Chim Chim Cher-ee, Chim Chim Cher-ee..
Date: Friday 11th May 2007Oh dear, that went a bit tits up didn’t it? Eight days after Carlos Tevez turned Wanderers inside out for a 3-1 win (Although I think you’ll agree, morally 1-1), the Trotters have their final chance to curtail our sleepless nights and secure UEFA cup football next season. All that needs to be done is complete the formality that is beating Villa at home, do the end of season lap of honour and rejoice in anticipation of dusting off our passports for trips to the darker corners of Eastern Europe. If only! Like buses, resurgent teams decked out in claret and blue seem to come in pairs these days. Having not lost since March 14th and with Martin O’Neill currently cradling a deserved manager of the month award, the brummies will be anything but a pushover mid-table side with nothing to play for. Undoubtedly, they’ll be champing at the bit to right the wrong that was Bolton’s one-nil win at Villa Park in December, a match which defined ‘smash and grab victory’. A rather unheralded factor in this has been their watertight defence of late. Having not conceded in their last three, and only four in their last eight, Mellberg and co have been instrumental in helping the Villains’ push for a top half finish. Anelka and Davies will have to be lethal if they want any change out of this backline. Worryingly, Villa also possess a key ingredient in abundance which has troubled Bolton defences for many a year – pace. Those of you lucky enough to see Agbonlahor run past Pedersen at will in the away fixture will not be pleased to hear that the lightning-fast Ashley Young has joined their ranks since January. Although the goal-machine-cum-left-back is now surplus to requirements at the Reebok, the fullbacks will have to be on the top of their games and the balls of their feet to deal with the quicksilver duo, ensuring the lanky Norwegian Carew can’t feast off their crosses. Yet despite all this, the glasses in Bolton aren’t all half-empty. The trip to Upton Park brought with it pearls of wisdom and hope to contrast the first half debacle. Sammy Lee realised the idea of Campo at right-back is about as appealing as waking up next to Margaret Thatcher, Vaz Te began to show the promise which brought him to the Premiership, and Sinclair held his own and then some for the last half hour. Apart from the Chelsea game, recent performances seem to reek of end-of-season jadedness, which could cost us a European place. Could adding the exuberance and confidence of youth to the starting eleven be the answer? Regardless of what little Sam does, what changes he rings or doesn’t, everyone this side of the M61 knows what is needed – three points means Europe is in the bag. Anything less and we would be relying on results elsewhere, which could be too much for one or two tickers out there. For all that has happened in the last few weeks, nothing should distract from the job the team has this Sunday. Determination, strength and skill have got us this far, and whether we show these qualities against Villa will go a long way to deciding our fate. So as the curtain closes on another rollercoaster season, raise a glass to a team who have battled for Champions League qualification and have traded blows in the top half of the table all season. Hopefully they’ll get their just reward. Good luck, boys!