QUESTIONABLE PRE-SEASON CALIBRE
Now, obviously, pre-season results are utterly irrelevant. I'm sure many will ignore the standard of results in order to focus on fitness and tactical patterns. However, the 2017 summer schedule must provoke some sort of skepticism. Usually, previous years have seen a Wanderers XI (the development squad) travel to grounds such as Chorley and AFC Fylde. Not this year. Bolton will be sending the full first-team for the 2017-18 warm up.
We go to Chorley this Saturday before a trip up to 2016-17 Scottish League 2 champions Arbroath followed by a Friday night in Dundee. On Tuesday the 18th, we go to non-league Fylde then Fleetwood on that next Saturday. A midweek trip to Stockport is the penultimate friendly before facing Stoke City at home on the 29th of July. So, that is 3 non-league sides, a solitary League 1 side, an SPFL team with the Scottish fourth tier champions culminating in the traditional marquee home friendly. At home, to Stoke.
There are ways in which this list of teams can be spun into a positive light. They are all beatable therefore it should pick up some momentum to take into the season, albeit uncompetitive. The intimacy of the domestic, lower league grounds can provide a closer connection between the players and travelling support. However, I'd argue the biggest arguable positive would be the contrast into recent seasons'. Long fortnight trips abroad to Austria, Scandinavia, Spain to name a few. They've always been labeled as 'bonding/fitness sessions' that have weirdly led to horrific results, an inability to find a cohesive structure and red cards when it is nigh on impossible to be sent off. I suppose the practical benefits of cost-efficiency and less travel time are also bonuses too.
Negatives, however, are more pronounced than the positive comparisons. It has to be said, this fixture list is very League 2. I say that with research. Yeovil, Morecambe and Accrington are all playing a higher standard of opposition than us. Let's go off the phrase @results don't matter@ in pre-season and that is true, to an extent. However, fitness levels do and the best way to do that is playing as much high-intensity football as possible. I'm very conscious of the fact that aggressive, intense football can be present at the likes of Fylde and Stockport. I don't mean that patronizingly or offensively, it's just logical that they aren't going to have the cliché of 'better energy levels' than the likes of which our rivals will be testing themselves against. A caveat to the building of positive momentum through wins can also be argued. We are making already uncompetitive games even more uncompetitive by playing these sides. I know, now I've said it, Arbroath will turn us over but that is another point. Of course 2-0 defeats to a side a league below us doesn't matter. Losing to a 7th division team 2 weeks before the start f the season would be worrying and could prove to be the complete opposite of a general good-feeling.
The argument of negatives, I know, comes across as though they can't win. Win easily and it shows how pointless the games are for fitness and competitive edge, lose and its totally embarrassing. That is the point though. As much as there are a few positives you could argue, generally, they are far out-weighed by the negatives. I'm not suggesting marquee friendlies for every game, I'm not even suggesting a pre-season tour. The standard of the opposition makes for an intriguing but also a fairly questionable pre-season.
Perhaps it isn't something to worry about think about and perhaps, maybe, it's unnecessary. That's for your personal opinion.