The Wanderers continue their pre-season tour of Scotland this evening with a trip to Falkirk: home of Roman Walls, a rotating boat lift, and the 9,200 capacity (imaginatively named) Falkirk Stadium.
I need not remind you well-informed readers of The Men In White blog that Bolton’s last game north of the border saw the Whites put to the sword, 2-0, by the mighty Hamilton Academical. I also don’t need to tell you that for a team that spent the last 11 years in England’s top flight, losing 2-0 to a team that finished 4th in Scotland’s first division last year is not something you shout too loudly about.
However, it opens the oldest pre-season debate of all time. Do the results of friendlies really mean anything?
For me, they sort of do. I, along with fellow Man in White Geoff, took the frankly unfathomable decision to follow the Whites to Germany and the Netherlands in the pre-season of 2009. It was a thinly veiled excuse to sample the beers of Belgium en route, along with the best Dutch and German offerings, but nonetheless, we forked out a bit of cash, and did our best to drum up an atmosphere with the 13 other Trotters’ fans who had made the journey.
We witnessed some key moments: debuts for Zat Knight and Sam Ricketts as the whites went unbeaten against Mönchengladbach and FC Den Bosch. They also played Eindhoven on that tour, but we didn’t make it there.
Pre-season games are mainly about fitness, and getting new players bedded in. But they are also watched by some of the team’s most ardent fans, who expect to get some bang for their buck. Also, we all know how long the close season can feel, and pre-season friendlies represent the first club-level football for months – it’s a shame when that wait is ended with a 0-2 loss to a team that, on paper, is significantly weaker.
Having said that, I won’t be too downhearted if Bolton fall short in Falkirk this evening. I’ll tell myself ‘it’s all about fitness, not results’. I’ll remind myself that last season we were undefeated in pre-season, and went on to be relegated.
But if we win… I’ll be dreaming of the Premier League again. Come on you Whites!