WARREN BARLOW'S INSIGHT INTO JUNIOR FOOTBALL: Our relationship with Bolton Wanderers is second to none
7:00am Tuesday 4th February 2014 in Sport
WHEN Bolton fans travelled down to Reading recently, no doubt they went with expectations of picking up three points and a moral-boosting victory for the squad which has not reached the level of fans expectation this season.
What occurred was a complete and utter destruction of a team which had ramifications far and wide.
I love Bolton and have been integral in trying to forge links between the club and the league.
We were so proud five years ago when the club and the league put pen to paper on a formal partnership which we hope will bare fruit with some of the best local players walking out of those famous twin tunnels at the Reebok Stadium adorned in the white and blue of Bolton Wanderers.
Things were on the up with I and other league members having regular meetings at the academy with the likes of Jimmy Phillips, Nicky Spooner and Tony Kelly through our dedicated club liaison John Howarth.
The partnership means that our cup finals are held at the academy or Reebok Stadium. We have access to coach education, facilities, physio information and most importantly BWFC.
What do Bolton get in return? Access to our league and it’s members, an ability to pass information quickly and a footprint into the people and the community.
In the dark days of the Normid Superstore at Burnden Park and the Lifeline campaign headed up by our beloved Nat Lofthouse, the club started to build its foundations on the community.
That community spirit lifted the club from the basement of the Football League structure to the gates of Europe.
What I now see, though, is a disconnect which seems to be building and which cannot be healthy. As the club grows under increasing pressure the link with the community appears to be on a knife edge.
I see players, the club and its set-up openly criticised and Dougie and his team coming under increasing pressure.
All this is understandable, but I have always believed the best way to lift a club is to reach out to its community.
When I turn to members of the league and say things like “you will be playing your cup final on the Reebok” or “Stuart Holden is here to present your trophies” or the many other things I have said over the years, you should see the beaming smiles on the faces of those I had the pleasure of telling to know what a positive effect a club can have on its town and people
That affect does not diminish as you slide down a league as long as you maintain a sense of community.
I do worry about the future, but everybody at Bolton can rest assured that some of their biggest supporters are in the Bolton, Bury and District Football League, and whatever that future brings we will continue to offer that support.