We were young and we knew
And our eyes were alive
Deep inside we knew our love was true
Somethin' happened along the way
What used to be happy was sad
Somethin' happened along the way
And yesterday was all we had"
Earth, Wind & Fire - 1979
Usually, around this time each year, Bolton fans are eagerly anticipating the start of the new season. Some view this time with a fair amount of trepidation and others are busy preparing their bedsheets with the usual "[insert current Manager's name here] Out!" messages. This summer has so far proven less tedious than usual, what with all the excitement in Brazil. The World Cup came and went in a hotbed of goals, diving and injuries. Stars rose and dimmed and big names had their last appearance in a World Cup Finals - some with a whimper and others with a bang.
With the beautiful Brazillian sunset having fallen on Germany's 4th World Cup title, attentions have returned to the League footy - and in our case, our latest attempt to leave the Championship for a return to the Promised Land that is the Premier League. With every season spent in the Championship, it becomes more difficult to successfully return to the Premiership. Agents whisper in the ear of so-called "Premier League quality" players, promising them the lure of playing with and against some of the brightest talents the world has to offer and the delights that follow.
The stark reality, however, is that the average Championship club cannot afford to pay Premiership wages. This results in big names leaving for greener pastures or being released in an attempt to cut costs and young and supposedly lesser players taking their place. The quality of players you can attract then begins to fall - followed by a reduction in quality football, smaller gates and even less revenue to buy players. Somewhat akin to a Catch-22, but with a gradual overall decline.
Situations such as these can lead the less hardened fan among us to jump ship - even for more attractive lower league football (Chorley, anyone?) or to give up and pick a Top 6 club to "have always been a fan of". The question was recently put before me - "What Would Stop You Supporting BWFC?". The easy response would be nothing. Why is this so, though? People pledge to love, honour and obey 'til death do us part and get a divorce two years later, swearing to hate, disgrace and avoid. Family disagreements make siblings turn their backs on each other for several years. What then is this magical connection that makes Bolton fans suffer along with the club year after year?
If you had a job that paid marginally better than unemplyment and gave you grief on a weekly basis, and a better job that paid handsomely was available in a neighbouring town, wouldn't any self-respecting individual pack it in and go off in search of a better life? It's fine if you support a small club that routinely butts horns with the big boys of the Premiership as we did a few years ago - but when you struggle to defeat the mighty Doncaster Rovers and loan players from Millwall, isn't there something dreadfully wrong?
Is supporting Bolton becoming a chore? Something we do because "we've always done it"? Clearly that's not a good reason to do anything - but here we are. Has the love gone? What happens next? I can't speak for you, my fellow long-suffering fan - but if Bolton does not qualify for the Premiership this coming season, I'll be here next year spouting truisms and grasping unto the smallest sliver of hope that this next season will be the season it all comes good. (Sigh...)