Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Sun 20 April 2008

If the Premier League were a popularity contest...

Consider this for a moment, if you will. If I were to ask a carefully chosen selection of football fans here in England who they'd like to see relegated from the Premier League (except for Derby who already are), what would be the most popular answer?

Chances are, you may well be wrong. According to an article in The Guardian on Friday, it's Bolton Wanderers, and I find that really quite staggering.

In the article, fanzines of all twenty Premier League sides were polled. They were asked four questions: 'Which club would you like to see relegated?' and 'Why?' (for footballing and non-footballing reasons), and 'Who will go down with Derby?' To my surprise, nine of the twenty responses to question 1 were 'Bolton', with Wigan and Sunderland taking three votes each, Fulham and Reading taking two each and Birmingham the remaining one.

It seems, from this harmless little straw poll, that Bolton have irked many a Premier League fan in recent times, but I was at a loss to know the reason why. It was probably rather intelligent of me, then, to read some of the answers to question 2. Here are a selection of some of them:

"Their philosophy of football is appalling and isn't exactly beneficial to the development of the sport as a spectacle."

"I hate the brand of football employed by Sam Allardyce and continued by Gary Megson."

"I don't like their brutish style of football, using the sharpened elbows of Kevin Davies to rough up opposing defences while El Hadji Diouf does his dying swan act all over the pitch."

"The most boring team in Premier League history. I left the Reebok early last week as I'd done my neck in looking for the ball in the sky."

...and so it goes on. Now forgive me if I'm wrong, but isn't this just a little unfair? OK, so Bolton may not play the most scintillating style of football in the world, but then neither do a lot of other teams. That's what makes football the rich tapestry that it is - lots of teams all playing in different ways.

I'll be honest and say that I did watch a couple of their UEFA Cup games on TV earlier in the season and didn't feel enormously entertained as a result, but it didn't automatically lead me to wish them an exit from the top flight, nor did I assume that was what you got every time Bolton ran out onto the pitch to play their next match.

When I read this article, I was expecting West Ham to be the main focus of everyone's attention, given the shenanigans of last season with the Tevez / Mascherano affair and the fact that football fans tend to have very long memories. Apparently I was wrong.

And yes I know technically West Ham aren't in the frame to be relegated this season, but I still thought someone would want to tell the world they should be removed from the setup.

So please, give Bolton a break - that's all I say. They may not be everyone's cup of tea, but they're pretty harmless in the overall scheme of things and deserve the credit of representing England in European competition twice in the last few years... Unless you know better of course. Tell us if there's someone you'd like to see relegated this season and why!

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