As West Ham United contemplate, from their uncomfortable position in the bottom three of the Premier League, how they might repel a full-throttle Manchester United at Upton Park next Sunday, their manager, Alan Pardew, speaks of the need to show strong leadership. However, you suspect he will spend the next few days haunted by another thought.
It is that the uncertainty he believes has hindered West Ham's progress ever since the idea of a takeover was first mooted has not gone away even with new owners in place and that his own future might now be at the heart of it. He was not ready to expand on this notion in the immediate aftermath of the heaviest of West Ham's 11 League defeats this season, preferring to stick to the simpler mitigation offered by the absence of both his first-choice central defenders for the team's third match in six days.
But he had touched on it last week when he alluded to the "fear" that had pervaded the dressing room at Reading at the time of that club's move to the £50m Madejski Stadium, with the elevated expectations that accompanied it, which he feels was a factor in the team being relegated.
"I was reserve-team manager there at the time and I could see the effect it had on the players," he said. "I don't want that to happen here, with a new owner and a new bright future and everybody getting nervous about it."
The arrival of Eggert Magnusson and Bjorgulfur Gudmundsson and their millions has similarly raised West Ham's ambitions to another level and the two Icelandic moguls made no attempt to disguise their feelings in the stands on Saturday evening, so soon after the disappointment of losing at home to Wigan Athletic last Wednesday. Pardew will have wondered how much frustration they will be prepared to endure, aware that if uncertainty is still blurring the focus of his players, it is likely to stem from the issue of whether he remains in charge.
"It is hard to reflect on the question of uncertainty at the moment because I don't want to use any excuse other than the logical ones of playing a third match in six days, having both my centre-halves out and coming to a place that is difficult in any circumstances," he said on Saturday.
"At the moment I am trying my best to nurse some young players through a difficult situation and I hope [the new owners] give me that time and patience to see it through.
"Next week [against Manchester United] is going to be very difficult but then we run into a series of games against teams on equal par with us.
"It is important to the players that I show strong leadership and try to guide them out of this situation. You don't get success in any walk of life without coming through periods like this."
Bolton could scarcely have been more ruthless. Driven by the wonderfully unflagging energy of Gary Speed, completing at 37 years old an unprecedented 500th Premiership appearance, Sam Allardyce's team rapidly exposed the problems in West Ham's defence, going ahead when El Hadji Diouf recovered Speed's diagonal header to set up Kevin Davies.
The lack of cohesion between George McCartney and James Collins, an untried partnership standing in for the injured Anton Ferdinand and Danny Gabbidon, was punished again when Davies flicked home Bolton's second, from a Speed corner. Diouf skipped through unhindered to add a third and when Speed's pass invited Nicolas Anelka to chip home a fourth within a minute, defeat turned into a rout.
"I feel some sympathy for Alan," Allardyce said. "But I'm pleased for my players because I have been giving them a hard time for not scoring enough goals. In this job you have to be cruel sometimes and punish the opposition when you are on top."
Goals: Davies (17) 1-0; Davies (52) 2-0; Diouf (77) 3-0; Anelka (78) 4-0.
Bolton Wanderers (4-3-3): Jaaskelainen; Hunt, Faye, Meite, Pedersen; Nolan, Campo, Speed (Gardner, 88); Davies (Vaz Te, 82), Anelka, Diouf (Tal, 79). Substitutes not used: Al Habsi (gk), Stelios.
West Ham United (4-4-1-1): Green; Spector (Pantsil, 61), Collins, McCartney, Konchesky; Mullins, Reo-Coker, Dailly, Etherington; Tevez (Sheringham, 61); Harewood. Substitutes not used: Carroll (gk), Zamora, Benayoun.
Referee: H Webb (South Yorkshire).
Bookings: Bolton: Diouf, Campo. West Ham: Reo-Coker, Etherington.
Man of the match: Speed.
Attendance: 22,283.Reuse content