The size 8 shooting boots of Adam Le Fondre, last seen April 2015, may be found, undisturbed, in a dusty cupboard at the Macron. These days, fans are clamouring for him to find the form that brought 8 goals in 17 games on a four month loan period and made him a Bolton hero. That clamour hasn't yet turned to frustration for Bolton fans – at least not on the social network pillories — and folk do believe that he'll soon find the net.
In defence of Le Fondre, people say that he hasn't had the service; that he’s an isolated striker; that he can't be expected to turn a cloud-skimming long ball into a goal-scoring opportunity. Standing at 5ft 9in, he isn’t the tallest and we aren't playing to his short passing and finishing strengths. If he makes the first team against AFC Wimbledon tomorrow, it will be his fifth start this season. For the sake of comparison, let's cast our minds back to 2015 and see how he got on in his first four games as part of a Neil Lennon-led Championship side.
Sat 31 Jan 2015
Bolton 2 - 2 Wolves (No goals)
Sat 07 Feb 2015
Derby 4 - 1 Bolton (No goals)
Tues 10 Feb 2015
Bolton 3 - 1 Fulham (1 goal)
At 2-1 up, Le Fondre pressed the goalkeeper into a couple of poor kicks; the second of which fell nicely for him to dink in from 40 yards. This came about from a long ball that almost got behind the defender.
Sat 14 Feb 2015
Bolton 3 - 4 Watford (1 goal)
A Liam Feeney touchline run and cross for Le Fondre to poke past the keeper
If we look a little further...
Sat 21 Feb 2015
Nottm Forest 4 - 1 Bolton (1 goal)
At 2-0 down, a trademark mazy run by Zach Clough forced a Forest defender to bring him down. Le Fondre tucked away the penalty.
Sat 28 Feb 2015
Bolton 1 - 0 Brighton (No goals)
So, he scored 2 in his first 4 games and 3 in 6 games. A very decent, if short-term, record. Only one of those was from a long ball — and that was when Fulham were pressing for an equaliser.
This leads us on to our main problem: he isn’t working in the long ball system. We lack goals partly because Josh Vela hasn’t worked half as effectively as we know he can. For the most part, since the injury to Andrew Taylor, he hasn’t been the dynamic, pressing, number 10 character we know and love. In addition, we miss Clough and Sammy Ameobi; recently, we’ve looked lop-sided, sluggish and ultimately devoid of creativity that these players brought. Thankfully, Filipe Morais looks a bright spark.
Le Fondre isn't scoring because we're currently a depleted team. In my mind, he's a frustrated fox in the box, sorely missing the service of true wingers and midfield dynamos who run at and pull the opposition defence out of position.
Phil Parkinson knows Le Fondre is close to opening his account. Regarding a chance from a Dean Moxey cross at Bramall Lane, Parky said: “It was probably the cross of the game and had Alfie had size 10s as opposed to size 8s then he would have got on the end of it.” So there you have it: his feet are too small.
With Chris Long suspended tomorrow, we can expect Le Fondre to be named in the first team. I’m backing him to score, and if I'm wrong you can tell me so and ruin my fledgling blogging career. How do you predict we'll line up - and how will he work in the system?