“Patience is bitter but its fruit is sweet.” – Aristotle
Yes, the use of a quote from a Greek philosopher with the intention of relating it to a preview of Bolton’s League Two campaign is both needlessly pretentious and, at best, incredibly tenuous.
There are understandable reasons to rail against the idea of being patient. One being the frankly irrelevant notion that Bolton are “the biggest club” in the league alongside the potentially misleading early summer recruitment could allow many supporters, including myself, to view immediate success and a comfortable promotion as a formality.
The demands and expectations are high and with good reason. The reasons for excitement have been well-documented and I’ve explained the deeper sense of anticipation here: https://theburndenway.org/2020/08/02/this-is-only-the-beginning/ & here: https://theburndenway.org/2020/08/26/supera-moras/
There’s always a but…
“Teething problems”, “needs to gel”, “still figuring each other out” are a few of the too many cliché’s that try and excuse slow starts from underperforming teams. And yet, as ever, they have a truth to them.
A side with 17 signings, 6 of which have a combined total of 9 EFL appearances, and a manager who has never had a full season coaching in a fully professional league should be allowed at least: “some time”.
For example, even Evatt’s own Barrow desperately struggled at the beginning of last season. A tally of just 7 points from their opening 9 games left them languishing towards the bottom of the table before a 7 game winning streak halted that slide. Barrow then went on to lose just 3 of their remaining 21 matches as they were crowned National League champions.
If there was to be a similar scenario at the UniBol then Bolton might not kick into gear until late-October or early-November.
The reasons for this can be explained through a tactical adjustment as Evatt switched from a 4-3-3 to a 3-5-2 which better suited the players. I don’t think a tactical switch is something Wanderers should expect this season as the recruitment has been geared around the 3-5-2 system and therefore the ease to which players will feel comfortable with it should be quicker than Barrow; especially given the higher overall level of the players.
Another reason could be the rewards of the extremely intense and complex methods during pre-season; both physically and mentally. The much discussed extra sessions throughout the summer were shown as Barrow hoovered up points during the winter as well as the continued understanding and implementation of Evatt’s “non-negotiables”.
These delays and slow starts for heavily favoured sides are quite common. Famously, Chris Wilder’s first three league games in charge of Sheffield United were defeats that left The Blades bottom of League One. They went onto win the division and finished in the top half of the Premier League within 3 seasons.
This call/plea for some form of fandom-mindfulness is not to criticise supporters but to ask for extra perspective as Wanderers head into a season, at last, with genuinely hardcore optimism.
We’ve waited almost a decade, probably longer, for some structure and competence combined with a plan to improve and a desire for dominance; we can allow it to take shape for a few extra weeks or months.
Two friendly defeats and two cup defeats with 17 debutants shouldn’t be reason to toss that all in the bin or even alter the overall season’s expectations.
Bolton have recruited quickly, cleverly and in a very organised yet exciting manner. There have been functions and processes put in place off the pitch to allow the club to thrive on the pitch. The well-documented complexities and details of Evatt’s style and philosophy will always take time.
Having said all of this, there are no suggestions of it being accepted as a “transitional season”. Evatt himself has insisted he believes Bolton is and will be the best team in the league. I, for one, believe him and agree with him… but good things come to those who wait.