What A Load of Shirts
Bolton, the squad, money and the shirts


We go into Saturday’s game at Derby – where we haven’t won for a long time – with Carlos still in charge as I fully expected he would be. I do think its fair comment to say that some matters that are out of his control are negatively affecting the climate in which he has to operate, and in which he is viewed. That said, he is also to some extent the master of his own difficulties. The issues for me are

  • Carlos has a rigid view about how he wants to play and tries to fit players into his system rather than find a way to fashion an effective team out of the players he has. Apart from the occasional use of the diamond.
  • Despite Carlos asserting that he wants the team to start games at high tempo he regularly fails to get them to do this – if he is trying different things to sort this it doesn’t appear to be working
  • The team is mentally weak with little leadership on the pitch, Carlos, until yesterday’s press conference, has never acknowledged this. Read Angela Galvin’s Press Pass piece on Owls Alive for more of that.Will a new bunch of leaders emerge from the squad, or will we have to recruit them?

The issues in all 3 points above were exploited by Bolton quite easily on Saturday. We started slowly and allowed them to settle, we allowed them to bully us and knock us out of our stride, they exploited the lack of protection in wide areas to enable them to get at Adam Reach, our makeshift LB, as a result they got a goal and built confidence. We then found it hard to get going, no one took hold of it on the pitch and we were second best for the remainder of the 1st half. Second half we improved going forward with a different shape (the midfield diamond), 2 substitutions and a bit more tempo but we looked even more exposed at the back. Bearing in mind all this was against a team with 8 straight defeats to their name it was pretty pathetic.

If we start games at decent tempo, and on the front foot we can take the initiative and as a result we limit opponents’ abilities to exploit our weaknesses, but in far too many games we fail to do this. It may well be that at Pride Park it will all come together and we will look like the side we can be ( 3-0 v L**ds version), I really hope we do, but that won’t be enough as we will need to do that in many more games for me to be convinced that we have moved on.

Player recruitment does feel to be something that Carlos does not have full control of. He has said that he and his staff identify potential candidates and then these are passed over to others for recruitment. Since DC arrived at the club there has been a lack of clarity as to who actually is making the decisions on which players are signed – Glen Roeder, the Committee, DC advisers and Doyen Sports all appear to have had or now have some involvement. In my view this has left us with a squad that:

  • Is too large and over-stocked with players who are at a certain stage in their career that means they may not be as hungry they could be, and of course they have little re-sale value
  • Is expensive to maintain in terms of wages leading to the club being up against FFP rules
  • Contains some players who do fit into the managers team plans and some who do not, the latter are side-lined – this wastes money and impacts on the FFP position
  • Contains too many players who are injury prone which increases the load on those players who are not injured and who do fit into the manager’s plans.
  • Has a group within it who are just not good enough.

Carlos isn’t fully responsible for recruitment but he plays some parts in it. DC clearly is significantly responsible – has the final say we are told – and therefore his decisions drive the wages bill we have amassed, and which we are now struggling to meet whilst staying within FFP. That has to be funded from somewhere, or it has to be reduced. I have never asked a Chairman to spend their money on my football club and I am not doing it now. But equally  if a Chairman is going to make custodianship decisions about our club; such as we have to fund the wages of the players who aren’t making a contribution, by paying more through ticket prices, Club 1867 and expensive replica shirts, then he ought to be accountable for that. Of course in the on-line Q&A the difficult questions won’t be selected as they won’t be on the table at the Steering Group.

Does DC not realise that Sheffield has a predominantly low wage economy? How does he think it’s acceptable to call a shirt that’s 4 months late, is not of a recognised brand and has been sourced to be cheaper, good value at £59 (£49 for 1 month)? It’s the 5th most expensive in the country for Pete’s sake! I know if you’re angry you just don’t have to buy one but for me that is not the point – it’s the arrogance and the exploitation of fans that sullies the club’s reputation that annoys me. If DC wants to raise some money he could clear out the misfits in the squad in January and reduce the wage bill, if he wants to start to get the 150th anniversary back on track he could think again about the shirts. In the long term he ought to thinking about a more sustainable model of player recruitment, wage levels and club finances.

Anyway, rant over and onwards to Pride Park!

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