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Defiance, pride and anger as Bolton fans cheer on team of strangers

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Sluffy

Sluffy
Admin
What a vast difference an article from a proper journalist - Glen Moore of the Guardian/Observer - is compared to what our local esteemed one churns out.

Read this and enjoy.

The coaches rolled out of Horwich at 9.30am, beginning a 400-mile, seven-hour round-trip to rural Adams Park. They came by train and car, too: an 1,800-strong army of Bolton Wanderers fans, marching south for the first match of the campaign. There was, however, little in the way of opening-day optimism. Instead, there was defiance, pride and anger. This summer Bolton have been embroiled in a crisis, with players unpaid for months, staff fed by a food bank, training facilities padlocked.

Relegated from the Championship and in administration, Wanderers had 12 points deducted before the season had even begun. Founder members of the Football League, Bolton have spent only one season in the bottom tier – in 1987-88– but a second now looms. But at least the EFL allowed them to play, unlike similarly stricken neighbours Bury.

Once this fixture was confirmed, the fans, despite having no idea who would be in their team, bought every ticket in two days. Their destination was ironic: the Wanderers of Wycombe have a far slighter heritage and more modest ambition, but, being largely fan-owned, are free from an individual’s vanity, misjudgement and worse. Wycombe have recognised that being owned by the fans has its limitations and are in the process of bringing in a majority owner, but he has been carefully selected and Wycombe Wanderers Trust will retain Adams Park. So while Bolton did not even have a kit until a hastily arranged one-match deal with Hummel, Wycombe’s fan-first model resulted in a beer tent on site and Cajun-style burgers.

Problems on the M40 resulting in a winding diversion through Northamptonshire countryside meant many travelling fans were unable to take advantage of the firkins of beer in the away end, but they were nevertheless in fine voice as Bolton’s makeshift team emerged.

The manager, Phil Parkinson, has overseen more than 750 matches during 16 years of management but said none have been as challenging to prepare for as this one. It had been feared he would have to fill the team with academy players, especially after Northern Ireland international Josh Magennis refused to travel on Friday. However, at 11.30am the EFL gave permission for Josh Earl, James Weir and Harry Brockbank to be registered and Parkinson was able to put together a reasonably experienced XI, albeit one with six debutants. Though the fans regularly chanted “Fuck the EFL”, Parkinson paid tribute to the help it had provided in the run-up to the match.

The sight of the assistant manager, Steve Parkin, drilling the back four (average age: 21) on the pitch before the game did not instil confidence. There was an element of Sunday League about it: “My name’s Yoan.” “Hi, I’m Liam and this is Josh. He’s a left-back.”

But Sunday League teams do not have 1,800 fans giving them full-throated backing. Inspired by this wall of sound behind Remi Matthews’ goal, Wanderers were little short of heroic. They chased every ball and tackled like Furies. Yoan Zouma, younger brother of Chelsea’s Kurt, looks set to become an instant cult hero for his physicality and presence. Even when Earl departed injured after 15 minutes and was replaced by 17-year-old Joe White, Bolton’s young shavers resisted.

Watching on from the stands the executives of the Football Ventures consortium, who seem to have been poised to complete their takeover for weeks, would have been impressed by the potential of both support and team. Though not offering a threat, Bolton made it to the break without Matthews having to make a serious save. One passage of play even prompted a chant of ‘It’s just like watching Brazil’ from the travelling hordes while half-time was greeted with a huge roar.

On a warm afternoon, with so many young players, and with others lacking a full pre-season, it was inevitable the team’s energy would fade. However, when the 56th-minute breakthrough came it was the comparatively experienced keeper Matthews who rushed from his goal to present QPR-loanee Paul Smyth with a simple chance. By the time Fred Onyedinma added a second in the 81st-minute, Bolton – now with five teenagers on the park – were running on empty. but however, with Matthews partially redeeming himself, the final score remained a respectable 2-0.

The fans also ran out of puff but had enough left for a final rousing chorus of “We love Bolton, we do”. Of that there was no doubt. Now they need owners who feel the same way.

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2019/aug/03/bolton-wanderers-league-one-wycombe-wanderers

T.R.O.Y


Andy Walker
Andy Walker
Agreed, good write up that I was going to post it myself.

How true a line this is, let’s hope FV can put Ken behind us and get us on the right track:

“Their destination was ironic: the Wanderers of Wycombe have a far slighter heritage and more modest ambition, but, being largely fan-owned, are free from an individual’s vanity, misjudgement and worse.”

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