It’s a gloomy Autumn afternoon. The smell and sound of on-pitch fireworks overwhelm the young, excite the bulk and irritate the old. 633 Squadron cuts through the mist as the cult-hero boy-to-man leader thumps a mascot’s ball to the corner where North meets East. This is it: the glory days.
A decade of perpetual chaos has ensured those glory days are a thing of nostalgic bliss and wonder. A decade that could only lead us to one place: our first season in the fourth tier in over 30 years; only our second season in the fourth tier ever.
Intentional neglect, natural erosion and a failure to adapt has allowed a proud institution to rely on a fragile life-support for almost 10 years now. We didn’t just fade away, we collapsed into almost nothing but dust.
This club has been weak and vulnerable for too long. The weak and vulnerable can get better, they can get stronger. There has been enough suffering now. The club is on the mend.
With the first full season of the new decade only a month away, Bolton Wanderers has been acting rather differently to its recent few years. An ambitious ownership, an organised structure, a recognisable recruitment policy as well as the appointment of what seems to be an extremely impressive leader has emphasised one thing: it is a new era.
The lack of a more scientific & data-led approach had began to cripple Bolton, the financial mismanagement and actions of one man eventually finished that job.
It is reasonable to suggest that this is the most anticipated and most exciting pre-season since, maybe, those glory days. There is a relationship being rebuilt between the club and the supporters. There is that unknown and unquantifiable feeling of sheer possibility. Who knows what the ceiling is? Who knows what the peak is?
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be intending to write something every week in the build-up to 2020/21. I set up The Burnden Way in the summer of 2015. Since then, the only season in which we haven’t been promoted or relegated involved an 86th minute equaliser and 88th minute winner on the final day to avoid relegation. It’s never dull.
Be cautious for now but… the sorrowful hostility and volatility of recent years might just be over. Bolton Wanderers are on the way back.