In spite of the incredibly short week, our good friend Matilda Hankinson of SBNation's Bolton Wanderers blog Lion of Vienna Suite was kind enough to do a quick question exchange with us prior to this morning's exciting matchup. Check it out after the jump!
1. After a string of 9 points in three games to pull yourselves clear, you suffered some disappointment yesterday to a visiting Fulham. What do you think the difference was between the recent run of form and Saturday's performance?
The difference, simply put, was heart. While, purely based on the football played, Bolton probably didn't deserve all of those 9 points, the team rallied together and fought for them. That fight, spirit, drive, whatever you want to call it was missing on Saturday. The problem is that it's an intangible, so it's difficult to say what exactly has gone wrong when it's not there. It is the main factor that has been missing a lot of this season, that we had last season, and if we can harness it more reliably I think the results will follow again.
2. How did you expect Bolton to do at the beginning of the year? How has that expectation measured up to your recent relegation battle reality?
This season was a real shock to me. I expected us to build on last season, most of which we spent in the top half of the table. Obviously, that has not happened at all, as Bolton are embroiled in the relegation battle. In retrospect I can see how the situation built up to this point, but I definitely did not see it coming.
3. With the relegation battle in full swing at the bottom, what do you think Bolton needs to do (aside from win, obviously) to keep themselves clear? Who do you see going down this year? Newcastle and Tottenham look to be your toughest remaining opponents. Do you think playing against the "Mid Table; Nothing to Play For" bunch of WBA, Sunderland, Stoke, and Swansea is a blessing or a curse?
The main focus now should be to shore up the defense. We've allowed 63 goals to go past us in the league, a number only bested (worsted?) but Blackburn and Wolves. If the back four can get their act together, it may give the strikers a chance to win matches. I think at this point, Wolves are as good as relegated, it's hard to see them digging themselves out of that 6 point hole. Other than that, it's difficult to say as everything is so tight at the Bottom. Bolton is in 16th with 29 points, while the 3 clubs below them are all on 28 points. My bet would be on the other two current occupants of the relegation zone, Wigan and Blackburn, to go down as well, but it's difficult to tell. I think the remaining games of the season are winnable certainly, it's whether Bolton will show up or not.
4. Obviously, the Fabrice Muamaba situation has been at the forefront of everyone's mind. How do you feel the club has responded, both on and off the pitch, to such an incredible tragedy (and miracle of a recovery!)?
The Fabrice Muamba situation was probably the most difficult thing I have ever covered as a blogger. Writing that 2 paragraph summary of the collapse on the day of was incredibly hard. That said, I don't think the club could have handled the whole thing any better. They played the fine line between allowed Fab and his family their privacy and keeping us informed perfectly, and the whole community really came together. We haven't had much chance to be proud of the club this season, but these last few weeks, I have been proud to be a Bolton fan.
5. What are you thoughts on reigning Manager of the Month Owen Coyle? Even if you do end up going down, does everyone expect that the Irish international (who is Scottish born) is secure in his position?
I have always supported Owen Coyle, even when earlier this season a large contingent of Bolton fans were calling for his head. I think what is required at Bolton is a better backroom staff, as Coyle struggles when it comes to tactics. If we go down, I hope Coyle won't be fired, partially because he is a good manager and can do great things, and partially because I can't see anyone else better taking the job.
6. And finally, a prediction for today?
Given the form that Newcastle, and specifically Papiss Cisse, have been in of late, and given the Bolton defense, I think there will definitely be goals in this match. If Bolton chooses to show up, it could be a very good match indeed, but the pessimist in me is edging toward a loss. I think 3-1 to Newcastle.
Thanks to Matilda and all the great folks over at Lion of Vienna Suite. Like I said, I won't be able to make the game today, but Howay the Lads for me boys! Go Toon!