Bolton Wanderers Who are You?: SAFC ‘a huge club – hope you don’t go our way’

Jake: ‘a must-what game?’

Gabe John is our young Bolton Wanderers supporter in the Who are You? interview suite (aka an e-mail exchange). He writes for Burnden Aces, with which fan site we are happy to make re-acquaintance though unhappy for the reason why … and like all supporters of teams we face at the Stadium of Light, he expects Bolton to win on Tuesday night …

Salut! Sunderland: Chris at Burnden Aces mentioned Bolton not recovering [the NOT was missing when I first posted this interview – Ed] after losing Big Sam and that certainly rings a bell with us. His success in keeping us up briefly seemed a great springboard though he would have had money problems with the owner, too. What are your memories of his time(s), as player and boss?

Gabe John: Unfortunately, my memories of the Allardyce day’s are brief. I started watching Wanderers in 2006, which penultimately was his last full season. However, the football was entertaining, we were turning over teams like Atletico Madrid, we were truly in dreamland. Ever since his departure the club felt like it was on a downward spiral and only recently has it felt like things maybe improving.
Will Phil Parkinson see out the winter or will his excellent achievement last season, getting you back up to the Championship, count for nothing?

Phil Parkinson has done a remarkable job in extreme circumstances. To get the club straight back up in a testing league under a transfer embargo is outstanding and for that I fully support him. The team has shown in recent weeks and on Saturday that they are good enough to compete in this league and that fills me with a slight bit of optimism. On the other hand, we are desperate for new owners. How I see it, Inner Circle have saved the club and we as fans truly respect them for that, but Anderson’s history of directing clubs has been some what questionable. The money isn’t there unfortunately, but we have enough to survive as a club, so for the moment we should count ourselves lucky we even have a club.

How are our old boys, Ben Alnwick and Will Buckley, doing for you? Alnwick never really had a chance at first-team level with us and Buckley faded after a bright start

Ben has been consistently good, at the moment in time he is our number one. He’s made very few errors and played a big part in our promotion push last year. Will hasn’t really got going as of yet, from what I’ve seen he shows real promise and likes to carry the ball forward fluently which we currently lack at the moment, although he’s had to overcome a few injury problems which hopefully allows him to come back fitter and stronger.

Who else, despite your position, is playing well and where are the serious weaknesses?

Josh Vela and Sammy Ameobi, currently are playing well. They have that Championship quality and both bring unique things to the team which we’ve been missing previously. Our main weakness is scoring goals, we have Gary Madine who isn’t prolific, he does his job remarkably well but he just doesn’t have that killer instinct. However, we have a proven goal scorer on the bench in Adam Le Fondre which probably answers the problem, but is out of favour with the current formation which is played.

Gabe John is sad to see us in this mess

Thoughts on Sunderland generally, the club, the fans, the city and region, Simon Grayson?

I’m really surprised with Sunderland’s current position. Although last season’s dreadful campaign will never be forgotten, I would of thought Grayson would have picked the players up and given them a fresh start.

My thoughts on Sunderland? Huge club and it’s sad to see the decline the club has undergone and I don’t hope to see a replication with what happened to us with you. The fan base in the North East in general is fantastic and I give huge credit to the Sunderland fans who have stuck with the club through thick and thin.

Hand on heart, will your club and ours be in the same mess come the end of the season?

I believe Sunderland won’t be in this mess come end of the season. Bolton, I couldn’t give you an honest answer, I really couldn’t say because we shown glimpses of promise and despair, many come back to me at the end of the season and ask me haha.

Think back to better times? Your best moments at a Bolton supporter?

I’ve had a few fond and brilliant moments. But it would have to be beating Athletico Madrid in the UEFA Cup, it was one of the first matches i attended as a Bolton fan and I will never forget that night.

And lowest moment?

Easy. Being beaten 5-0 by Stoke at Wembley in the FA Cup. It was such a horrible day going down all that way and will always be a game remembered for the wrong reasons.

What handed-down knowledge of Nat Lofthouse, and who from your generation as a supporter has given you most pleasure?

Nat Lofthouse is appreciated by every single Bolton fan, he’s iconic. He wore the shirt with pride and was a hometown lad. He gave everything for the club and his service will never be forgotten. Recently, our cult hero has to be Kevin Davies, he reminded me of Lofthouse in many ways, maybe why so many fans took to him. He wore his heart on his sleeve and gave everything for the club similarly to Lofthouse.

A feature of its times, of course, but would a Nat of today have been yellow-carded, sent off or sent to jail for the charge on Harry Gregg for the second goal?

You must look at Cahill’s progress and think Bolton were mad to let him go for only £7m

Honestly at the time I think £7m for Cahill was a good deal for us. He was a brilliant player for us, but I really didn’t think he would cut it at Chelsea. How wrong was I! Looking back, yes maybe it was too low, but we sold Anelka to Chelsea for just a couple more a few years before, our transfer dealing over the years has been pretty poor.

What is the level of community interest in the club and how badly does this suffer from such
big names being geographically close?

The club is generally supported well. We tend to do better in numbers away than home. Our average attendance for home games is around 15,000, but last year we we got just under 24,000. Our away support is tremendous and take good numbers everywhere. We do suffer from the fact both Manchester clubs are so nearby but teams like Wigan and Blackburn could use the same excuse.

What has been your impression of the quality of football at League One and Championship level?

The standard of League One was generally poor, most stadiums were small but neat. The away followings were very poor and this led to poor atmospheres at many of the games. The standard of the refereeing again was dire, don’t even get me started on the referees. Some of the decision making was ludicrous. The quality of the championship has significantly increased mainly due to the large influx of money streamed down from the Premier League.

Are diving and other forms of cheating as much an issue as in the Premier League? What do we do about them?
Diving recently hasn’t been that noticeable, but that’s not to say the problem isn’t there. Players will still dive no matter what if it gives them a chance to score etc. Obviously you can tighten sanctions and make the consequences more severe but I think unfortunately in modern day football cheating has some what become an acceptance.

Will you make it to the game? What will be the score?
Unfortunately, I won’t be attending Tuesday’s game but listening on the radio back home. I think it will be a very tense game and after Saturday’s performance I’m fairly confident. I think we will snatch it 1-0, sorry!

Jake: ‘let’s be having you’

* Gabe John on himself:. I write for Burnden Aces. I’m currently in college and have been supporting Bolton since the day I’ve been born. I’m Bolton through and through, I’ve been watching Bolton since 2006 and my first game was a 1-1 draw against Aston Villa. I attend all the home games and try to get to as many away games as possible.

Interview: Colin Randall

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