Kevin Davies has been integral to Bolton Wanderers' success in recent years but even this most talismanic of centre-forwards is proving powerless to prevent the team enduring their worst start to a season for 109 years.
"I know the fans are not too happy and rightly so," said Davies, still smarting from Sunday's 5-1 reverse against Chelsea at the Reebok Stadium. "We've suffered some heavy defeats here and haven't got any points at home, so we need to do more. Hopefully we can be judged on the next set of five or six fixtures where we will have to pick up points."
Owen Coyle's side are now propping up the Premier League while clearly failing to protect its most porous defence. By way of mitigation, Davies cited a tough run of early-season games, in which Bolton have lost to Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea in their first seven matches.
"I don't want to hide behind the fixtures but we have been dealt a cruel set," he said. "But while we might not be expected to beat the top teams, we need to compete better. The manner of the defeats hasn't been good enough and competing is becoming more difficult."
It has not helped Coyle's cause that Bolton also lost at home to newly promoted Norwich last month. "I know how important it is to get a good start to a season and, for me, Norwich was the big one," Davies said.
Conceding 21 goals in seven games hardly bolsters confidence. "Defensively we need to do better," Davies conceded. "We don't seem to be putting two good halves together at the moment. We're not defending well enough as a team and we are giving ourselves too much to do."
Adam Bogdan, Bolton's young goalkeeper, did not convince against Chelsea but Davies was keen to support an emerging talent in an exposed position. "Adam's a top young keeper but he's got to learn quickly at this level, especially against teams like Chelsea," he said. "We know the manager holds him in high regard and he's got to show he can pick himself up.
"Sunday was an opportunity for him to come in and do well, so he will be disappointed but no one here points fingers within the squad – we stick together."
Whether such unity can produce improved results during an, on paper, rather kinder run of post-international break fixtures, remains to be seen. What appears near certain is that forthcoming matches against Wigan, Sunderland, Swansea, Stoke and West Bromwich will define Bolton's season and determine Coyle's future.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
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