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Season Preview: Chris Manning

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So exciting, it's like Christmas Eve!

Clint Hughes

So here we are on the cusp of the 2014/15 Championship season. For you stat fans, this is the 22nd season that I have been following the Whites. We've come a long way since that January afternoon in 1992 when goals from Tony Philliskirk and Neil Fisher secured the win at home to Brighton or Doncaster. I can't remember which, but I do remember they wore pink shorts and I didn't really understand why there wasn't a replay when Dave Felgate saved a penalty in front of the Lever End.

Since then we've had plenty of highs - promotions, UEFA Cup runs, beating the big boys - and no shortage of lows - relegations, Danny Butterfield, appointing Gary Megson and the recent malaise. Through it all shines through my love for Bolton Wanderers. This season, much like all others, sees me filled with optimism ahead of the campaign opener against Watford. I fancy us this season. I really do.

So here goes nowt:

Predicted position ·

I think we have to look to improve on last year's position. I don't see how we can fail to improve on what was one of the most disappointing seasons in recent memory.

We were poor for 90% of the campaign, and deserved to lose as many as we did. We were, largely, a shambles, and blame for that has to lie at the feet of the manager.

That said, I think that the squad we have assembled is stronger and more 'coherent' than that of last year, meaning that the stars should align and lead us to an improved position when all is said and done.

I'll split my answer into two parts:

1) Fail to strengthen our striking options - 12th

2) Manage to improve our striking options - 8th

I'd be happy with that, and I think the fans and club would too.

Key Signing ·

Of the new lads - Dean Moxey. A solid defender at this level with that all-important Premier League experience with Crystal Palace. Tony Pulis knows his defenders, and that he had faith in Moxey back when Palace were cementing their Premier League status speaks volumes.

I don't think we saw enough of Marc Tierney to get a full and frank appraisal of his abilities but should Moxey prove to be the solid performer that we've promised then I can see it being tough for Tierney to get back into the first team and displace Moxey.

Of those already here - Tim Ream. I know he still has his knockers (that's what she said) but I also think that he has developed into a solid Championship centre half. We all pine for Craig Dawson following his successful loan spell all the way back in 2013, but Ream provides a quiet assurance that we do require, and if he can add a few goals to his repertoire then he should end all discussions as to who should be our regular starting centre half.

Matt Mills and David Wheater can fight among themselves for the other spot.

We might not have a chance of promotion, but it's important that we make sure we're not going to be relegated which, let's not forget, was a seriously possibility for three quarters of last season.

Line-Up for First Game ·

Fairly predictable, but:

Adam Bogdan

Kevin McNaughton, Matt Mills, Tim Ream, Dean Moxey

Jay Spearing, Liam Trotter

Neil Danns, CYL, Rob Hall

Jermaine Beckford

I've would have gone for Craig Davies up top on his bill as a result of Dougie Freedman being a fan of the big man up top, and of his fondness for sticking with what you know. However, inexplicably, he loves Jermaine Beckford. Nothing against him - I hear he's a thoroughly nice chap - but you get me, right?

Would prefer to see two up front, but we've got the wrong personnel for that at this moment in time.

We saw last year in Joe Mason and Lukas Jutkiewicz that the two-pronged striker approach works but it's not always going to work unless you have the right men.

Will Dougie Freedman Last? ·

I reckon he will, for right or wrong.

The chairman has, more or less, staked his and the club's future on the man and he'll continue to be backed. We don't have the case to keep chopping and changing, and so therefore I can see Freedman being the man to take the club forward in the eyes of the decision-makers.

That said, if we were to embark on another 10 game winless run as we did last year then it's going to be very tough for the chairman to ignore the cries and moans from the stands and from those on social media.

I think closing down his own account was a wise move, to be sure.

As for Dougie - the future may well be bright, but I wouldn't bank on him still being Bolton Wanderers manager in two years' time.

Ideal Signing ·

Glenn Murray, erstwhile Crystal Palace lunk of a striker.

Tons of Champo experience, and a boat-load of goals at this level. Pair him with someone like Mason and I think we'd be on to a good thing.

I'd also take Chris Wood from Leicester City. Again, loads of goals at this level.

Good first name, too.

Sell to Reinvest?

I'd rather we didn't.

As fans we want to see the best players that we possibly can. That means Mark Davies and Lee Chung Yong, primarily.

I don't think there'll be much of a market for either at a cost to make our heads turn, but I can also well imagine the club seeing a £2m offer for either being quite attractive, especially the Korean given that he only has a year to fun on his contract.

We'll soon see whether I'm right or wrong - but let me know below the line either way.

Especially you, Michael Thorn, my dear friend.