Date: Friday 9th July 2010
With the most famous event in football once more beyond our English grasp, it's time to turn thoughts to more parochial matters and look at what Bolton expects from the 2010/11 season. More, Iím sure than our national heroes (I use the term in its loosest sense) delivered. Our prize might not be the pinnacle of English football, the Premier League title, but hopes must be more that improvement is the target and a return of our little northern establishment to a degree of respect in our chosen fighting pond.
When Lord Nelson raised his famous signal aboard the Victory, before attacking superior odds in the Battle of Trafalgar, he went in their at the head of his fleet prepared (and fully expecting) to die for his country. So did the men he led; not pampered, soft-living millionaires, but a collection of seamen, (many dragged from their homes and taverns by Press Gangs), infantrymen, men with limbs missing and even kids, some as young as 12, who served as powder monkeys in the gun ports during battle. Their only reward was a pittance wage and a possible share of any prize money from captured ships. For this, they risked death daily in the cause of King and Country. How different a scene from a bunch of cosseted sportsmen who risked nothing more than a possible period in the physio room whilst still living the life of playboys. Thankfully, our trio of local heroes, Lee, (exceptional) Shittu (tried) and Holden (less used) at least went down fighting showing some courage and ability in the face of adversity, a trait not shown to much advantage by the fleetmen of the good ship HMS Failure.
No English Admiral have we at Bolton then, to tell us what he expects, but a Scotsman and ex-hero of the club leading us into battle against the mercenary legions of mixed nationality that make up the Premiership. He takes up the task of leading the white-clad army, under the proud standard of BWFC, into battle with a mixed crew of soldiers that make up the football land of milk and honey. Some old faces, and hopefully, some new and quality ones, will do battle in the stadiums that now bear titles fit to enhance the image of what football is today; The Theatre of Dreams, Stadium of Light etc, etc, that once bore less exotic names and werenít business corporations rather than football grounds.
With one big-name target already in the bag in Petrov, a not so big one in Robbie Blake, a few off-loads and visions of the wannabe stars of tomorrow parking their gleaming steeds outside the Reebok, at least for a short while, hope springs eternal again with a 'to kill or not to kill' bracketed tag trailing from its standard. Owen Coyle hasnít fully convinced some yet that he is the way forward, but what he has done is to raise a little of that hope factor that goes along withÖ Bolton ExpectsÖ.
So what exactly do we expect? Personally, at least a fighting mid-table position, with just a few of those expectations that it might be our season to become a top-ten club and maybe reach Europe again. To go into the season with any less is somewhat pessimistic. Clubs are off-loading players and, if a few of them can lower their valuations of ego and lifestyle requirements of Baronial proportions, we may just get that side we need who have the guts to fight, and the right to wear the White shirt of Bolton Wanderers.
Not Nelson, his Victory and St George are we, more Nelson Square, the Victory Pub and St Georgeís Road, but if we donít produce more fight than our English shirt-wearing top-four wastrels under Uncle Fabio, Iíll never play my Dean Martin records again and swear never to set foot in Italy.