The Resurgent Recovery of Santos & Sarce

Bank Top Tap, Astley Bridge, Bolton:

18.24… @bwfc123411: He should be dropped, though. If me and you played like he has then Oxford Grove would drop us, let alone Bolton.

Holker Street, Parkside, Barrow:

20.59… @OfficialBWFC: All over in Cumbria. A late strike from the skipper earns Ian Evatt’s men a point on the road.

That late strike at Barrow to equalise would be replicated on two further occasions in late October and early November against Cambridge and Mansfield.

Not only can Bolton boast a midfield dynamo that would compliment and/or improve any side in the division going forward, they also enhance their passing style with the ability to effectively and quickly play through the proverbial thirds.

He receives it off the defence, plays through midfield and attacks the space going forward. His drive and ambition as well as a strong technical ability is crucial and fundamental to any success that Bolton will have this season.

There is a distinctive attitude of positivity, flair and aggression that emanates from Sarcevic’s play. The forward-thinking and innovative style that Evatt imposes is reliant on Sarcevic’s performance.

However, an undoubtedly slow start to the season meant that a few Wanderers supporters on Twitter saw it as fair practice to bombard his account with abuse about his technical qualities, fitness and mentality leading their captain to temporarily de-activate his account.

The pre-Barrow views of @bwfc123411 were shared by many and, although an over-exaggeration of the point, they did have substance.

Barrow came three days after a performance at home to Oldham that was overwhelmed with lethargy and inaccuracy across the team – most of all our marquee signing in midfield. The fan fare and excitement of his arrival hadn’t yet been justified.

It took five appearances for Sarcevic to end up fulfilling his role of being key in the construction and culmination of Bolton’s play. That is a bit longer than everybody would’ve liked, including himself, but the dismissal of him as a player, by many, now looks even worse in hindsight.

This rambling isn’t just an excuse to have a needless dig at @bwfc123411 (is a bit). His judgement of Sarcevic, at the time, was reasonable and reflected the views of quite a lot of Bolton fans.

However, over the top and rushed social media criticisms of individual players has been a theme of the BWFC hashtag for a long time – as it is any fan base. Earlier on in the season, that ire was directed at Ricardo Santos.

Santos played one game, in which Bolton conceded one goal to a long-range strike, before he was lambasted and dismissed as a useless addition. In his second game at Colchester, he was excellent for 44 minutes but a couple of lapses from a few, not just himself, allowed that performance to also be written off. In his third match, he was shifted into the middle and played quite well but Wanderers lost 2-0 so that didn’t matter.

Bolton then went away to Harrogate. Santos made two direct first-half runs through the middle of the pitch. The comfort on the ball and assured decision-making highlighted some marked improvements on the opening month of the season. Since that day, it isn’t unreasonable to suggest he could be the best defender in the league.

Yet, once again, criticisms of his early performances were justifiable. Baptiste in the middle and Santos on the right always looked to be the wrong way around and those games proved it. His role on the right negated his ability to defend one-on-one with the striker which, as we’ve now seen, is impeccable as well as meaning the space he must fill going forward is different and evidently more unnatural for him.

Those criticisms of his early performances, though, never acknowledged the potential for improvements or offered suggestions on how he can or will play better. Like Sarcevic, it was a one-sided mockery and abuse of him.

As I say, this rambling isn’t an excuse to have needless digs nor come across as an arrogant, know-it-all because I never proclaimed nor whole-heartedly trusted that Santos and Sarcevic will come good – and it is too early just yet to say they absolutely have come good.

This rambling is intended to emphasise how impressive the turnaround from both players has been; mentally as well as on the pitch. This is a bigger club with a bigger fan base than either have played for before, they both joined with the manager and fans excitedly assuming these two will be stalwarts in a side that would not only challenge for promotion but annihilate the division.

Within about 270 minutes of football each, in a team literally full of new signings and having not played football in six months, they were both written off by groups of their own supporters. However small those groups may be, they were still way too big, way too hasty and way too sinister in their critiquing.

The mental capacity to put that to the side and start to not only positively contribute but really start dominating in their performances is a testament to both of them.

Things might not improve from here – they might even get worse again. If this is to be the case, I would hope that the impatience and rush to denigrate that permeates throughout footballing discourse will at least be learned from and deemed to be below us in Bolton.

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