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Opinion: Is An Over-Reliance on Gary Madine Hindering Our Survival Hopes?

Tough question for a tough age

Oxford United v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

Now before you all get hot at me, I fully accept and embrace the improvement that Gary Madine has made coming into this Championship season. He has worked tirelessly plowing a lone furrow up front and is deserving of the credit he has received for the improvements made in his game. That much is not up for debate.

I do, however, think that Phil Parkinson and Bolton Wanderers’ reliance on Madine has hit the point now where questions need to be asked about whether he should be one of the first names on the team sheet.

There is a basic fact to consider, in that he doesn’t score enough goals. Some people might throw the Kevin Davies argument back at this, but I think most rational folk would accept the difference between holding the ball up and scoring occasionally in League One to doing the same in the top third of the Premier League. This season, Madine has played more or less every minute of every game, and has scored twice.

I accept that this does not tell the full story, but it’s something to think about.

We all know Wanderers style of play can at best be described as basic. Set up to hit balls long from the back towards Madine’s head, with the likes of Josh Vela, Sammy Ameobi etc picking up the scraps. This has worked, on occasion, and to be fair Madine has improved massively over the summer in terms of the number of aerial battles that he wins, Saturday aside.

The problem lies in that we don’t seem to have any other way of playing.

This makes us incredibly predictable - as QPR showed at weekend. Nullify Madine, and Wanderers have very little else to turn to, in terms of attacking options. Manager Phil Parkinson’s reluctance to start Adam Le Fondre up front has meant that our approach is starting to become stale and, as a team rock bottom of the league, this is incredibly worrying.

So what is the solution?

There is a school of thought that brings ALF into the starting XI and which subsequently gives us more chance to put away the half-chances that Madine struggles with. Where that leaves us in terms of our approach play is another mystery.

I don’t know how Parky changes things, but I’m starting to think that it’s time we took a gamble. His lack of willingness to give Alfie a chance does seem odd given his pedigree, and I wonder whether a change of style could be the key to the club surviving against all expectation and against all odds.

I tried to make this sound as little like Madine-bashing as possible. Gary, if you’re reading this, you carry on.