Opposing View - Bolton Wanderers
What were your hopes and fear going into the season?
Hopes: That we continued with the good work that the team had shown up to the mauling we received in the FA Cup Semi Final. That we could bring in some useful players who could compliment what we already had and, personally, that we would sign up Ali Al-Habsi rather than selling him to our local rivals.
Fears: That we would sell Ali Al-Habsi to our local rivals. That we would end up in the bottom three after the opening set of fixtures which saw us play each one of the teams most predict will make up the top five. That the form that we had shown after the FA Cup Semi Final mauling would be brought into the new season.
What do your attribute to your slow start, is it as simple as playing the division's top sides?
Partly, yes. When Bolton fans saw the fixture list for the opening games there was an audible wince you could hear in Liverpool. However, no one expected that, at the end of it, we would have lost every single game to those top five clubs, and by playing so badly as we have done against everyone bar Manchester City. Plus we lost to Norwich, who bossed the game at The Reebok. We are missing two of our best three players (Chung-yong Lee and Stuart Holden), both of whom have suffered bad injuries from players at either end of the spectrum (Holden v Manchester United, Lee v Newport County) and our elder players, Paul Robinson, Kevin Davies and Jussi Jaaskelainen, are starting to show signs that this may be a season too far. Many fans think, myself included, that the manager has been too reticent to bring in the newer players that we have managed to get hold of, especially Gael Kakuta and Tuncay, whilst keeping faith with a captain in Kevin Davies who seems to have lost something during the summer break.
How has the slow start affected the players & fans?
I can't really say how it has affected the players. They have come out and said that they are all together in this and will find a way out, but you would expect that from any club. Some fans have been calling for the manager's head, calling him tactically naive and too much of a nice guy. His constant bigging up of opposition clubs and managers have been a particular bug bear. The boos that ring around the ground when they disagree with a substitution are something new. They didn't even do that when Gary Megson was in charge.
Owen Coyle's job is surely safe despite the slow start?
I don't think there is any doubt in that. We'd like to think that the table gives the wrong impression. We came away from Wigan with a good result and the team seemed to be happier playing somewhat out of the limelight (we were live on TV four times in the first seven weeks). However, as we don't play another one of those top five teams until mid January, if we are still in the position by the beginning of December, I would say that the club will be taking a closer look at his position.
Have you missed Johann Elmander at all?
No. Elmander was a bad buy by the former regime. He was a willing runner but was never an out and out striker and the goal run that he had gone on at the beginning of last season had long dried up by the time we managed to get Daniel Sturridge on loan from Chelsea. Elmander scored some good goals, and his movement was good, but he should have been playing behind the main striker. I think he will always be associated with the profligacy of the Megson era.
Who is the key player we should be looking out for on Saturday?
David N'Gog. He scored his first goal last Saturday and looks already that he may be an excellent buy. He was probably not good enough for Liverpool even if he didn't actually get a fair crack of the whip there, having to play second fiddle to the likes of Torres and then Suarez. He is taller and stronger than he looks on TV but is also quick and has a surprisingly good eye for goal considering his goal record at Anfield. I think he will be a handful for your defence.
Last weekend we looked like we may be on the verge of building up a head of steam. I'd have to go for 2-0 Bolton.
Two teams in poor form, it's got to be a season-starter for someone, let's hope it's the Black Cats. Cheers Steve.