Nothing stirs up the terrace emotion quite like seeing one of their own out there on the pitch.
If part of football’s thrill is escapism on a Saturday afternoon, then there is surely nothing better than knowing that a young lad with local roots is out there living your dream.
From Nat Lofthouse, through Franny Lee, Jimmy Phillips, Julian Darby and Nicky Hunt, to Harry Brockbank, Bolton supporters have always handed out special praise – and sometimes, criticism – for the ones they call “their own”.
That loyalty can often give a young player the best possible start to life in the professional ranks; picture Zach Clough celebrating in front of a packed stand after scoring on his debut against Wigan Athletic, or the Junior Whites taking a lap of honour after that wonderful result against Coventry City.
But does it also cloud judgement?
Reaction to Dennis Politic and Ronan Darcy leaving Wanderers on loan has been extreme as the story unfolded in the past few days, Politic – back this pre-season after a year out of the game through injury – has joined League Two Port Vale for the season.
Darcy – whose last first team appearance was in December – will spread his wings to join Norwegian club Sogndal until December.
The wisdom of both decisions has been questioned widely among the Wanderers fanbase, albeit the fervour died down somewhat after it was revealed both players had also been offered contract extensions before leaving the club.
Debate continues in some quarters as to whether Politic and Darcy have been unfairly overlooked by Ian Evatt. How, for example, could two players who featured so often in the club’s last League One campaign now be shuffled so far down the pack?
Only time will tell if Evatt’s team is as successful as he believes it can be – but there can be little argument that after 12 months together it is more cohesive than the piecemeal squad which was hurriedly collected by Keith Hill in the final 48 hours of the summer transfer window in 2019.
As such, it would be a huge shock to see Bolton struggling at the foot of the table, as Hill’s side were destined to do back then.
Politic, Darcy, Matt Alexander and Adam Senior are near-enough the only survivors of a group of young players who will forever be held in high regard by the fanbase. They were rightly put on a pedestal for coming to the club’s aid at a desperate time but when normality resumed, so did the cold, hard business of football. They once again had to prove they were better than the rest to get a game.
Hill had frequently voiced that the players he had accelerated to first team status had been rushed. Evatt has also broached the subject when Darcy’s exclusion from first team duties was often questioned in the first half of last season.
Politic’s horrendous knee injury last summer probably deprived him of the chance to prove to Evatt that he was first team worthy straight away. Had he been able to blood into Evatt’s system in League Two, we would have known much sooner what his future holds.
Now he has to treat the next eight months with Port Vale with the same attitude he showed at Salford City – his first loan away from Bolton.
Folk at Moor Lane were impressed by Politic in a team which won promotion from the National League and only an injury prevented him from being a major part of the team right to the very end.
There have been optimistic sounds made within the Bolton camp over Politic’s contract extension but until it is actually signed, you can understand some of the nervousness which exists among the supporters.
If all goes well and the winger uses this loan effectively, though, Bolton could welcome back a stronger, fitter and more mature Dennis Politic next summer, and one able to make a real claim to Evatt for first team inclusion.
Likewise, Darcy, whose pre-season performances had showed a renewed energy and enthusiasm. If he nails his loan at Sogndal and returns to the UK with 20 games under his belt, there will be a big decision for his manager to make in December.
He has already signed a year extension to his contract, settling a few nerves, and indicated that he felt a loan move was the right thing for him at this moment in his career.
Sitting, waiting for first team appearances in the cup competitions or for a fleeting chance in the league would surely have been detrimental?
So too would waiting for the reserve team league to sort itself, with Bolton's schedule yet to be confirmed. Both Darcy and Politic are beyond that point now.
This won’t be out of sight, out of mind. Wanderers fans would never allow that to be the case. Plenty will be keeping their eye on events in the Norwegian second tier between now and the end of the year.
Most importantly, both players will have a chance to come back into the fold, older, wiser and stronger.
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