In a season of doom and misery for Bolton Wanderers fans, one of the few shining lights has been the emergence of a flock of new young talent. Leading this sudden influx of academy players breaking into the first team has been 21-year-old midfielder Josh Vela.
Despite being deployed as a makeshift right-back for much of the campaign, Vela has excelled while many of his senior pros struggled. The fact that he didn't even break into the senior squad until Neil Lennon arrived at the club in October makes his achievements even more impressive.
Vela was in danger of suffering the same fate as many of our other supposed young talents in recent years and drifting into lower league obscurity. The idiot that is Dougie Freedman ostracised Vela from the first-team and sent him off to train with the club's youngsters, which led to the player outing his former manager on social media after the club finally sacked the Scot.
Upon Lennon's arrival Vela was thrust straight into the first-team, making his first appearance of the season in the Whites' 3-1 home victory over Brentford on October 25th. And he instantly became a fixture in a side that enjoyed a dramatic turnaround in form under their new manager, with Wanderers going 9 matches unbeaten when Vela was in the side. In Vela's 32 appearances this season Wanderers have only lost eight times, of which half those defeats were against sides that finished in the top six.
Perhaps Vela's highlight of the season was his performance in the FA Cup Fourth Round replay against Liverpool, in which he bossed the midfield up against the likes of former England captain Steven Gerrard, Brazil international Philippe Coutinho and England's Adam Lallana.
He's played well at right-back, despite being far from a natural in that position, but when he's been allowed to move up into the midfield Vela has played superbly. He works hard, gets stuck in, wins the ball back for the side and he has an eye for a pass that is lacking from the majority of our midfield options.
Vela, along with Zach Clough, is a player we should be building our team around as Lennon looks to strengthen his squad with a view to a more competitive season next campaign. He's been superb this season in a team that has largely struggled and has remained free of injury other than the last couple of weeks of the campaign, while others around him have dropped like flies.
Therefore I believe Josh Vela is the standout choice for this season's Bolton Wanderers Player of the Season.