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You can Win with Kids?

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In days of yore, when the Mighty Bolton Wanderers pillaged and plundered the great cities of Europe (I'm looking at you, Lisbon!), they club had a reputation (sometimes fairly, sometimes not) of having an old squad. The narrative was that Bolton employed a group of big-name 35-year-olds, and that Big Sam had somehow massaged one more grand performance out of each of them.

Unfortunately, when Gary Megson inherited most of Allardyce's roster, he was not able to achieve the same results. Of course, this was not surprising, as a massage from the Ginger Mourinho would probably leave a boulder crying out in agony. Megson continued the Allardyce method of bringing in older (and not quite as big-named) players, but that backfired. He bought some younger players as well, not having any clue what to do with them. Bolton barely avoided relegation, and finally, mercifully, Megson was shown the door. Enter Owen Coyle, who took an aging squad with a bloated wage bill and made it younger and cheaper.

Now, some cynics might claim that phrases such as "make the squad younger" and reduce the wage bill" are just euphemisms for "our chairman is a tight-fisted b@$+@#d," and they may be right. I disagree. I think that Owen Coyle likes coaching young players, I think he is good at it, and I think it is a wise plan for a club like ours. Not to mention, I love watching them play.

The funny thing is, many analysts, most of whom do not watch Bolton regularly, still think of us as an old team. They try to preview our matches against one of the "big clubs," and have no idea what to say, so they just search their memory and the names that pop out are Kevin Davies, Jussi Jaaskelainen, Paul Robinson, and maybe Martin Petrov. Some of them do still make contributions (Petrov has been brilliant recently), but that is unlikely to continue for much longer. Youth is being served at the Reebok. How much youth? Just take a look at the below starting XI;

Adam Bogdan (24)

Joe Riley (20) David Wheater (24) Tim Ream (24) Marcos Alonso (21)

Fabrice Muamba (23) Stuart Holden (26)

Chung-Yong Lee (23) Mark Davies (23) Chris Eagles (26)

David Ngog (22)

No one is over 26, and the average age is 23.2. Also keep in mind, this is not a bunch of names picked off the academy list, or kids who have had a few nice performances in the reserves. Six of them (Bogdan, Wheater, Muamba, Davies, Eagles, Ngog) started against Liverpool last Saturday, three (Holden, Alonso, Lee) will walk back into the first team when they recover from injury, one (Ream) is a new signing, and Riley will have the right back position all to himself sometime within the next nine months.

So there you have it, Bolton Wanderers' team of the future. At least, assuming we manage to stay up (I think we will). What do you think?