Date: Friday 9th September 2011
It is one of the folkloric truths that Man Utd start a season badly, taking a few months to get going before accelerating past Christmas and through to claiming the title in the run-in. Bolton fixtures are usually arranged to coincide with their getting their arses into gear. The publication of this year's fixture list, however, offered us an early encounter, for once in our lives giving us the chance to play them when they are traditionally still half-asleep, thus, in theory, giving us half a chance. Of course, it would be this season that Man Utd decide to tear up the book of folkloric tales and get off to a blinder - knocking no less than eight goals past a hapless Arsenal and taking maximum points from their opening games.
This fixture also arrives after quite a long break, and (intriguingly) is the first since the closure of the transfer window. There are new faces in the Bolton camp and nobody but Coyle knows whether the intention is an immediate radical overhaul of our striking options, or a pick-'em-until-they-are-so-crap-that-they-drop-themselves policy. Of course, droppage would be harsh on goal-a-game Klasnic, who was challenged by the manager pre-season to up his fitness and his game and has delivered, but Ngog is Coyle's most expensive signing and I would not be surprised to see Klasnic make way.
Many would argue that with some question marks still hanging over David de Gea and his confidence under examination, then Kevin Davies is an obvious pick - and he is Captain. But, even if Alex Ferguson is a purple-nosed carbuncle on the arse of football, he's not stupid, and will be well aware of the threat that Cyril can carry and will have moved to nullify it - either by chatting to the referee, or chatting to the referee. A Cyril who is given no leeway by the ref and penalised every time he comes close to another player is deadweight, and we have no room for passengers.
Bolton boast no fewer than six players in the possible starting lineup (OK - Blake is stretching it a bit!) who have scored against Man Utd. and we are averaging over two goals a game this season. With a large posse of midfield options, and assuming he is not yet ready to abandon 4-4-2, Coyle will have to do some thoughtful shuffling of the pack to ensure adequate protection for a leaky back four whilst not losing service to our front-runners. At the back, many hope that Boyata will oust Steinsson and many will hide behind the sofa as Luís Carlos Almeida da Cunha runs towards Paul Peter Robinson (personally I'd stick Ricardo back there where he belongs.)
Tuncay will be hoping for more than a five minute cameo, and I suspect Dratley and Mavies will join him and Kakuta on the bench as Coyle has started all three opening fixtures with Petrov, NRC, Muamba and Eagles - clearly his favoured lineup in the absence of Lee and Stuey.
It is rumoured that Hernandez will start for Man Utd - but, does it really matter? The much-maligned Knight and the recently beatified Cahill will have to be on their toes whoever they pick.
For some Bolton fans, this is the first fixture they look for - they eagerly await it, fingers crossed and lucky pants freshly ironed. Others, jaded by too many shattered dreams, scan the fixture list hoping that by some bizarre chance it has accidentally been left off and a new Premier League rule dictates that any fixture inadvertently left off the list will result in a draw. There is always the chance though - one that these days doesn't come very often - but surely it's what fans live for - the chance, the possibility, the hope against hope that this might actually be the day....
Nahhh... another dicking on the cards. I'm off to hide under the bed until Sunday afternoon.