It was such a great feeling to return to the University of Bolton Stadium on Saturday and come off the pitch with three points against a good Derby County team.
Plenty had been written about Derby, especially after their cup victory against Manchester United, but I thought we stuck to our task perfectly well. We contained them throughout the match, caused them problems and we fully deserved our victory.
I thought the vociferous support from our fans was fantastic throughout and I have no doubt that this spurred the team on.
Perhaps my own personal highlight from the game was watching the passion with which Craig Noone celebrated the goal. It was a fantastic gesture to run straight over to Stephen Darby in the stands and cheer the goal with him. This encapsulates the wholehearted support Stephen has from his team mates and everybody at the football club.
It was fitting that the players wore Stephen’s name and number prior to kick off. These shirts have been signed by the players and will be auctioned with all proceeds going to the Motor Neurone Disease Association. Full details will be announced very soon on the club’s website so please bid for your chance to own one of these special shirts and to donate to a very worthwhile cause.
I have to say that although I thought that those who were in attendance on Saturday were in fine voice and I am very grateful for their support, I was a little disappointed with the total crowd figure of 14,096.
It’s even more disappointing considering the good start to the season the team has made in comparison to last season.
I really do hope that we can start to see the attendance figures increase, starting from this Saturday’s local derby against Blackburn Rovers.
For the first five games of this season, we are down by an average of approximately 2,000 fans per match compared to the opening five games of last season. Although it is important to put this into context given that last season Leeds United (4,832) and Middlesbrough (4,165) brought large travelling support with them.
We only have to look back at the attendance figures for the backend of our League One campaign a couple of seasons ago where we were getting crowds in excess of 20,000.
A lot has been mentioned in the local press about ‘off field financial problems’ which is getting increasingly frustrating. It seems to be repeated in every article at the moment yet they seem to forget where the club was financially two years ago.
The continuous negativity about the ‘financial problems’ and the manager’s perceived defensive style of play does not help anyone and hopefully the people concerned will move on and write about some of the positives going forward for a change.
I do accept the media’s right to be an independent voice but I do not understand certain individuals’ apparent need to regularly repeat the same negativity on an almost daily basis both in print and on social media.
There has been a great deal of comments recently in the media and on TV about the great job that Phil has done and l would be the first to agree with this as l think it’s fully justified. l clearly showed this when he had my full support throughout last season when there were constant calls for me to dismiss him.
However, what I don’t agree with are the comments about there having been no money made available as l believe our current player costs are up there with mid-table teams and the club have financially supported Phil and his management team to the best of its abilities since l have been at the club.
As l have repeatedly said, l think this season’s squad is the strongest since l have been at the club and generally speaking we have cover and options for every position, the game set-up and formation that we can play and with three games coming thick and fast again, the recruitment and investment in the squad during the summer is paying dividends.
We all have to accept that we do not have the financial resources of the recently relegated teams with parachute payments, or the financially better off and better supported teams like Leeds, Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday, Bristol City, Derby County and Nottingham Forest to name just a few.
It’s essential though that if we are to compete both on the field and financially with these teams that we need to increase our revenues from increased attendances, sponsorship, hospitality, merchandise and events and l hope that everyone will get behind the club to make this possible.
For example, off the field, Suzanne Speak and her team in the hotel have arranged a number of events over the past few days which have seen over 3,000 people attend the venue. The International Football Programme is also proving to be increasingly successful and just this week alone we are welcoming five teams from South Africa, Australia and the United States.
Well done and a huge thank you to Suzanne and her incredible team for the continuous efforts and hard work they put in every day, week in and week out.
This income is crucial for us to sustain and drive the business going forward.
On the field, we’ve got a really good opportunity to get ourselves back in a commanding position in the upper reaches of the Sky Bet Championship table with two crucial games before the international break.
Tomorrow we travel to Stoke which will be another difficult and competitive game and I’m confident that we will continue our strong performances on the road, while it would be fantastic to see a large turnout for our local derby against Blackburn at the University of Bolton Stadium.
It is crucial that we continue to take nothing for granted in any game, as we have all seen there are no easy games in the Championship this season.
You can buy your tickets for this game now by clicking here or why not try some of our fantastic hospitality packages which can be bought by calling our Sales Team on 01204 673761.
Finally, I would like to congratulate Pawel Olkowski on earning an international recall with Poland, for their forthcoming international fixtures against Italy and Portugal. Pawel has taken to life in England really well and has been a fantastic player for us during these opening months of the campaign. His call-up is well deserved.
Let’s be loud, let’s be proud and let’s get behind the boys!