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Wheater faces fitness race as Boro reunion looms large

Paul Gilham/Getty Images

In ten days' time, Bolton Wanderers will welcome Middlesbrough to the Reebok Stadium for the first time in over four years. Since the turn of the new year, Boro have been an absolutely abject form, having lost 10 of 13 and plummeted out of playoff contention. As things stand, they sit one place and five points below Bolton Wanderers. While the match could ultimately prove vital in the Trotters' hopes for promotion, it is important for another reason.

David Wheater moved to Bolton Wanderers in January of 2011 from Boro. At that point, Middlesbrough were (and obviously still are) a Championship side while Bolton Wanderers were (at that point) flying high in the Premier League with everything going their way. Then, at the tail end of last season with Bolton holding out slim hopes of survival, David Wheater's ACL went against West Bromwich Albion and he would spend the following ten months on the sideline.

When Bolton Wanderers dropped to the Championship, a meeting with Middlesbrough was in the cards. That match was Jimmy Phillips' final game in charge. Dougie Freedman had already been hired and would take over following that affair, which was Jimmy Phillips' own Boro reunion. David Wheater was only halfway through the recovery process of his knee at that point and as a result, has not had a chance to play against his old side yet.

Wheater's recovery was, for all intents and purposes, completed in late February when he made a short cameo appearance at the tail end of the Hull City win. It all looked great for the big man to make a full return against his old side on 20 April. That is until last weekend when David Wheater strained a calf muscle in training. The injury kept him out of the Wolves clash and will keep him out of this weekend's away trip to Bristol City and likely the Leicester City clash as well.

Speaking to the Bolton News on Friday, Dougie Freedman expressed his disappointment:

"It's very disappointing for us because we were close to changing the shape of the team to accommodate him.

"He'll be missing for the next two or three games now.

"It's definitely not a season-ender and he'll definitely still be in the mix when Craig Dawson goes back to West Brom.

"Him and Zat have been doing very well, so Wheats, Matt (Mills) and Tim (Ream) are unlucky really.

"I'm very fortunate to have five very good centre-halves at the moment."

Craig Dawson will return to the Baggies on 27 April, just after the trip to Cardiff City. Bolton will have one more match to play at that point: the season-ender at home against Blackpool.