Michael Gething is the chairman of London Whites, the London branch of the Bolton Wanderers supporters’ club. He knows people involved with the SAFCSA equivalent, is friendly through work in the music business with our one-word ratings man Rob Hutchison and fondly remembers better times for train travel when the two branches could pool resources and get their members to different games.
He’s as down-to-earth as you might expect, a true fan of his club who appreciates the company of true fans of other clubs. He has a good idea of one of the reasons we’re in such a pickle just now (see headline, scroll down for his response to the ‘did you see Sunderland’s catastrophe coming?’ question) and, sadly for us, he expects a Bolton win on Tuesday …
Mike, great lad, nice one Colin.
— Rob Hutchison (@RobHSafc) February 19, 2018
Salut! Sunderland: if only this could be a top-of-the-table six-pointer. After a strong promotion season, what has gone wrong for you in the Championship?
Michael Gething: nothing has really gone wrong as such. We got promoted under a transfer embargo, a fact that seemed to irk the EFL who reacted by reducing our imposed wage cap last summer therefore effectively meaning we could only sign players on League One wages. Parkinson has cobbled together a team under those restraints and the fact that we haven’t the natural talent of some of the other Championship squads has meant an inevitable struggle for points
Is there an issue at the top – the manager Phil Parkinson or the ownership, Inner Circle – and would you want to change either?
Having said the above, it’s hard to judge Parkinson’s abilities on a level playing field. Objectively he has fashioned a hard-working side that is up for the battle to stay in the division. Subjectively many fans are frustrated by his route one tactics and willingness to surrender possession.
The ownership is regarded as something of a caretaker one, under Ken Anderson, we have seen the finances stabilised, HMRC appeased and wages lowered. The feeling is that his position is one of looking to stabilise and then sell the club for a profit. Obviously the club has to be saleable which would improve on two years ago. But there don’t seem to be deep pockets for team strengthening.
It seems- and is – a long time since our two clubs were forces in English football. Realistically, can past glories ever be recreated in either case?
Football has changed so much since the advent of the Premier League. Nowadays unless you find a benefactor owner, those glories are hard to come by. With a good manager and team it’s still possible to do a Burnley, or Bournemouth but to repeat Leicester’s achievements seems hugely unlikely for anyone.
Our most recent glory was four top eight finishes and two Europe Cup runs. Everyone was super chuffed to reach Europe for the first time ever, only to see the club field a weakened side against Sporting Lisbon when we had a realistic chance of winning it that season. So no one cares about glory once the Premier League dosh is waved around, its such a shame for clubs like ours! The last time we won the FA Cup in 1958 we were the £110 team, every player signed for the £10 signing on fee! That seems impossible now!
Looking at the players with SAFC links, Ben Alnwick is obviously the more prominent, with Will Buckley’s appearances a bit restricted. Assess them …
Alnwick has made the No 1 spot his own after some shaky early performances. He’s a reliable Championship keeper. Buckley is an enigma… clearly has talent but niggly injuries and a seeming lack of passion when he does play have seen him stay as a benchwarmer. Buckley has been a disappointment as we were looking for him to add a bit of craft and invention to out play.
Who has been doing the business for you and where are the glaring weaknesses?
Ameobi is key for us for his knack of doing the unexpected in games. Karl Henry has beefed up a previously lightweight midfield with his ability to break up play and organise. Wheatear is a rock at the back and very consistent. We don’t have any individual weak spots as such, though collectively we lack imagination and creativity in the final third.
Best and worst of your times as a Bolton supporter?
The most succesful times were under Big Sam with those four top eight finishes, but like many BWFC fans my age I have a fond recollection of the years under Bruce Rioch when we played some fantastic open football and bloodied a few noses in the FA Cup as a lower league team, our FA Cup replay win at Anfield in 1993 is still my favourite Bolton game ever, even more than our draw away at Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena! We were a fearless Third Division side with David Lee, Andy Walker and John McGinlay flying, and Liverpool were the Cup holders at the time.. fantastic night.
For the worst times see the period following our relegation from the First Division in 1980, a spell of finishing in a lower league position for 10 seasons running saw us dumped into Division 4 in 1987.
And the best and worst players you’ve seen in your colours?
JJ Okocha was ubdoubtedly the most skilful player we have seen at Bolton but for me the best was Youri Djorkaeff, signed for six months and stayed for two and a half years – skill, vision and charismatic, the complete player, a World Cup and European Champion with France, he was pure class.
That period in the 80s provided many of the worst players, nameless crap players came and went alarmingly frequently, for a bigger flop name how about Mario Jardel? He came with a huge Champions League goalscoring record, but a huge waistline to match – he never saw match fitness and his few cameo appearances were tragically comical.
Were you surprised by Sunderland’s sharp decline and did you see it coming?
I didnt see it coming necessarily but it seems that relegation from the Premier League can be followed by a horrible period where overpaid players don’t want to fight for the club in the Championship, they have long contracts but no desire to play – the resulting loss of team spirit and the drain on club finances is an all too familiar tale for Bolton suppoprters.
What other thoughts do you have on SAFC – the club, the fans, the city and region, Chris Coleman?
The Mackems for me conjour up the images of THAT Monty save, Bob Stokoe’s silly run, a stonking header by Big Sam against you at Burnden Park in 1975 (YouTube it!), Barry Siddall… and freezing my nuts off as the wind whistled towards the away end at Roker Park.
Hand on heart, where will our teams finish?
I think we will both struggle to survive – I’d like to say Bolton can stay in 21st – but our lack of away points worries me, and I thought Coleman would have had a quicker impact with you guys. I fear we’ll be playing this fixture in League One if we both don’t improve!
The Dele Alli Question: Pochettino says diving isn’t that important. A sad reflection on the modern game or simple realism?
Diving is cheating, plain and simple. A hefty retrospective ban (five matches?) for those dives spotted on camera would solve it overnight. Can you imagine Charlie Hurley taking a tumble??? Haha no, thought not!
Standard of refereeing in the Championship?
You’re travelling to the game from your London base. What will be the score?
I can see Bolton edging this one, it’s important for us to score first. If we do ,then I predict a much-needed 2-0 win.
* Michael Gething on himself: my first BWFC game was in 1967, I know from looking it up that Franny Lee scored my first Bolton goal. I moved to London for a year in 1982 but am still here! I have a season ticket and have been doing the travel up and down all the time I’ve been in London. I came down to work in music, I work for a label called Music On Vinyl, arguably the largest vinyl specialist record label in Europe, involving myself in licensing and distribution. I am involved in APFSCIL and know Ritchie and some of the other SAFC London lot through that, always good banter.Our London Branch was formed in 1984 after a few of us exiles got together at matches in the South East. My football claim to fame is that I co-wrote a book called Wartime Wanderers about the story of BWFC players in WW2 – and my non-football claim to fame if that I was the first person through Checkpoint Charlie going West to East on the night the Berlin wall came down! Long story!
Interview: Colin Randall