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Bolton Nuts » BWFC » Bolton Wanderers News » "Everybody tells me this is impossible" Keith Hill on Wanderers' survival battle

"Everybody tells me this is impossible" Keith Hill on Wanderers' survival battle

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Think Wimbledon, think the Crazy Gang beating the Culture Club, the dressing room hi-jinx, the tunnel intimidation.

Though the latest incarnation lacks the same cache as the Dons side that rattled cages for a decade in the top flight in the late eighties and early nineties, it is the same camaraderie that Keith Hill believes could keep them in League One this season.

Tomorrow’s opponents have already sampled their fair share of problems this season – manager Wally Downes unceremoniously stripped of his job after being found guilty of betting offences by the Football Association, and the long-running battle to build on their spiritual home of Plough Lane running into financial roadblocks.

Nevertheless, Hill is wary of a group of players who continue to punch above their weight in the same way as their predecessors.

“Last season everybody had them cut and dried relegated, they were 12-16 points adrift,” he told The Bolton News. “They did superbly in the end, achieved something that everyone told them they couldn’t do.

“Wally Downes and Glynn Hodges have developed a great camaraderie there, the old Wimbledon attitude, and they have kept themselves afloat in League One, which is what they will want again this season.

“Yes, it hasn’t been a great start for them but they are very, very competitive and I expect a really tough game.

“Every week is tough for us at the minute with the dilemmas we’re facing, what I am asking the players to do, there are a lot of unseen problems – but we’re embracing it.”

Wanderers are now in a similar boat, chasing safety against the odds with few giving them a chance of playing League One football next season.

A 12-point deduction for going into administration, added to the lingering threat of extra punishment triggered by the EFL’s appeal against a suspended five-point penalty for failing to fulfil fixtures is ample ammunition for people who believe Wanderers’ race is already run this season.

Unsurprisingly, Hill does not count himself among that number.

“We have got 29 games left to make that up and we’ll be trying everything we possibly can,” he said. “I think we need to get to 50 points and that’s promotion form.

“There’s nobody who isn’t catchable with the games we have got left, and I include mid-table teams in that. Last season, for example, Plymouth were pushing to get into the play-offs and then ended up going on to one of those runs that you can’t explain, can’t see coming, can’t deal with it. You become ingrained in a losing mentality.

“I am looking beyond AFC Wimbledon, beyond Southend, I am looking to the mid-table sides and say ‘I want to catch them’.

“Every single person I spoke to in football told me ‘just plan for promotion next season in League Two’ but I won’t accept that, nor will my players.

“That is what is driving us on through good times, bad and indifferent. We are trying to achieve something that everybody – and I know a lot of people in this game – thinks is impossible.”

Plenty has been said and written about Wanderers’ last outing 13 days ago, a 7-1 hammering at Accrington which felt incongruous with the improvement that had been made to that point under Hill.

The manager has already expressed his view that there would be no lasting damage but as he readies his side for their next 90 minutes, he urged fans to consider how far his squad have come in the last few months.

“If I have an argument, a few minutes later I’ve moved on,” he said. “This group of players have done a ridiculous amount of work in 12 weeks. I almost feel sorry for them because they have been pushing uphill. It’s a massive task.

“They need a little bit of help, really, because we are down to bare bones.

“That pursuit of getting into positive points, they have given absolutely everything to it, and one thing I have learned is to forgive quickly.

“There are worse things in life that have happened to me that getting beat at Accrington. I will be getting on with it – it’s just a game.”


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