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Bolton 0-0 Coventry: Bolton's young players deserve significant credit at a club that desperately needs stability

Bolton Wanderers in focus: Kids are coming through in troubled times at the Trotters
Bolton Wanderers in focus: Kids are coming through in troubled times at the Trotters

The odds were stacked against them; they had been written off before a ball was kicked. Yet Bolton came away from their first home game of the season with an unlikely point.

Wanderers find themselves rooted to the bottom end of the Sky Bet League One table, having been with a 12-point deduction before the season had even started.

Just a handful of senior players remain at a club in a total mess. Those senior players featured last week, but enough was evidently enough and they stayed away for the clash with Coventry.

It's a move that has divided opinion. But put yourself in their shoes: unpaid for months with every promise about the future failing to come to fruition.

In almost any other line of work, you would have been forgiven for downing tools long ago. I'd have done it and you'd probably have done it too. Football is seen as a different business to others, but you have to draw the line somewhere, particularly when the talk is of five months' worth of pay.

As a consequence, manager Phil Parkinson was faced with no other option but to field a group of young players who had minimal senior football experience.

The average age of the starting line-up was 19.

Bolton's teenagers had been thrown in at the deep end, yet somehow they stayed afloat and swam to shore.

The future of Bolton has been incredibly uncertain
The future of Bolton is more than uncertain

They had luck - that can't be denied. Coventry had not one, not two, but three goals disallowed, enough for half a season or more. But given Bolton's summer, perhaps they were due more than their share. Besides, the decisions were all correct.

Because this is football, for 90 minutes you could just about forget everything happening behind the scenes. It sounds ridiculous, it was no doubt incredibly difficult to do, but those youngsters thrust into the Football League somehow managed it.

There's still a long way to go for the club. One game doesn't change everything, as positive as the outcome of the game was, and the next few weeks are once again going to be crucial to the future of the Trotters.

Laurence Bassini insists he is now in charge of Bolton
Phil Parkinson has pleaded with Laurence Bassini to stay away from Bolton

Back off, Bassini

"It's up to the people behind the scenes to do their bit," Parkinson told BBC Radio Manchester after the game.

"No more messing about, get your heads together quickly and sort this mess out because everybody is absolutely sick and tired of it.

"Mr (Laurence) Bassini, leave us alone, please leave us alone. Leave this great club alone to get on with building its future back together."

Clearly, the Bolton boss didn't hide his feelings regarding the situation upstairs.

Football Ventures' takeover had been "on the brink of completion" before a court order by Bassini blocked the sale on Thursday.

The former Watford chairman agreed a deal to buy the club from Ken Anderson back in April, but he failed to provide proof of funds and his takeover fell through.

He's stuck around though. Bassini might have been banned from entering the stadium on Saturday, but he remains somehow omnipresent. Wherever Bolton go, they can't escape him.

It's rare you get mutual agreement across the board in football. Fans disagree about the most minor of issues; a free-kick, the last touch before a throw-in or a missed deflection wrongly awarding a goal kick.

But there's a unity of thought with regards this football club: Bassini isn't wanted nor is he welcome at the University of Bolton Stadium.

"Now people, whether it's the administrators, new people buying the club, the trustees, the old owners of the club, whoever it is," Parkinson continued. "Come on, get yourself sorted and get this mess sorted out quickly."

It could be sorted quickly. However, there's a clear obstacle in the way. That obstacle is holding this club back from trying to re-build.

We know what needs to happen, yet somehow it feels as though this is a situation which will rumble on for a while yet.

Bolton boss Phil Parkinson
Phil Parkinson deserves significant credit for how he has handled the situation

Parkinson should be applauded

As for Parkinson, his style of football divides opinion. It's not pretty and it wasn't effective last season, but the failings of the 2018/19 campaign can hardly be blamed on him alone.

His professionalism is hardly a surprise. He's acted with nothing but dignity during the entire process. Left in the dark and out of pocket, he continues to do his job.

The summer usually brings great opportunity for development, but Parkinson had none of that. Without any real idea of what the future holds, the Bolton boss and his staff continued to plan for the upcoming campaign.

They played friendlies behind-closed-doors, they took players on trial who they were unable to keep, they tried their best to prepare.

Pleading with senior players to take to the pitch, despite no pay, and trying to prepare the squad as best as possible - it's a thankless task made tougher by not knowing whether or not the next game will take place.

Parkinson is a credit to the club and the point against Coventry is some reward for his efforts during a period of great uncertainty.

Bolton might not feel lucky, certainly not now, but they are in a sense fortunate that Parkinson at the helm during the most difficult period in the club's history.

A performance to be proud of

As the famous phrase goes "you can't win anything with kids."

Of course, Alan Hansen wasn't talking about a situation quite like this one, and Bolton are likely to suffer consecutive relegations, but today's showings offers encouragement for the future - however tenuous.

The performance against Coventry has captured media attention, and it drew praise from frustrated opponents, Coventry chairman Tim Fisher visiting the opposition dressing room after the game.

"I just wanted to congratulate them on a phenomenal performance," Fisher revealed. "They clearly played with hearts; the hearts of lions.

"This club is going through the wringer, everybody knows that, but every single young footballer in there, because they are still young, can be incredibly proud of themselves.

"They've all got a great future and this football club depends on strong young men like that. They're a credit to their football club."

The future of Bolton depends on those at the top doing the right thing and getting this mess sorted as quickly as possible. Saturday, though, provided one point and just a glimmer of hope. Such are the times that it felt more significant than that.


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