After the utterly embarrassing disappoint that was England’s exit of Euro 2016, it’s good to know that proper football is back this Saturday, even if the plan of using England as a remedy to a really depressing season didn’t exactly work. That’s right everyone, Bolton Wanderers are back in action this weekend, as the Whites travel to what will be a packed Alder House to kick-off their pre-season with a match against Atherton Collieries.
The fixture is seemingly becoming an annual friendly between the two sides, which excites me greatly as Colls are my local non-league side and Atherton is my town. Last year’s fixture, even though it was only the Bolton u21s who played, was an excellent day and I can’t wait for this one, especially since this time the Bolton seniors players will be taking to the pitch against Atherton’s finest. I don’t know who I’ll be supporting! Although I’ll definitely celebrate if Brad Cooke goes through the back of Darren Pratley.
With the match being each team’s first game of pre-season, there’s ain’t too much to delve into on this preview but I can tell you that Colls are coming into the fixture off the back of another fine season. They finished 3rd last year, their highest ever finish, in their debut season in the NWCFL Premier Division and won the League Cup to boot. With new additions added to a squad already brimming with quality players, the boys in Black and White will be looking for an upset against the Wanderers.
It seems as if there’s going to be a familiar name in the Colls line up, as former Bolton skipper Kevin Davies is set to turn out for the Atherton side. Super Kev is close friends with Colls manager, Michael Clegg, and has been training with the club over the summer to keep up his fitness and has often helped out in training sessions. It would be SKD’s first football appearance since he came on as a substitute in Preston North End’s 4-0 play-off win last May.
Colls will be fielding a trialist or two, as would any side at this stage in pre-season, but will other wise be going full strength with a first team squad of 20 lads all fit and available. Which will include former Wanderer Nathan Battersby, colossal centre-back Mark Ayres, flying winger Ben Hardcastle, clinical striker Mark Battersby and not to mention a Bolton fan or two.
New signing Danny Lafferty, formerly of Radcliffe, is expected to make his debut.
The game will be Phil Parkinson’s first match in charge of the Whites (which is mad) so it will give him equal opportunity to cast an eye over the remaining senior players that are still here from last season and also to have a look at the best talent from the academy, even some scholars. Darren Pratley, Ben Amos, Mark Davies, Zach Clough, Rob Holding, Dorian Dervite, Derik Osede, Max Clayton Josh Vela, Dean Moxey, Gary Madine, Liam Trotter, Lawrie Wilson, Filip Twardzik and Jay Spearing are all in the squad and are expected to play at least 45 minutes of the game.
Recognisable youngsters such as: Kaiyne Woolery, Alex Finney, George Newell, Alex Perry, Will Jaaskelainen and Alex Samizadeh will also be hoping for game time to impress the new boss.
There are also plenty of 17/18/19 year olds who none of us have ever heard of making the short trip down to Athy as well, so it’ll be interesting to see if Parkinson gives any of these proper younglings an opportunity on the pitch.
It’s yet to be seen if Bolton’s two impending new signings, Jamie Proctor and Chris Taylor, will make their debuts at Alder House, but they are booked in to travel to Scandinavia for the club’s pre-season fitness trip.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Bolton’s team is that three different trialists are expected to be given a chance to prove themselves and see if they can earn a contract with the development squad. They are: 21-year old Belgian winger and pal of Adnan Januzaj, Jonathan Kindersmans, Romanian winger, Constantin Sandu, formerly of Juventus and Jarvis Nutt, a striker produced by the Hereford Youth Club who has had interest from Premier League clubs recently.
It’s always hard to call a game when there’s nothing previous to go off, if anything Colls are a side with a much stronger winning mentality unlike a Bolton side who’ve just come off an awful campaign. So who knows what will happen?
Without wanting to be clichéd, I imagine it will very much ending up being a game of two halves. You would like to think that Bolton’s senior players, some of which have played in the Premier League, would be able to stick a few goals past a non-league side, but they really struggled to do so against Eastleigh...
Despite all evidence to the contrary, I do expect Bolton’s first-team players to comfortably beat Colls in the half they play, but I certainly wouldn’t rule Colls out at all. Just like last year, this game is a reward for the player’s hard work over the last season and there’s no saying that, in front of a sell-out crowd, that the Colls lads don’t put in a great performance and shock the Whites. They’ll especially be able to score a goal or two past the u21 players, too.
I’m going to go ahead and predict a 2-2 draw.
Make you sure you get down to Alder House this Saturday!