Ahead of today’s clash with Bolton Wanderers on a sellout Good Friday, I spoke with Reece Jones an aspiring sports analyst and a big Bolton fan.
How long have you been a Trotters fan?
I’ve supported Wanderers ever since I can remember. There’s a picture of my Dad and I at the first ever game at the (then) Reebok Stadium back in September 1997 when I was only three months old. He was determined to make me a Bolton fan and I followed suit. Growing up with the likes of Youri Djorkaeff, Jay-Jay Okocha and Nicolas Anelka at the football club, it was hard not to want to support them.
Can you name one of your most memorable moments?
Annoyingly, being a Wanderers fan, most memorable moments of recent years have been for the wrong reasons. However, promotion back The Championship last season was a good one. The whole season gave the players and the fans a bit of belief in the club again and restored the pride for some of the players. That being said, the most memorable moment for me was when Chung-Yong Lee scored a 90th minute winner against Birmingham City in the FA Cup Quarter Final to send us to Wembley. (We won’t go into what happened there)
Who has been one of your most influential players?
Only one man can be the answer to this, Kevin Davies. My childhood hero growing up, I even cried when he left the club. The way he left The Wanderers was so disappointing and Kev didn't deserve to be treated that way after giving everything for the side for the ten years he was with us. I wish his contract had have been renewed, and that for me was the start of the demise of the club. His leadership, passion and determination was something we haven't been able to replace since he left.
Very much the pantomime villain whoever he played against, his ability to bully defenders and his no-nonsense approach to football, made him the club legend that he is and I one day hope he'll return to the club as manager. If he carries on the fine form he's showing at his first appointment at Southport, the only way is up for him! It's refreshing to see a former Premier League player applying his trade in the lower leagues, rather than trying to jump into a job straight at the top. For me, I think this will develop him into a great coach and I hope the Wanderers fans get to see him return to the club one day.
Can you name a memorable game against Leeds?
I think the Leeds fans might not appreciate the answer I’m about to give, but it must be Bolton 1-4 Leeds, May 2004. Even though I was only young, I can still remember the sights of Leeds fans walking away from The Reebok with tears streaming down their faces. The only man to blame for that should be Mark Viduka, his totally unnecessary elbow on Bruno N’Gotty ended survival hopes for Leeds.
Josh Vela has been heavily linked with a move to Elland Road in the summer, what’s your stance on the midfielder?
If you’d have asked me at the start of the season, I’d have told you that he was crucial for our chances of staying up and this looked like it was going to be backed up after he went off injured against Leeds in the first game of the season. Without him we didn’t win any of our ten next games, and our first victory came in his return to the side against Sheffield Wednesday. Since then, he has seemed a little off the pace, but his energy and tireless work rate is something that is useful for any side in this division. I hope Josh can consistently return to the form he showed last season, adding goals to his excellent work rate, from now till the end of the season.
Can you name an academy talent who is set for the first team?
Connor Hall. 19 goals for the U23s this season in a table-topping side. Many fans have called for him to be thrown into the first team, but I agree with Phil Parkinson’s decision to leave him out at this crucial stage of the season. I would love to see him pull on the white shirt before May 6th, but only after survival is assured.
Who’s your two for automatic promotion and your playoff final winner?
It’s the current top three for me. Wolves, Cardiff & Fulham. I think Wolves and Cardiff are almost destined for automatic promotion due to the lead in points, which is a massive financial bonus for Wanderers as we will receive a fee from a clause in the Madine transfer. I would like Fulham to go up, despite us drawing with them when we played them last, they impressed me most with their style of football and looked most like a Premier League side. I would also love to see Ryan Sessegnon play in the top flight, one of the best young players I have seen for a very long time, the sky is the limit for him.
Three you think are destined for league one?
Sunderland, Burton & Birmingham. Sunderland have had the biggest fall from grace ever since Big Sam left them, they were appalling against us and I see no way of them surviving. Burton have had a good couple of seasons in this league, but they aren’t a Championship club. I don’t think they have the grounds to compete with the heavy hitters in this league, financially neither do Wanderers, but I think that our history and size of the club allows us to bring in certain players. Birmingham are the final club in that relegation bracket for me, if Barnsley didn’t sign McBurnie, then it would have had to be them. However, the young Scot looks to be in inspired form and I think he’ll fire them to safety.
Prediction and scorers for Fridays match?
Going off the form of both sides, it’s looking like Wanderers might be able to edge it. That said, we’ve had one away win all season. I’ve seen a lot of Leeds recently (I mean who hasn’t, they’re on Sky every week) but I just don’t think they’re half of the side that started the season. I read earlier that you’ve had one win in your last fifteen, so it would be just our luck that you will end that run tomorrow. But I’m going to stay positive and say Leeds 1-2 Bolton (Goalscorers: Hernandez, Le Fondre & Buckley)
We’d like to thank Reece for taking the time to do one hell of an interview and wish him best of luck for rest of the season.
By Ryan Ingham