Not with a bang but a whimper.
T.S. Elliott - The Hollow Men
Have you ever had that dream where you are falling and you jump out of your sleep, sweating and breathing heavily, yet relieved that although you are in the dark, you are safe in bed? Supporting Bolton Wanderers is a lot like that at the moment, but I cannot seem to wake up. Firstly, no matter how much we do over the summer: the tours to Scandinavia, team bonding exercises, snapping up those few players we can actually afford in the hopes that they will prove to be the missing piece of the jigsaw and trialling players we cannot and releasing the latest snappy kits to give the illusion that we are really trying to do well as a club, we never seem to really start putting decent efforts in until we are well and truly neck deep in the sticky brown stuff I have mentioned here before.
Whenever we manage a win, there is a feeling of mild optimism that we may turning the mythical corner only for reality to smack us hard in the face. This time we were "happy as Larry" to quote Dean Moxey, to see Joe Mason score the first hat-trick many Wanderers fans have seen (I include myself in this number, being a relatively new convert to the art of self-flagellation that is supporting the Whites) and although it was only a win against the mighty Rotherham, happy as Larry we were.
Further cheerful news in the signings of Max & Paddy prior to the clash of the Wanderers led many to exercise guarded optimism that we may have begun the long awaited upturn in fortunes that we were sure must happen soon. So much for that idea. All the positive play and effort we displayed for half of the allotted 90 minutes failed to disguise that this team is lacking in confidence and in some cases, ability. The fact that we won a penalty and on-loan midfielder Garvan 'grabbed the ball' and missed with not one but two bites of the cherry, tells its own story.
Young striker Max Clayton who has been coveted by a number of teams including Sunderland in the Barclays Premier League (thanks, Owen!), has been eyed in the past by teams such as Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal and has represented England regularly in the various age-group teams. While our record with England age-group strikers is not exactly noteworthy, (cough)Sordell(cough), it is encouraging that the requisite backing was obtained to bring him in on a three year deal. It is hoped that this time, a player with promise and potential that is brought in, will benefit the club substantially while here and in the event of his departure.
The recent photograph of Club captain Jay Spearing 'partying like a rockstar' in Ibiza, resulted in heated debate in many quarters. For the most part, it was felt that young Spearing would have been better served leading the troops in extra sessions designed to improve the results on the pitch , rather than not seeming to care when he is off it. The truth is, however, that not many professionals take their work home with them.
Tottenham defender Benoît Assou-Ekotto probably said it best in his famous interview in 2010. To him, football is little more than a job and the driving force has always been the money. "If I play football with my friends back in France, I can love football," he says. "But if I come to England, where I knew nobody and I didn't speak English … why did I come here? For a job. A career is only 10, 15 years. It's only a job. Yes, it's a good, good job and I don't say that I hate football but it's not my passion."
Why then should Liverpudlian Spearing be expected to have the same passion for Bolton Wanderers as those who were born supporting the club and lunatics like myself who chose the club and support from afar? The fact is, while you and I would suit up in the famous white shirt in an instant and give our all on the pitch (and probably do at least as good a job as some - but that's a different topic), the reality is that for many, football is simply a job that ends after the match or after training each day.
The major problem that faces Dougie Freedman - apart from finances - is in getting the players to give a damn and to demonstrate this on the pitch for 90 minutes, and for every game. Doug himself, however, is known for being quite emotionless and clinical in his demeanor and if he doesn't look as if he really gives a damn, we can hardly expect the players to. This is why many have been calling for a former player and fans favourite, Ivan Campo to take the reins. Indeed, Campo threw his hat into the ring via twitter and who can forget his impassioned letter to the fans after he left the club? Something needs to change - and fast, as this sensation of vertigo makes it difficult for me to type...