Stars need true grit
WANDERERS need players to show character and belief if they are to end their winless start to the Championship against Leeds on Saturday.
That’s the view of former Whites defender Simon Charlton who was part of a Bolton side that also started sluggishly a decade ago under Sam Allardyce, failing to muster a win in their four opening Premier League matches in 2003-04.
Charlton says it was mental strength that got them through all the crtiticism at the time and he says the same ethos can see the current team through and stop the early-season rot setting in.
The 41-year-old told The Bolton News: “It can get in your heads the longer you go without that first win.
“We had a bad start 10 years ago under Sam but the circumstances were different in that we were in the Premier League and this Bolton team are in the Championship.
“It is a time when you need mental strength and players have to show character.
“That’s where the older players are important, particularly in the dressing room.
“I was surprised with what the manager said after Blackburn because you do need the experienced players.
“The modern footballer can take criticism to heart so I hope we see the right reaction on Saturday.
“It is a huge game against Leeds.
“The lads will be keen to play after the international break, particularly after that Blackburn disappointment.
“Only time will tell if this break has been good for them.”
As a former left-back who made 135 appearances in four years at the Reebok, Charlton is well-placed to assess a Whites defence that has conceded 10 goals so far – only Bournemouth and Barnsley have shipped more.
But he says the finger of blame should not solely be aimed at Wanderers’ back four, having watched most games this season in his role as a radio summariser.
At the other end, only Yeovil have netted fewer than the three the Whites have scored.
He added: “At the minute, Bolton just cannot get into their groove.
“I have seen a lot of the games working as a summariser on BBC Radio Manchester and they have played well in spells in games.
“Unfortunately, individuals are switching off and they are getting punished every time.
“I have seen the criticism of the defence but I have always been a believer you defend as a team, just like you attack as a unit as well.
“When I was playing, I had Ricki Gardner in front of me who worked back and did his defensive duties as well to help out.
“As good a player as Chris Eagles is, and Chung-Yong Lee, they do not do that as much for me.
“In my day, Sam Allardyce had the belief you try and keep a settled back four so the defenders have familiarity.
“What you do need is players who will talk on the pitch and that is a bit of a dying art.
“I was critical of Zat Knight last season but the games I have seen before Blackburn, I thought he had done okay.
“The manager gave him the captain’s armband at the start of the season so he must think he can be a leader in the dressing room as well.
“They also don’t have a midfielder who can support the frontmen at present – a Kevin Nolan role if you like.
“Jay Spearing impresses me every time I see him in the holding role but both he and Medo are similar type of players.
“Darren Pratley has been the one pushing forward but I still think they need that more often in games.
“It has maybe been a bit too straightforward for opposition defences.
“There has not been much in the way of creativity to feed the likes of Jermaine Beckford.
“The team as a whole are struggling in front of goal as well as at the back.
“It is very similar to last year when they had a bad start but then ended the season really well.
“So they know things can change quickly but you cannot get too far behind.”