With Bolton Wanderers' recent action in the loan market this past week, in recruiting Liverpool midfielder Jordan Lussey, and sending out Rob Hall and Rob Holding on loan to MK Dons and Bury, respectively, the tally for Bolton players currently out on loan stands at a rather large thirteen. So who out of this band of youngsters and outcasts should Neil Lennon at least try to keep hold of once they all return from their stints at other clubs?
Jay Spearing - Blackburn Rovers - Leave
It's just never quite worked out here for Spearing, despite everything possible going his way in the beginning of his Bolton career. Brought in by Owen Coyle, initially on loan from Liverpool, Spearing was our best player that season. His heart-on-the-sleeve passion and take no prisoners playing style quickly endeared himself to the Bolton faithful. But what surprised me most about the little scouser was his technical ability, with his passing and set-piece delivery actually being really good. So much so that I once likened him, part ironically part semi-seriously, to a Championship level hybrid of Gattuso and Pirlo.
After a summer of Bolton fans clambering for him to be signed permanently, the club finally delivered with the £1.5m capture of Spearing, much to the fans' delight. It wasn't even that long until he was made captain, as Zat Knight certainly wasn't up for the role. But that was as good as it got for Spearing, because since his full-time move to the Reebok/Macron Stadium, he never managed to recapture the excellent form that earned him his big money move.
With a season and a half of mostly below average and extremely frustrating performances, Neil Lennon loaned Spearing out to local neighbours Blackburn Rovers. I could possibly see a way for Spearing to come back into the first team, especially if Lennon struggles to find a defensive midfielder in the summer transfer window with his probably limited funds, but with Spearing having another two years to go on his contract, I'd imagine the club will try and recuperate some of the funds that were spent on him to boost Lennon's transfer coffers.
Alex Baptiste - Blackburn Rovers - Stay
Defender Alex Baptiste has spent the entire season on loan at Blackburn Rovers, after Dougie Freedman shipped him out of the squad due to a poor first season at the club. Now lets not remember this incorrectly, for the most part, Baptiste was awful last season, his positioning was often poor and he made far too many mistakes. No one was complaining when he was loaned out.
But, that's an emphatic but, he was never played in his strongest position: centre back.
Right back for most of the season, and then left back when the injury list grew, he was constantly played out of position so, whilst still inexcusable, his bad performances are at least understandable and forgivable. He has proven with his time at Blackburn, epitomised by his great defensive display against Liverpool in the cup, that he is a really solid centre half - probably better than all we've got.
Neil Lennon has outlined his desires to sit down with Baptiste and talk about the situation, with Baptiste admitting he doesn't know what will happen in the summer. A permanent move to Rovers is practically impossible, as they've been struck with a transfer embargo, however. I think I'd like to see Baptiste stay in the summer, it saves us having to spend too much time and money on bringing another centre back in along side the probable signing of Nick Kuipers, he's experienced and dependable when played in the centre, and can, just about, cover in other areas when needed. However, with a year left on his contact, he could potentially be used to gain some funds to bring in other players, like Crystal Palace's Paddy McCarthy, for example.
Medo - Maccabi Haifa - Leave
Whilst I think there is a slight chance that Spearing will stay once he returns from Blackburn, I don't think Medo Kamara has a chance in the slightest. Which is a bit of a shame. The Sierra Leone international looked like a steal when Dougie Freedman brought him in from Partizan Belgrade, for around £400k. He fitted right into the team nicely and seemed to be a more composed Spearing. But after his first half-season at the club he was found to be poor and wasteful on the ball, and not very good at tackling either. He never played on the pitch under Neil Lennon and I was surprised it took as long as it did for him to leave. The stumbling block over his summer departure, however, may be the remaining year on his contract, but hopefully some weird team we've never heard of will pay some money for him.
Jermaine Beckford - Preston North End - Leave
I mentioned on the second episode of the LOVpod how Bolton have a lot of players who would be really good in League One, but just aren't good enough for the Championship. Jermaine Beckford is the epitome of that. Whilst I think he was a bit unfairly treated last season, as he did score a fair number of goals, his all round play and ability just isn't up to Championship standards. Fairly soon after coming in, Lennon sent Beckford to Preston North End, where he's been playing well, or so I hear, and has scored a decent number of goals. He's out of contract in the summer, so there's no chance he'll be staying, so I just hope he finds a good League One club and continues to bang them in.
