Bolton maintain early season form

With the recent 1-1 draw against Middlesborough, Sam Allardyce’s Bolton side further consolidated their surprising early season form in the Premiership.

With the Bolton board awarding their manager a £35,000-a-week five-year contract last month it looks as though the club from the north-west are now stabilised in the land’s top division.
Such a progression seemed unthinkable after two failed attempts to return to the Premiership after the agonising relegation suffered on the last day of the 1998 season.

But Allardyce has put these problems behind him and only has Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton ahead of him in the quest for the title this season.

Such an achievement should inspire the similar underdog enthusiasm that was prominent when the crazy gang were charging their way through the divisions.

However, the football world only has contempt for Allardyce’s and his men.

Graeme Souness and Harry Redknapp have both suggested how Bolton’s dour tactics have a detrimental effect on football.

Even the club’s sponsor Teamcard has got into the act by establishing the slogan that it's "lowering the price of football".

Many agree with the doubters as Bolton’s performance on Sunday epitomised everything that’s bad in football. They endorsed a 4-5-1 formation in the hope of not conceding and did everything in their capabilities to keep the game tight.

They protested every decision, kicked the ball away and openly gesticulated that referee Peter Walton show as many yellow cards as possible.

The spine of their team is made up of players who should don weightlifting boots rather than football boots.

Centre backs Bruno N’Gotty and Radhi Jaidi just punt balls forward to Kevin Davies whose sole purpose is to win as many headers and free kicks as possible.

What makes these tactics even worse is that Allardyce has one of the Premiership’s most gifted players at his disposal.

Jay-Jay Okocha has won notoriety all around the league with his breathtaking skills and deft flicks but he is principally used by Bolton for throwing the ball into the area from the touchline. Can you imagine if such a talent was playing at Old Trafford or Highbury, where he would be alongside players who understood more than how to flick the ball on?

But how are they different to the Wimbledon side who bullied their way through English football, I hear you ask. The primary reason for the Dons’ success was that the group of players knew they played ugly and were proud of it.

Year after year, manager Joe Kinnear would add homegrown players to his "crazy gang" who settled into the environment effortlessly.

In contrast, Allardyce stunts all possibilities of the crazy gang mentality by bringing in ageing players from overseas who are in search of a nice payoff before retirement.

Ivan Campo, Fernando Hierro and Youri Djorkaeff have all been acquired on a free transfer and have kept the youth of Bolton rotting in the reserves.

Everything about Bolton’s rise through English football has been ugly and now many hope for the sake of football that their despicable run comes to an end at the same pace that it has commenced.