The new season is very nearly upon us. We'll soon all back shivering in our jackets, in the Macron Stadium, as the atrocious August drizzle continues to smear this thing called "summer". We face Derby County on August 8th, and whilst I really don't want that game to kick-off at all, I am very excited for football to be returning, especially my beloved Bolton Wanderers.
If you haven't noticed, Bolton is actually quite an interesting club. We may well appear quite boring to an outsiders, but in actual fact the amount of weird and often inexplainable things that happen at the club, admittedly usually painfully tragic and calamitous, are quite plentiful.
So here are a few things you should look out for with the Whites this season:
The dreaded finances
May as well start with the doom and gloom, eh? The finance situation has gradually got worse and worse as the season have worn by. Despite the best efforts of both Dougie Freedman and Neil Lennon to cut costs, it doesn't seem to make any difference at all, the plummeting numbers are still squeezing the life out of us like a nasty boa constrictor. So much so that the quite menial signings of squad players like Lawrie Wilson, Stephen Dobbie and Emile Heskey actually took a great deal of time and effort. So the question is: will they hold up? Will Bolton Wanderers still be a club this time next year? Will we finally get some investment or a take over. Yes, yes and no, probably not. I do think, from my very limited understanding of the clubs situation, that we are fairly stable and won't be disappearing any time soon - we just can't afford to buy players. With the takeover, I just can never see it happening. When are we ever that lucky?
The last minute goal phenomenon
"Phenomenon" usually connotes something wondrous and inexplainable, usually in a positive light. Whilst last season's 'last minute goal phenomenon' was certainly wondrous and inexplainable, it sure as fuck wasn't positive. Conceding so many goals in the last five minutes became so frequent that is ceased being annoying and just became an expected running joke. It cost us dearly, had we been able to hold out in those so many games and keep hold of the points, we'd have finished last year in the top half. Instead we finished 18th. If we're to make any sort of improvement this season then that has got to stop, or we'll just fall back into the self forefilling prophecy once more.
This season is going to be a massive one for a lot of players, all of them hoping they can either rekindle lost form, get the fans back on side or just simply improve. The returning Jay Spearing has seemingly impressed Neil Lennon with his attitude in pre-season and hasn't looked bad in friendlies either, but there was a reason he was loaned out to Blackburn Rovers last season. Since he joined the club permanently from Liverpool, he's never managed to replicate his fantastic form during his loan spell. Now unburdened of the responsibility of the arm band and our only sole defensive midfielder (I don't count Medo) he could be an important member of the squad.
French centre half Dorian Dervite, after a pretty big hiccup in his debut, actually started last season really well. "You beautiful bastard" was never far from my lips, as Dervite would constantly make life saving challenges and interceptions. But something happened and he then became a real liability, a shadow of the defender he once was. Going in to the season he seems to be, by virtue of injuries to other players, first choice centre back. He's going to have to find the defender he once was again if we are to succeed.
Friend of the site, Neil Danns, was bloody brilliant when Lennon first came into the club. The manager deployed Danns in a defensive midfield role which was a stroke of genius, as Danns had the on ball ability to take and pass the ball forward, but also the energy to win the ball back in the middle of the park. Then the sending off against Liverpool happened and he wasn't the same after. Slow and clumsy on the ball, he would get caught out in a perilous position at least once a game, if not more. We have more depth in midfield now so Danns probably won't be taking up such an important role, but I hope when he does appear he finds his form again, because I do like him.
Unlike the previously three mentioned, Liam Trotter has no real story of previous greatness in a white shirt, apart from that ace goal he scored once. Trotter has never looked fit whilst at Bolton, with niggly injuries plaguing him and he's never really found a position that suits him best either. I've often forgot that Trotter is even in the squad. As I just mentioned, we have loads of midfielders and I really don't know if Trotter will actually see any game time.
For the good of the team, I hope all of them achieve their redemptions.
It seems like this one is back already, with injuries befalling Derik Osede and David Wheater two weeks before the season begins. I'm keeping a tally this season just to see exactly how many injuries we get, because I have never known a club to get as many as us. Ever. It's actually quite laughable and there doesn't seem to be a solution. I think we just have to hope the curse gets lifted.
Will he stay or will he go?
This could probably apply to quite a few people at the club, but I think you all know who I'm talking about, of course, our manager Neil Lennon. We all spent a big past of the summer with hearts in our mouths and shit in our pants as Leicester City sacked Nigel Pearson. Their search for a new boss was long and tiresome, as Lennon was constantly the favourite. But thankfully they hired Claudio Ranieri instead. I'm not that thankful, however, as Ranieri is an absolutely atrocious manager. In his last job he guided Greece to two spectacular defeats against the Faroe Islands. I have very little doubt that Ranieri will do equally as in Leicester and will get himself sacked by November, at which point it will make perfect sense for the Foxes to swipe our manager away. I'm trying not to get to hung up on this though, because despite the horrid state of our club, I do take Lennon as a man who wouldn't leave a job unfinished. I also don't really see the point in living in constant fear, if he does then fine, we'll just move swiftly on to League One. No bother.
The potential formations that Lennon could go with this year really does interest me, there are two that I think he'll use primarily. The diamond will be used a lot, probably on the opening day. It's a good way to create a solid base and attacking dynamism, whilst still being solid with four at the back and attacking with two up top. My worry is with that formation is that is usually lacks width,as that's meant to be provided by the fullbacks. Ours aren't the best anyway and the idea of them gallivanting forward and leaving tonnes of space for the likes of Tom Ince to exploit sends shivers down my spine. But it's still a valid option.
The other is a return of the three at the back. It rarely worked last year but that's because we didn't have the right players and balance for it. But, if given time, I really do think it could work this season, because in theory it's the perfect formation. You can have lots of players in attacking, and lots defending, but still have bodies in the middle to provide cover. It just need dedication and practice. Everyone fit, I could see our starting XI looking something like this:
Derik Wheater Ream
Pisano(?) Vela Pratley Moxey
Now doesn't that look half decent?
A legend joining
As I began on a sombre note I'll end on a potentially uplifting one. Just who will be the surprise, old legend that joins us half way through the season. Last year we got two with Eidur Gudjohnsen and Emile Heskey, and it wouldn't surprise me in the least if Lennon worked his magic once more and signed a big name completely from left field. I look forward to seeing who it is!
So what are your thoughts? What are you looking forward to seeing this season? Let me know in the comments below!