Keith Andrews - MK Dons - Leave
I actually forgot that Andrews was still contracted to us, which I found quite sad. I remember being really pleased when we signed him on a free on the back of his impressive display at Euro 2012, but it just never worked out for him here. With his contract up at the end of the season, I hope he rejoins MK Dons permanently so he can spend the remainder of his career at a club he loves.
Rob Hall - MK Dons - Leave
Last Thursday Rob Hall was finally shifted out of the club, as he re-joined MK Dons on loan. I share much of the same sentiment that Chris wrote about in this article. Despite showing occasional flashes of potential, Hall has never really taken an opportunity in the first team by the scruff of the neck. His League Cup appearance against Bury earlier in the season will testify to that, as he was an absolute embarrassment on the pitch. Weak and wasteful on the ball, with a head clearly not in the right place, I'd be very surprised if Hall was still at the club next season. The only issue is, with a year still to go on his contract, who's going to buy him?
Andy Kellet - Manchester United - Stay
It was the tale of the 2015 January transfer window, as at the last minute, to everyones' gob-smacked shock, promising Bolton youngster Andy Kellet joined Manchester United on loan. The story was that he was signed for cover in the United u21 side, as they'd loaned out most of their players, but the more cynical Bolton fans suspected that he was highly thought of at United and they'd use the loan to see if they wanted to sign him in the summer. Those ideas scared me, as I'm a big fan of Kellet and believe he could go on to be a big player for us. In the games he featured in at the end of last season he was brilliant, his loan spells at Plymouth Argyle were a success (and he scored one amazing goal which you really should look for if you haven't seen it) and he's one of our most promising youngsters. Thankfully, he hasn't played too much for the United u21s, so perhaps they aren't that interested and he can come back in the summer a better player having spent five months training at the biggest club in the country.
Sanmi Odelusi - Coventry City - Stay
Much like Kellet, I'm also a big fan of Odelusi. I believe his career would be a lot further along by now if he wasn't hit with a lengthy injury, but he's come back from that and is now playing well at Coventry City. I hear from Coventry fans that he does have a tendency to over complicate things at times, but he's scored three goals already and has made a reasonable impact in his time there. With a year left on his contract, I'm hoping next season will see Odelusi finally fully break into the first team and prove his potential.
Conor Wilkinson - Oldham Athletic - Stay
I have my doubts over Conor Wilkinson, every time he's had an opportunity in the first team he's looked miles out of his depth and even, at times, somewhat uninterrestested. But Lennon clearly rates him and he does have a lot of ability, with a few years left on his current deal we may as well keep him for now and see if he can improve and get to the quality needed for the first team.
Luke Woodland - Oldham Athletic - Stay
I can't say that I know an awful lot about Luke Woodland, other than he's highly rated, has played England youth teams and suffered a serious injury recently, which ruled him out of action for a while. His loan spell at Oldham is going well, as he earned the MOTM award in their recent win, so I also hope that he stays too. At least long enough for Lennon to have a good look at him over the summer and judge whether or not he thinks he'll make it.
Tom Eaves - Bury - Leave
Signed for £250k on the back of scoring a hat trick in a friendly against Owen Coyle's Bolton, and then ushered into the first team squad in expense of Kevin Davies, it's safe Eaves was never good enough to warrant any of those things. He will no doubt leave the club when his contract expires in the summer, with his most memorable moment being blocking loads of Bolton fans on Twitter.
Niall Maher - Blackpool - Leave
Defender Niall Maher, currently on loan at Blackpool, is another who I suspect won't get his contract renewed come the end of the season. He is still quite young, only 19, but with Quade Taylor and Oscar Threlkeld above him in the pecking order and since he's hardly set things alight at Blackpool, I wouldn't be surprised if he was let go.
Rob Holding - Bury - Leave
Rob Holding, who's been at the club since the age of seven and joined Bury last week, is in exactly the same situation as Maher: 19 years old, out of contract at the end of the season, and not at the same standard as Taylor and Threlkeld. Whilst I could possibly see one of the two staying, I think the likelihood is that both will depart at the end of the season.
So you've got to let me know, who should stay and who should go?