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Life in the Championship: A Season Review, Part 3

In the third and final installation of his season review, Michael Murray revisits some of the bright spots of 2012-2013.

Dance for us Dougie!
Dance for us Dougie!
Stu Forster

To round off this piece, I thought it was important to look back at some of the highlights and discuss the stand out performers for Bolton this season.

Player of the Season

I have 4 players who I felt were in contention for this award.

Chris Eagles started out in fantastic form and after a mid-season dip, recaptured some of that magic towards the end of the campaign, as well as finishing as the leading goal scorer.

After a slow start, Jay Spearing, on a season-long loan from Liverpool proved his ability in anchoring a team. His tenacity and attitude, ability to win his fair share of headers despite a diminutive stature and his range of passing, granted mainly sideways, endeared him to the Reebok faithful and faithless.

Darren Pratley. Despite being much maligned during his first season and to an extent the first half of the Championship season for his lack of technical ability, he added something to the way the manager wanted to play and became almost a permanent fixture on Dougie Freedman's team sheet. When Pratley did not feature for whatever reason, the team seemed to lack balance.

Craig Dawson. Although he was only at the club for a 3 month period, the impact he had on the collective ability to defend was monumental. It's arguable that his introduction into our back 4 was the catalyst and provided the platform for the run which saw us almost make the playoffs. He also provided a decent goal threat and won me a few quid as well.

Ultimately there was only one of the four this award could have gone too and I for one hope we see him back in white next season although I very much doubt it and that is Jay Spearing.

Moment of the season

Mark Davies equaliser v Wolves. Not only was it a stunning strike from the midfield maestro, it was the fact that it was he, against his former club and it denied them 3 points. Their fans were livid, especially the one who wanted a scrap with a rather drunk @pabond89 in the subway back towards the city centre.

@LeytherMatt trolling Wolves fans. After arriving very early into Wolverhampton City Centre's Walkabout, several beers and Jagarbombs, Matt decided to ask every Wolves fan he came across what their opinions on John McGinlay were. How he did not get a slap, I'll never know. Well played sir.

David Ngog equaliser v Brighton. After working a 12 hour shift the night before, driving (yes I drove) down to Brighton, watching us get battered for 93 minutes but only finding ourselves 1-0 down due to some generosity from the woodwork and the brilliance of Adam Bogdan, Chris Eagles picked the ball up on the left wing, drove down the touchline, skipped past the full back and cut the ball over to David Ngog who finished well. We went mental and it certainly made the lack of sleep and the impending 4 and a bit hour drive home far more bearable.

Chris Eagles winner v Blackburn Rovers. 90+3 up, 0-0, the ball makes its way to Chris Eagles at the edge of the area who drills the ball into Jake Kean's bottom corner from 20 yards. I have never known the Reebok to go as mental as it did and it's for that reason that this is my moment of the season and I doubt there will be many who were in the ground that night who'd disagree.

Where do we need to improve for next season?

I am more than happy with Adam Bogdan as a first choice and believe the experience of this season will help him to flourish next season. In Andy Lonergan we have a deputy who is reliable enough when called upon.

We need defenders. Personally I think the right back position is covered. Tyrone Mears, despite the views of most, is defensively solid and Sam Ricketts can provide a decent level of back up. It's also a make or break season for Joe Riley. Injuries have blighted his young career, but I think next season, should he stay fit, he'll have the chance to stake his claim to the position.

It appears Marcos Alonso is leaving for pastures new so the left back position needs to be addressed. Marc Tierney has all but completed his move from Norwich if the reports we have been reading are true, as is a deal for Blockpool defender Alex Baptiste. I still think we need another left back.

It's the centre of defence where I have my main reservations. Zat Knight and David Wheater are more than adequate at this level but beyond them, the squad is very thin. I have been wholly unimpressed by Matt Mills and although I think there is a player somewhere in Tim Ream, I don't think he is physically capable of playing in the English leagues so this level of depth needs addressing. A return for Craig Dawson would be ideal but I think extremely unlikely.

I believe our midfield is more than adequate for the Championship. It's again reported that Stuart Holden has agreed a new one year contract which is fantastic and with Medo Kamara, Mark Davies and Josh Vela we have real quality in the centre of the park. I'd also love to make the Spearing loan permanent but don't think this is feasible for the club. We maybe need another wide player to supplement Eagles and Lee Chung Yong.

Finally, we need the holy grail of football, no, not the brown Coventry shirt from 1981, a proven goal scorer who we can rely on for 20-30 goals. In David Ngog, Craig Davies and Tom Eaves we have players who can provide a good foil for a poacher, we just need to find that poacher. I believe the rumours about Nicolas Anelka to be complete pipe dreams, but it'd be great if he did return wouldn't it?