Cursed? We didn't get the memo

By Liam Hatton

The Bolton News:

It is December 8, 2023 and Ian Evatt is hoisting up another League One Manager of the Month award. This isn't deja vu, more so a case of history repeating itself.

We were in this same situation just over three weeks ago, which now represents back to back awards for Evatt and his staff amidst an impressive run in all competitions.

If this award was supposed to be cursed, the Bolton boss obviously did not get the memo.

Since his last award in November, Wanderers have won five of their last six games - a draw to fellow promotion contenders Oxford United the only outlier during that period.

It has been an impressive run with no signs of slowing down. Bolton were utterly dominant against Exeter City in a 7-0 demolition job, equally as clinical last weekend as they dispatched Harrogate Town 5-1 in the second round of the FA Cup and a routine 2-0 win over Port Vale on Tuesday followed to advance in the EFL Trophy.

It is difficult to pick out moments from Bolton’s recent run and highlight those, which I suppose is a great problem to have really, but the second goal on Tuesday was proof positive of ‘Brand Evatt’ in full flow - Patient build up, passes strung together before an incisive through ball from Dion Charles gave Carlos Mendes Gomes no option to miss.

It is a joy to watch at the moment, but there is a tough task awaiting on Monday evening live in front of the Sky cameras, as the long visit to Portsmouth beckons.

Evatt spoke this week about how this one game will not define their season, refusing to label it as a cup final. A win will not crown Bolton champions elect, just as much as a loss will not confine them to the playoffs or worse.

It is a good mentality to hold, as it is a far cry from Evatt talking about being the best in the league, regardless of whether those comments were slightly taken out of context. Furthermore, it is a testament to the growth Evatt has experienced both as a manager, but also as an individual.

We talk plenty about the improvements the team have made, but perhaps we do not give Evatt his flowers as much away from the football pitch. He has become more reserved with his comments, whether that is less time spent calling out referees after games or making reactionary comments.

To be at the top you need to remain in a clear headspace, it is hard for a team to maintain that consistency and professionalism if their leader does not display those same tendencies.

That it not to say that Evatt has ever been guilty of that, but we have spoken plenty of times before about the good morale in the changing room and how that transcends throughout the squad.

Monday’s game is a big one without a doubt, with the opportunity to impress a national audience once more. It promises to be a back and forth game between two sides worthy of their position in the league table.

Just do not talk about this being a cup final - this is just another day at the office for Evatt and his squad.

Thank God we dodged Joey

By Tony Thompson

The Bolton News:

My team has signed some whoppers down the years but I thank the heavens above that they avoided ever working with Joey Barton. 

In the back of my mind I remembered reading some transfer speculation that once linked the erstwhile Marseille midfielder and HMP Manchester resident with a move to these parts. 

After disappearing down a Google rabbit hole on Thursday night it turned out that Bolton bid £2million for him when he was at Newcastle United, when Gary Megson was manager. I can only imagine he was trying to find someone who could take the heat off him. 

Looking at a couple of the message board threads at the time, the vast majority of supporters didn’t want him anywhere near us. And all these years later, he is still reminding me why. 

I wondered whether a spell in management would maybe settle him down and after doing an OK job at Fleetwood, he had a decent two years with Bristol Rovers and took them into League One. But since being dumped by the Gasheads he has shown his true colours and his comments about women’s football and their role in the media this week made him look outdated, and frankly quite sad. 

As the kids say, digging out a young girl doing social media for Manchester City was such a dad thing to do. I have found, having teenagers myself, that pretending to know anything about YouTubers, or anything they publish is better left to Generation Z. It is their thing. Belittling her in the way he did was dreadful, if predictable, from someone whose moral compass is virtually non-existent. 

I would love to see how Mr Barton, a former professional footballer, and someone who has always claimed to be intelligent and worldly wise, would handle his own channel and exactly what sort of audience he would attract? 

He even managed to drag Thogden into the argument on Twitter. There are probably a few Bolton fans who had a laugh about that but, honestly, does Barton think his opinion carries that much weight?  

Only blokes who have played the game can talk about it? Didn’t he go on Newsnight and start talking about Government policy? I don’t remember him every being a politician. Come to think of it, I don’t remember him being in The Smiths either. 

Male and female pundits and commentators differ in quality, everyone will have the ones they like and the ones they don’t. Gender shouldn’t come into it and it is strange that Barton should decide to launch this narrative when he’s out of a job and looking to get some attention. 

He can shake his fist at the clouds, complain about YouTube, mobile phones and how kids used to play out on their bikes more when he was growing up all he likes, he is heading down the road to irrelevance. Every once in a while he will say something stupid enough to cause a ripple on social media but pretty soon the only people who will listen to him will be GB News, or Jim Davidson.