Bolton Wanderers have seemingly built up good relationships with local, lower league clubs this season. Both the promoted Bury and Oldham Athletic have benefited from receiving several of our young, talented players on loan moves over the course of the season, as Neil Lennon sent them out in hopes they'd gain vital match day experience.
Two of our promising youngsters, Conor Wilkinson and Luke Woodland, both spent varying amounts of time on loan at Oldham this season, so I asked Owls fan, Joshua Bowker, to give us the lowdown on the pairs' time at his club.
Take it away Josh...
In a word, frustrating. His spell at the club before Christmas showed a lot of promise - he got better with each game, and ended his brief stint with a goal. It felt a real coup getting him for the rest of the season at the end of January, especially with him being involved in the Bolton first team over the Christmas period.
At the start of February, Latics were 2-0 up after 11 minutes against promotion-chasing Swindon, Wilkinson leading the line magnificently with a goal and an assist, terrorising the Swindon defence. 5 minutes later, he was off injured, missing the next 4 weeks. Manager Lee Johnson left whilst Wilkinson was recovering, and it hasn't been the same for Conor since.
He notched an important goal in the Crewe victory, but his impact in his second spell hasn't exactly gone to plan. He hasn't played in the final 5 games of the season, and hasn't even been in the squad for the last 3, as Holden seemingly tried to use players who would be here next season.
Wilkinson's major problem seems to be his attitude. When things weren't going his way, most notably in the fixture against MK Dons and Bradford, his head went down, he lost interest and a real petulant streak seemed to show.
It may have been very different had Johnson stayed on as manager, and I imagine that Wilkinson will be on loan at Oakwell next season to continue his development. Another who isn't ready for the step up just yet, but there is potential there. There's certainly a talented player in there, if he can apply himself fully. Another season in League One will do him the world of good.
Luke has been a tidy player for us. Although he only played 6 games, he came into a team that was ravaged by injuries, and replaced our skipper, Liam Kelly, whilst he was injured. After a nervy debut, he grew into his role in the side, he offered a physical element to our midfield, and kept play ticking over nicely. He wasn't overly spectacular, but he didn't make many mistakes, and help solidify a team that was in freefall. He played a key role in two big wins - vs Crewe and Rochdale, without a goal being conceded. His high-energy, powerful performance saw him named man of the match in the Rochdale game.
He got injured at the start of April, and hasn't played in the run-in. Despite this, his loan was extended in mid-April, and I believe he's out of contract at the end of the season. Our interim manager, former Bolton player Dean Holden, who I expect to be involved in the set up next season, has already made noises about signing him permanently. I'd be happy with that, and I don't think he's ready for the Championship just yet. I predict that Woodland will be here next season, likely as a permanent transfer, or again as a loan, if Bolton decide to extend his contract.
You can follow Josh on Twitter @JoshuaBowker.