SEASON'S EVE: THE BRILLIANCE OF BOLTON
What a club.
This time tomorrow, thousands and thousands of Boltonians will wake up with a churning sensation in their stomach, football is back. However, for Wanderers' supporters, the return of Bolton matches is 'more than that'.
Whether down De Havilland Way, hopping across Burnden Way from Horwich Parkway or cutting through the Middlebrook, there will be the same feeling inside every single Trotters fan. Due to the last few seasons, it is a feeling that can simply not be replicated for any other club.
2 years ago, this magnificent force nearly became extinct. After unbelievable highs, the club headed towards a quite astonishing end. A dramatically close last-minute saviour in the shape of former record-signing Dean Holdsworth, backed by soon-to-be chairman Ken Anderson, emerged. It didn't prevent relegation but as that cliché goes: it was the best thing for us.
The turmoil and genuine hurt felt from those sterile 2/3 years at the Macron Stadium helped to create something so very special in the third tier. Since my first Wanderers game, my first season ticket, first away day - never have I ever felt more attached and singularly important, like every other man or woman willing the Whites on, than last season. I'll reference the obvious; Port Vale. 4000+ travelling down to Stoke, no animosity and no division. A fanbase truly together and truly united on getting our great club back up and on its feet.
Bolton couldn't have provided that personal relief and expression of uncompromising joy without that painful era. (...and Rochdale away, Jesus Christ.) We are not out of it yet, I know that. However, this club is coming back.
Tomorrow marks a significant day in the club's history. Last season showed a glimpse of this huge town's potential and now Phil Parkinson's men have a truly wonderful opportunity to grasp and continue our return to prominence. The arrogance of Leeds fans bringing their millions tomorrow in the expectance of an easy 3 points will be severely misjudged. This isn't the stagnant 2013 Bolton, this truly is a different proposition. A united and ferocious crowd backing a team playing in the supporters' image, aggressive and through thick or thin.
The extremes of emotional anguish and elation begins once again tomorrow. The, at times, depressingly frustrating and confusing beast of Bolton Wanderers will once again enchant us all. A timelessly special club with new and real hope. Like no other, once you're in at Bolton, you really can never be out.