Some of my most memorable matches of all time are the play-off semis v Bolton. Talk about feisty affairs, that is what football is all about. Twenty years on and Bolton are fighting for survival. It could just as easily have been us in that position. Laurence Bassini has prevented a sale of the club from going through, which has meant no investment and an inability to pay staff and players.
Nobody wants to see clubs like Bolton, or Bury, go to the wall. These clubs, like ITFC, are central to their communities. The close season is bad enough, but imagine if ITFC closed down forever. (For anyone interested, Soccernomics has a chapter on mental health and the way that football improves mental health of people. There is even a statistically significant increase in suicide rates during the close season, which reverses when there is a World Cup on). What would happen in communities if your football club just ceases to exist? For some people, life would be hardly worth living (Bill Shankly anyone?)
For the fans going to Bolton on Saturday, lets show some solidarity with Bolton. We should be thankful that the match is going ahead, and that a team largely comprised of youngsters is going to turn out to try to keep the club fulfilling its obligations. If it was ITFC, I'd be proud of that. It's likely to be quite literally men against boys, so lets keep it respectful and rein in some of the usual songs about "Bolton's a s**thole" and the like. If we run them over, as we should, lets keep the celebrations in context.
However on a wider front, I am just dismayed at where football seems to be going, with the demise of once-proud football teams. Surely it is time for the fans to stand up and demonstrate against the way football is being run in this country? Greta Thunberg managed to start an environmental movement that has grown globally, so why can't football fans start a movement to demand change in the way our game is run? Why can't we have fans at every football ground calling for change?
Imagine if say 50% of the football TV income went to the Premier League, and the remaining 50% was split between the rest of the football pyramid. 25% to the Championship, 12.5% to L1, 6.25% to L2, and the rest flowing down into non-league. The Prem would still be incredibly rich, with 50% of all the money going to just 20 teams, whilst the other 50% went to hundreds. Players salaries would have to be curtailed somewhat, but frankly £300k per week is obscene and that would be a good thing.
Something has to change, and if enough of us want to see our football clubs have a future, we need to start doing something about it.