A Fondness For Familiarity

The pros, cons and basic practicalities of the concept of modernity can be debated and challenged but the fundamental principles are relatively simple; the demand for change is constant. It can be slow or fast but, generally, the need to evolve is essential.

Football cannot and does not escape the concept.

Tactics, positions, the idea and practice of fandom, finances, laws, the entire functioning and principles of a club must adapt as time goes on. “Philosophies” for development on and off the pitch are espoused and often they are mis-represented or simply misunderstood. However, as mentioned, the fundamental principles are relatively simple; there must be a sustainable plan for growth and progression.

Sustainability for a football club comes in different forms; whether it be a dedication to recruiting players easily suited to a “high-press” on-the-pitch or the concept of “moneyball” off it; it is of imperative importance that club’s can plot their way to a thriving long-term future – not just stave off the inevitable ending of their existence.

And yet… there is something just so special about success being ever so slightly ugly. Forget the-off-field matters, we won’t know the success or otherwise of FV’s financial plan for a couple of years yet, let’s focus on Wanderers’ unbeaten run.

Twelve matches without defeat stretching back to mid-January and, if we were to be needlessly harsh; they’ve been properly outstanding in two. Wanderers have been both fortunate and unfortunate at times but there has possibly only been a couple of occasions where they have absolutely played teams off the pitch and been a level above.

This is not necessarily a criticism. It would be a bit freakish if a side managed to play at a level above their opposition on a consistent basis; the important thing is that Bolton have continued to have moments and spells, if not full performances, where they have been ruthless, relentless and simply just too good.

The midfield duo of Williams and Lee compliment a spine that would do well in the division above. There are several players in the line-up simply better than the division they are playing in.

What matters more is the continued development of Evatt’s style of play. A dominance in possession and ability to create regular openings and chances is that sort of aforementioned on-the-pitch sustainability. If the coach can create a framework that should work the same way regardless of the personnel then it can work regardless of potential transfer sales or unavailability. Of course, the level to which the tactical plan works is dependant on the quality of the personnel but the principles will remain the same.

However, arguably the most joyous part of the run is the unintentional but required diversions from the framework and the plan. Shaun Miller against Southend, Declan John against Mansfield, Gethin Jones against Port Vale, Eoin Doyle against Walsall… moments that weren’t clean, they didn’t go completely according to plan or come about via a specific formula and yet they have been some of, if not the, most important goals in this run.

Being a goal down at half-time at home to a mid-to-lower table side as you challenge for promotion in the middle of an impressive unbeaten run only for a second-half goal from your impressive mid-season midfield signing and a penalty from your cult-hero goal scorer.

The similarities between Northampton in 2016/17 and Walsall in 2020/21 are almost eerie. There were quite a few moments in that 16/17 spring run that can be compared to this current one. It is quite reassuring to reminisce as Evatt’s side begins to reflect Parkinson’s – who’d have thought that would be said six months ago?

Different styles, different methods – same feelings, same results.

If you were a betting man and tried to analyse the upcoming League Two fixtures as objectively as you could, there would have to be concerns over Bolton. Not just for the notion of the gambler’s fallacy but also for the minor deterioration in performance level.

Having said that, though, there is something heartening about supporting a team that is consistently providing evidence for a cliché: “the best teams always find a way.”

It is important to remember: “it’s a cliché because there is some truth to it”.

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