At a time when preparing our squad for next season is at its most crucial, it begs the question of who deserves a contract as we look forward to re-establishing ourselves in the top two flights of English Football.
With many of last season’s squad already signed on for another year or two, as it stands, we are down to the last two of those who remain out of contract, Jay Spearing and Max Clayton. With Jay’s future still very much unknown, it is difficult to comment on his position, whereas one of our starlets, who, as far as I’m aware, is eager to re-join the squad for pre-season, is one whose position can be talked about.
Max joined us from Crewe at the start of the 2014/15 season, making his debut in October and then getting his first goal for the club in November against Wigan Athletic under Neil Lennon. Ever since this, Clayton’s Bolton career has been overshadowed by injury and has rarely managed to play a 90 minutes without being substituted as a precaution, or because of an injury.
It has only been since the era of Phil Parkinson that Clayton has managed to work his way back into the team after building up fitness and eventually being a regular on the team sheet, usually starting from the bench. As the season wore on and Parky continued to stick with the same team, Max was only getting 5 or 10 minutes here and there, not providing him with enough of a chance to prove himself once more to Whites fans that he deserved to stay.
Determined as ever to earn his place back in the side, scoring the equaliser in stoppage time at Coventry back in January earn him the praise of the gaffer and was enough to remind Whites fans of the damage he could do when fit. However, Max soon found himself with limited chances once more to get a game and has had to see out most of the season on the bench, despite supposedly being at full fitness.
It was amongst the wild celebrations after full time at the Peterborough game that I spotted him in the stands, overjoyed for the team, but it was easy to see that he was disappointed not to be a part of that final game which made me wonder about his place next season. To an extent I feared for the lad, since joining he has been my favourite player and seemed wrong that it had become nearly an inevitability that his time was up.
Since the season has ended and the squad has been narrowed down, I have become much more optimistic for Max as I think, in pre-season, Parkinson will have to assess all his options fairly and will give equal amounts of game time to the lads ahead of the domestic season which is where I hope Max will show his proven underlying talent and become part of Parky’s plans once more for next season.
Once part of the England Youth International team, Max undoubtedly has the ability to scare defenders on his day, linking up well previously with Josh Vela and Adam Le Fondre, I’m hoping Max will form part of a formidable strike force last season, as it seems as if next season’s fate will rely on us doing the business at the top end of the pitch.
Despite my optimism, I also feel helpless in that a decision could be made which would see Max on his way and that be that, however, with him not being among the initially released group, something makes me think theres a chance he’ll stay, and I hope he will.
Assuming he is one of the lower earners in the team, to offer him another 12 month contract could do no harm. So lets hope that the Anderson’s can work their magic, that Parkinson will have faith in him, that Max will stay on with us for another season, and pray that he doesn't get injured again.