop.

Wanderers could have done little more to publicise the availability of cheap entry to this weekend’s game, with season ticket holders able to bring up to four mates for £10 apiece.

Fans have been calling for a reduction in prices but it appears the uptake of tickets has been slow, underlining the indifferent public mood. Yet, as we have seen so often, one result can change a season. And how Parkinson could use a victory out of the blue.

Anything less, and it could be a long, long fortnight.



Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
What KA has to understand is that casual fans won't come to games while the football is as negative and defensive as it is under Parky no matter how cheap it may be.
I can't see there being a big crowd on Saturday, i don't even feel like going and i've been a season ticket holder for over 20 years.


Tony Kelly
Tony Kelly
People who don't go will pay a fiver once a year for the novelty value so Ipswich will be a very healthy crowd, but the offer against Swansea will only put maybe a few hundred on the gate.These tickets for the Swansea match aren't available to the general public to buy, only for season ticket holders to buy their mates.

Marc Iles makes some good points in the article.Apathy is now creeping in among the support base because targetting 4th bottom of the 2nd tier as the clubs goal just isn't good enough for many of our fans.As far as Ken is concerned, playing this negative crap with a load of free transfers that scrape 4th bottom of Div 2 is job done for him.It will empty the ground though.


Frank Worthington
Frank Worthington
The locals are restless but no-one can quite put their finger on why. 

Really Marc?

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