In recent years, shirt numbers have become a thing of a fashion and no longer bears any meaning to the position of the player bearing each respective number. To many football fans, the connection between a shirt number and a position was something of great value and has angered many in its deteriorating context.
Particularly in the last decade or so at Bolton, we have always struggled with this and I think it’s time that shirt numbers return to positional representation, how it used to be, 1-11. I am therefore going to review and adapt our current squad numbers in to a condensed 1-11 version which will hopefully bring some satisfaction to those who have dearly missed the concept.
1 - Goalkeeper (Mark Howard)
With the current occupier Ben Amos rumoured to be on his way out of Wanderers, Howard seems like the next most suitable candidate for the iconic number 1 shirt. With Amos having been the only keeper since Ali Al Habsi to have worn number 1 at Wanderers, this shows that it has become more and more unpopular for goalkeepers recently as the number 13 has become the number of choice for whatever reason. Howard was number 33 last season, presumably by choice as a result of being unable to take number 1, but should Amos leave, Mark should be given first refusal on the jersey. One who refused to conform to the system was Jussi who always wore 22. Despite initially struggling to understand his refusal to take number 1, the number has seemed to run with him throughout his career suggesting it held some form of sentimental value and considering how good he was for us, I’ll let him off.
2 - Right Back (Mark Little)
The typical rugged full back’s shirt, and it fits! It is likely that our new signing will take up the vacant number 2 shirt following his spell at Bristol City where he also wore the same number showing that there is some sanity left in the game and that he poses to be a no-nonsense full back who is more bothered about the way he plays than how he looks, good man. Previous bearers of the number 2 shirt at Wanderers include the one and only Nicky Hunt, Kevin McNaughton and most recently Lewis Buxton. Little should therefore have minimal trouble filling the boots of previous wearers, but no-one will ever match Nicky Hunt, ever.
3 - Left Back (Andrew Taylor)
Now to be fair to Andy, he has had to wear number 20 this season with Dean Moxey occupying the number 3 shirt upon his arrival, whether or not he chose 20 for a reason remains to be seen but I hope he will opt to take the number three shirt for next season. Another no-nonsense, hard working full back who promises to be the same unsung hero as last season and will have no trouble following in the footsteps of Moxey and a certain Jlloyd Samuel.
4 - Centre Back (Dorian Dervite)
Some might argue that this one should be reserved for David Wheater to pair with Beevers, however, Wheats, like Jussi, has stuck with 31 all through his career suggesting again that it holds sentimental value so again, he is the exception. Dorian wore number 4 last season and at the back end of the campaign, fulfilled the role very well forming solid defensive partnerships with Wheater and Beevers in the back three and will inevitably retain the number 4 and is welcome to do so despite his initial choice of 14. However, again, I will let him off as this was partly voluntarily, partly enforced due to the shirt being occupied by Matt Mills when Dervite arrived at the club.
5 - Centre Back (Mark Beevers)
Another one who has traditionally stuck to the roots of a centre back in terms of choosing his shirt number. Mark had an excellent first season at the club bagging seven goals helping us to automatic promotion and has performed exceptionally week in-week out earning him that number 5 shirt. In my eyes and on behalf of the rest of the Bolton supporters, it can be comfortably said that Beevers has already surpassed the previous bearer, Tim Ream in his defensive attitude, goals scored and as a fans favourite.
6 - Central Midfielder (Jem Karacan)
Based on last seasons shirt numbers, some may disagree with me here but I think that Jem is more suited to the number 6 role of a defensive midfielder. With Josh Vela playing further forward this season allowing him to play with maximum freedom allowing him to show his full potential, I think that the two may opt to swap, or should do in my eyes, just for the sake of the OCD satisfaction. Both Josh and Jem were brilliant last season and each respectively deserve their place inside the starting XI in terms of their shirt numbers and on match day.
7 - Right Winger (Filipe Morais)
As has been the story with previous number 7 bearers such as Chris Eagles and Matty Taylor, the beginning of last season saw the number 7 shirt was handed to Chris Taylor, a player who obviously wasn't the man for the job and since his loan departure to Oldham, unsurprisingly the awkward number 7 spot has been left vacant. Presuming that Chris will once again be looking for a move elsewhere having struggled to settle in at the club, the number 7 shirt should be given to the postman in my opinion. Despite the logic to give him number 11, I think that should be preserved for potential arrivals, particularly since the rumours of a possible Sammy Ameobi return have arisen. Morais’ temporary position as a wing-back last season suited him well allowing him the freedom of the whole wing and given his ability to track back well and act as a right back when needed, the position is ideal for him. Should the system change next season to a back four, to see Morais as a dedicated winger would be ideal having proven his ability to live up to the qualities of a typical number 7 with the deliver from outside the box, take free-kicks, have considerable pace and quick feet, all of these qualities make Morais the perfect candidate for our number 7 shirt.
8 - Central Midfielder (Jay Spearing/Darren Pratley)
Usually this would be a no brainer and I would hand it to Spearing, however, with his future still unknown, the only other suitable candidate would be current club captain Darren Partly. Despite Jay being outstanding last season, with a contract still not yet agreed, a move away would see Pratley take his position and retain the armband. However, with Darren retaining 21 all through his career, it is unlikely that he will change to 8 next season even if Spearing leaves which could potentially see Karacan take 8 and Derik be given 6.
9 - Striker (Adam Le Fondre)
The easiest one yet. Having previously worn number 9 in his first loan spell at the club, Alfie is the only contender for the number 9 this season which has been helped along by the imminent departure of current occupier Jamie Proctor. With Proctor still contracted to the club last season, Adam took 45, much to the bemusement of some, but was quickly recognised as the next best thing to his beloved number 9 shirt, 4+5. With the clinical striker clearly eager to regain that number 9 shirt, there should be no issues with him becoming the rightful bearer of it this season.
10 - Attacking Midfielder/Striker (Josh Vela)
Having worked his way up from the academy and into the first tea, Josh started off with the number 25 shirt before moving to the number 6 shirt in the last few seasons, he is now destined to take the number 10 shirt following the departure of Zach Clough and the likelihood of Karacan moving to 6 due to his appointment of the number 10 shirt being temporary. Despite there being a good chance that the sqaud numbers will remain relatively similar to last seasons, I think Josh would be the ideal candidate to take the number 10 shirt for next year.
11 - Left Winger (You Decide)
With no current occupier of the number 11 shirt following the departure of loanee Viv Solomon Otabor and no outright left winger in the team, the shirt is completely up for grabs. As I mentioned earlier, should we sign Sammy Ameobi, he would be most likely to take the number 11 shirt but at present, this one’s up for debate.
Those who I haven't already mentioned from the squad include Ben Alnwick, who is likely to reclaim 13, Gary Madine who will probably retake 14 and Derik who will again, probably also retain his number 15 whilst Wheater is likely to be the exception and stick to 31.
Let me know in the comments what number you think the lads should be next season and with 12, 16, 17 and 18 free, who would you have on your subs bench from the transfer rumours you've heard, the academy scholars and anyone who you might swap out from my chosen XI?