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Why Bolton could complete a 'silent promotion' from League Two

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse

After a whole season spent playing in an empty stadium it seems a crying shame that Wanderers will have to keep quiet on potentially the biggest day of them all.

Football’s social media blackout this weekend means that official club channels will fall silent on Saturday as Bolton look to secure promotion to League One.

A coalition of English football's largest governing bodies and organisations, including the Football Association, Premier League and EFL, revealed last weekend they would suspend all social media activity in a show of solidarity against racism.

Wanderers’ official website will continue to post articles but platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Tik-Tok will be turned off until Monday.

There is a certain sense of irony that the blackout should come at the moment Bolton could be engaging most with its supporters, the pinnacle of a season where the long-distance relationship has been the only option.

Ian Evatt has yet to take charge of a game in front of his own fans and it seems entirely possible that some of the Bolton squad who have featured through the League Two journey may depart this summer having never sampled the unique atmosphere of matchday at the University of Bolton Stadium.

As the old saying goes, however, absence has made the heart grow fonder. Regardless of what happens in the next two weekends, and possibly beyond, the appetite to come back and watch Wanderers in action appears alive and well once restrictions are removed.

The scenes at Morecambe last weekend showed just how much the interactivity between club and support had been missed. The image of just a couple of hundred supporters kept at a safe distance and saluted from afar was enough to warm the heart of thousands more back at home.

This weekend presents a moral quandary for the club, who in normal circumstances could have been expecting a crowd of circa 20,000, similar to that which poured on to the pitch in their last promotion from League One in 2017 on that sun-kissed afternoon against Peterborough United.

The message conveyed yesterday from the official website asked fans politely to ‘stay at home’ but the response from social media indicated many people were preparing to do quite the opposite.

Peterborough United faced similar issues on Tuesday night as they faced Doncaster Rovers in League One knowing promotion was a possibility. Around 200 supporters ignored advice to stay away from London Road, letting off flares outside the stadium, with police doing what they could to calm the situation.

The football ended up dampening spirits for them, with the Posh losing a two-goal lead to ensure their celebrations would have to wait at least until the weekend.

At Bolton, local police appear to have signalled their intent by securing a dispersal order in the Horwich locality.

Club officials had little knowledge of the plan when they issued their communication on Wednesday morning and inside the camp it is hoped that the occasion will pass off safely for all concerned.

At Cheltenham, who secured their promotion to League One with a 1-1 draw against Carlisle United, around 100 supporters had a socially distanced ‘car park party’ with the players and coaching staff.

Wanderers would obviously be operating on a different scale and the club has understandably had to give no incentive to supporters to congregate outside the ground, potentially breaking any Covid guidelines.

Suggestions such as a ‘drive in’ for supporters in cars, or a ‘giant beer garden’ arranged on the land around the hotel and stadium were also impossible – both on safety grounds and the fact it contravenes the existing broadcasting agreement with the EFL and major TV companies.

Rather, the fans may have to celebrate a promotion the old-fashioned way.

The Bolton News will be bringing a full Matchday Live service, as normal, plus exhaustive post-match coverage, whatever the result.

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