How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bolton…

There is nothing worse than a convert. Consequently, there is noting worse than me. I get it. I finally get Bolton. It might perhaps be a stretch to say that I love them, but my hard line campaign of loath has started to ebb.

Now, I am a follower of lower league football and as such am inherently miserable with my football viewing. Let me qualify even further, I am a follower of Scottish lower league football, so I am usually completely f*cking miserable. This affects what teams I support and follow in the “televised” leagues. I like to refer to them as plucky underachievers. This would go far in explaining my affection for Manchester City (though due in great part to my 1998 purchase of a sweet purple pinstripe ’92 City away jersey in a Help the Aged Charity shop).

All of this would lead one to think that I would have a space for Bolton. One would up until recently been very wrong.

The Allardyce era, to me, could have been best summed up with creaking continentals, a flashy African and Dean Holdsworth trotting down the field, out of breath, after just managing to pip a goal in a boring 1-0 victory over someone better. To date, the only real change is Kevin Davies replacing Dean Holdsworth. The other components may have changed in detail, but in essence they remain the same.

As a result, I have viewed them not as plucky underachievers, but dull overachievers. Nothing angers the lower league style of fan (read miserable) more than an overachieving and unfashionable team. Unfashionable teams should underachieve and consequently become slightly fashionable because of it. Everyone knows that.

That said, Bolton are obnoxiously effective and I am sold.

I am finally coming to grips with the fact that Bolton are not the Bradford/West Brom/Sunderland who pop up as an unknown quantity, route one their way to limited success, and then drop. Due to their previous presence in the Premier League, I was even willing to afford Bolton what Bradford has never enjoyed – yoyo status. Alas, no such luck.

What little affection I previously had came in the form of a respectful nod for beating Liverpool in their 1st season back up (see the Dean Holdsworth reference above). This respect was agonizingly beaten out of me with game after game of El-Hadji Diouf-won-set-pieces and Kevin-Davies-elbows. This with the bouncing curls of Ivan Campo lulling me into a coma, and Wanderers etched their name onto my bastard list.

What changed?

Just like one George Michael got me to listen without prejudice, my brother’s Bolton tolerance convinced me to actually them without the cloud of blind hatred. Turns out, they’re quite good.

There is a subtlety to their game that his hidden behind the Davies/Diouf Thug Life. It is actually a poor man’s version of what Arsenal had before they decided to play soprano – intelligent play with muscle. While there is certainly no the genius inherent to having a team with the Vieira, Bergkamp, et al., there is still a learned movement orchestrated by experienced and settled professionals.

I swear it’s actually pretty good. Next time you see Bolton play, and watch El-Hadji Diouf come from on offside position to screen the pass to a onside player allowing him to score (ala Anelka’s 1st goal against Man City last week), you too may be won over to the Allardyce’s Velvet Revolution.

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