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Is the Return of Gary Madine Key to Bolton Wanderers' Promotion Hopes?

Washing machine, or essential appliance?

Bolton Wanderers v Derby County - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Clint Hughes/Getty Images

Without a win in 3 games and the loss of Chris Long through suspension, Bolton Wanderers are fast running out of attacking options.

Gary Madine is reportedly under internal suspension despite Parky’s initial claims that he has been out with a virus. Since this, we have relied on Adam Le Fondre as a make shift target man, all 5 feet and 9 inches of him.

ALF came in on deadline day and has struggled to make an impact since his arrival, clearly acknowledged by Phil Parkinson who dropped him for the Bristol Rovers game in mid-week. Based on his first six appearances, it is clear he hasn’t reached the heights of his previous stint when many relied on him as a classic number 9 who could put the ball in the net week in, week out.

With Le Fondre struggling for form, the mass debate across social media as to whether Madine was the answer was re-ignited.

With 8 goals this season and by default, the club’s current top scorer following the departure of Zach Clough, and our most regular starter up top, Parkinson’s persistence with him from the off in August has been somewhat frowned upon until ‘the incident’ prior to the Sheffield United game.

With his absence becoming increasingly notable, those who were once in such dismay with Gaz’s performances are now desperate for him to be re-called into the starting XI. His work rate, it must be said, is of an impressive standard to say he has been chasing the ball down all season by himself. It is easy to spot from the stands that, in recent weeks, Madine has been sorely missed with the lack of height and strength of Long and Le Fondre. With each of our strikers boasting very different assets, hold-up play is one which no-one can compete with Madine on.

With the game of hoof-ball becoming a common theme at the Macron in recent weeks, the only hope of this working rests with the big man himself. Granted, his technical ability as a finisher and skill is not of the highest class, but his ability to knock the ball down into the path of on-rushing men in white shirts playing off him is second to none.

With Josh Vela having initially filled the role of the ‘number 10’ in behind left vacant by little Zach, this is where the goals seemed to be coming from. I was made aware as to how much of a successful formula this was when Josh was pushed into a deeper central midfield role as the goals began to dry up.

With an obvious view to end the goal drought, it makes sense to bring Vela back into that ’10’ role, to re-introduce Madine as the target man and have Josh playing off him.

Whilst ALF continues to be out of form, the Wimbledon game seems like a perfect opportunity for us to re-instate this system.

As much as I like Le Fondre, a role today as an impact sub would be far more effective in my opinion should Parkinson choose to bring Madine back in. With ALF’s lack of game time and fitness following his short and rather wasted spells at Wolves ad Wigan, his inability to get off the mark immediately was frustratingly unsurprising leaving Parky with no choice but to drop him.

To phase him in gradually as the next few games wear on therefore makes perfect sense. I have no doubts over Le Fondre’s ability to terrorise defences on his day which is why I feel for that it would benefit him for Gaz to wear them down in the first half and then swap the two over in the second half as the defenders tire to see what we all know ALF can really do.

Despite many arguing that starting both ALF and Madine would be far more useful, I feel that Josh Vela deserves more of a chance in that number 10 role. Seemingly far more natural in that position and posing a significant threat to defences, I would much rather play him in that role, particularly if ALF’s having a dry spell.

However, the loss of Jay Spearing through injury, with potential for the ligament damage to set him back a number of weeks, the system has to be re-thought once more. Spearing’s presence in the middle will be sorely missed again in the coming weeks and will inevitably lead to Vela once more being pushed back into the middle along side Derik with ALF playing off Madine.

Despite my reservations with Josh playing in a deeper role, it is looking increasingly likely that Parky will have to use this system this afternoon.

In short, it seems like Madine is an important part of the team, particularly following the loss of Spearing forcing Vela back and a short term loss of Chris Long should allow Madine the chance to impress and grab a goal in his likely re-introduction today.

It is often the case that it takes a situation like this to make us realise how much of an impact certain players make that you perhaps might not notice and take for granted when playing regularly.

This emphasises how, in reality, Gary Madine has been sorely missed during his stint out and is needed as part of a winning formula for Wanderers, particularly in a promotion charge which we will hopefully see re-ignited today and be carried on through until the end of the season.