Every squad needs a Gethin Jones

By Liam Hatton

Another week means another article, and this time I will start off by turning my attention to a fanbase some 9,442 miles away. Yes Australia, you are the subject of these next 500 or so words.

The Aussies – long-time rivals in the Ashes of which they have edged overall. They are also pretty good at the rugby, but the football? Well, that is fair to say they are still finding their feet both domestically and internationally.

Credit where it is due, their last outing at the World Cup was a decent showing which resulted in a round of 16 exit to eventual winners Argentina. Their renowned football league however - The A League - is still lagging behind a lot of other countries around the world, which according to Global Football Rankings sits as the 29th best league in the world.

You may be thinking ‘what is the point of this article?’ This is not a dig at Australia as a footballing nation or their league. Truth be told, there has been a bit of back and forth banter flying around Twitter (or X, but who calls it that anyway) for the last week or two about one Gethin Jones.

I realise a minority of people does not represent the whole of Australia and their subjective views about a right back/centre back who plays for Bolton Wanderers, but some of the stick Geth has been receiving has painted him as a scapegoat.

Numbers do not tell the whole story, but with Jones on the pitch during Australia’s Asian Cup journey, they did not concede once. He also picked up an assist with an inch perfect cross from his usual spot down the right hand side.

Now the point that I am making is that at this point, it would be ridiculous of me to say Jones is guaranteed a spot in this Bolton starting line-up now. The competition for places is fierce and with George Johnston due back next season, it will remain that way. Promotion to the Championship would also mean a step up in terms of quality.

However, I am not stupid enough for one second to say that I do not value everything that Gethin Jones has done for this club. He, alongside Ricardo Santos and George Thomason, have been here since the start of Evatt’s tenure. Jones has been a stalwart since day one, elevating from League Two to where Bolton currently sit.

His goal at Wembley with a touching tribute to his late mother was poetic, bringing a tear to any Bolton fan’s eye who witnessed that moment. He has come through the doors and been part of our rise, with hopefully more good times to come.

He is vice captain, but he is a leader on the pitch regardless. Versatile and tasked with whatever task he is asked to do, Evatt heavily relies on his influence on and off the pitch.

Like I say, this is not a dig at the Aussies. You may paint Geth as the weak link in your side, but I will tell you right now - your loss is our gain.

He has come back at just the right time due to injuries among the back line and while the likes of Santos and Will Forrester are close to returning, there is nothing quite like an experienced and capable head like Gethin Jones.

Everyone needs that sort of player in their squad.

Glory days weren’t pitch perfect

By Tony Thompson                       

The Bolton News:

Virtually any video clip you watch on YouTube of Bolton Wanderers pre-1990 has them playing on a pitch that more closely resembles the back of a Jacob’s Cream Cracker than a patch of grass.

Watch Frankie Worthington juggle the ball against Ipswich in 1979, and instead of focussing on his feet, see how high the ball bounces off a rock-hard pitch from the throw, then Alan Gowling’s flick.

When Robbie Savage scores against Wrexham in 1988, the middle of the penalty box looks like the Sahara Desert.

Even when you see Burnden Park as late as the mid-nineties, you wonder how we ever got any football played. Look for one of my favourite goals of all time, Jimmy Phillips ripping the net off its hooks with a 30-yard screamer against Wolves. It looks like Alan Thompson is running down a motorway verge, not the wing of a top-class stadium.

Which brings me to my point. Are we getting a bit too squeamish about the quality of the pitches and ‘player safety’ in this day and age? And does that leave the fans at a disadvantage.

I have a few mates who travelled down to Cambridge on Tuesday afternoon, all bundled in the back of a car, three-and-a-half hours, £20 in petrol each. They booked time off work, got back at stupid o’clock after seeing eight or nine minutes of football, and probably won’t be able to get back to see the replayed game.

It is a risk you take travelling to any match but for something that far away I would like to see clubs and referees being sensible.

I think Ian Evatt was a happy man when they called it off because the game would have been a muddy mess had they played on. I wouldn’t have minded watching how it unfolded though, just to see how modern players would have coped.

I know the game has changed and the pitches have helped to make it faster, the run of the ball more predictable. You might also say that players are fitter than they were back in the day when it wasn’t uncommon to see them in the pub afterwards.

But if you could cook up moments of magic like Frankie playing on that type of pitch, you will have a hard time convincing me that they didn’t have every bit of talent players of today have got, if not more.

And I’ll die on that hill. In fact, I might even play football on it.