Both Things Can Be True

It was roughly half seven and it lasted for about, roughly, five or so minutes.

Bolton Wanderers slipped to 20th in League Two.

The sentence itself is crazy to be actual words on an actual screen.

The previous sentence itself is crazy because of its repetition; bewilderment at Bolton’s current status and stature has become so much of a cliché that it becomes something to rally against.

Why are you bothered? What does expressing your frustration achieve? When will people realise the current predicament? Who expected anything different? How could we possibly be doing any better?

Partially true, albeit the word ‘partially’ is doing a lot of heavy lifting in the context of this situation.

I do not care if you are pro or anti Evatt and I do not care if you believe patience is warranted or not. I do not care if you believe people are buying into the idea of a “big club” in a “small league” and I do not care if you are offended at or in support of being told that Wanderers fans are “living in the past”.

It is quite simple; Bolton Wanderers, even with the current squad, should not be in a relegation battle into the National League – it is either mockery or apathy to suggest otherwise.

The causes for concern are evident and relatively long-lasting; an opening month of three straight league defeats resulting in scoreless afternoons were a bit of a wake-up call but, admittedly, two of those three defeats came against strong fourth tier outfits.

The cause for concern has grown as October continued to underwhelm before December failed to back up an impressive November; until you realise that the impressive November, which included four wins on the spin, consisted of two wins against, arguably, two of the worst form sides in EFL history at the time and another against the, then, 22nd placed side in the table.

Anger, resentment, confusion and frustration has not subsided and now, with less than half the season to go, Bolton Wanderers face the legitimate prospect of dealing with a third successive relegation.

However, the previous seasons of chaos and crime have allowed Mr Evatt and Football Ventures an extended period of grace and decorum – and, obviously, rightly so.

The years prior to this one have been devastating. A community has been all but decimated; it’s been battered, bruised and bombarded with crippling uncertainty about its very life – it is only reasonable to allow an adjustment period.

Especially when that adjustment period has involved the recruitment of a whole new squads worth of players; players that the manager is making quite clear were, in the majority, not his decision to sign as well as the general teething issues of new ownership and management; for any business, this is a historic and fairly unusual upheaval.

The style of play is definitely laudable and absolutely admirable; the implementation of such structure must be understood and appreciated. Automatic patterns of play of a sophisticated level will take time, especially working with League Two players. Relationships between players will take time, especially in a pandemic-enforced social lockdown. Some results have been good and elements of some performances are encouraging for the long-term. An extra season attempting to adopt this system is reasonable and fair; especially when you consider Evatt’s title-winning season at Barrow came on the back of a season of ‘bedding in’ at Holker Street.

Having said that, expectations are understandably high. Perhaps holding every interview against Mr Evatt is unfair. Word-for-word, people make mistakes and even the idea or suggestion that somebody is trying to convey can be proved to be incorrect; so, therefore, repeatedly bringing up the current manager’s pre-season bluff and bluster (some may call unsubstantiated arrogance) with regards to Bolton being inevitably fighting for promotion is harsh.

However, it is the principle that counts. The refusal to acknowledge the mistake is what grates on supporters. Fairly early on in his tenure, in October, he began to accept that a tempering of expectations was needed.

There was no apology for nor mention of his own part in the building up of those expectations and until that happens, fans will continue to side against him when he suggests that over-confidence in the fan-base is a key issue for under-performance.

When you are a new manager and you haven’t yet been introduced to the supporters in-stadium, it is best to not criticise their forms of fandom on a semi-regular basis.

A season at Barrow, in which the full fixture calendar was not completed, is not and should not be enough to convince people of his long-term qualities as a manager. Scrutiny is imperative. The alternative is an apathetic fantasy and, then, over-positivity creeps in allowing poor performance to be excused and unnoticed.

Ian Evatt shouldn’t be sacked, unless of course Wanderers went down (and even then there is reason for debate).

Ian Evatt, however, must be criticised. He is under-performing as coach/manager of a set of players. Forget the name and forget the situation; 19th is ridiculous. Even if promotion and the playoffs were a stretch; mid-table should not currently be dreamland for Bolton supporters.

Things may change and things will probably, almost undoubtedly, improve.

Our current position is both totally unacceptable and, yet, not the end of the world – both things can be true.

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