A lot has happened at Bolton Wanderers since Adam le Fondre’s strike sealed an instant return to the Championship for Phil Parkinson’s side. Some tough decisions have been made at the club as the Anderson ownership continue to cut their cloth to ensure Bolton remains a viable commercial enterprise.
As the good-feeling of securing promotion settles down and both the club and fans alike begin to look forward to the coming season, exactly how well are Wanderers placed as they aim to re-establish themselves in the second tier?
In terms of the playing squad, I can see what they are trying achieve. We have re-signed a lot of the players who were so successful last season, such as Felipe Morais and Andrew Taylor. Taylor particularly has quite extensive experience at this level as does the returning David Wheater and Sami Ameobi.
The worry I have is as the squads shapes it seems to me to be of a similar standard to the one that was relegated 14 months ago. It certainly has some of those who played a big part in that team, Wheater, Dervite and Vela were amongst our worst performers in our last season in the Championship. They have the unique opportunity of putting right what went wrong in the past and I do hope to see these influential players play a big part in a successful season.
It is difficult for us to upgrade as we are living within our means, the problem is most of the Championship isn’t. The difference in quality between the Championship and League One is huge, just ask Wigan Athletic, and the gap is just getting bigger and bigger year on year. The top 12 in the Championship are serious sides, which could quite easily compete in any top league across Europe, let alone the Premier League.
Our objective this season has to be clear, we need to be the 21st best team in the Championship.
Obviously we are a proud lot and deep down we all know we should be aiming higher but it is going to difficult for us to compete. It’s no one’s fault, the club is right to live within its means. Obviously, you have consider the winding-up petitions, settled or not, that have been made against the club. The club does seem to be in a much healthier position than it was 12 months ago but clearly there is some way to go.
The big question though is whether this prudent, almost austerity-like, road to recovery can be implemented without being of too much detriment to results on the pitch. After all, I wrote numerous times during the Eddie Davies era that his sudden reluctance to inject funds into the club left Bolton Wanderers cut adrift in a competitive sense. It also nearly led to events of a much greater consequence but let’s not dwell on the past too much …
Granted, this time we are on an upward trajectory. I do worry though that a slow start would see this goodwill smashed to pieces. There’s a lot to learn from Wigan’s season last year, just think how popular Steven Caldwell and Will Grigg were this time last year. The Latics fell to pieces though and they, without any great research, will have invested far more heavily than we intend to.
Luckily, I strongly we feel we have a man up to the challenge at the helm in Phil Parkinson. He has not only survived but thrived in quite testing conditions last season, although from August his resilience is likely to be tested to its absolute limit.
With regards to squad building, it is likely that there is much more to come as Bolton will now predominately look to do their business in the loan market which picks up in activity much closer to the start of the season and no doubt we will see more new faces through the Macron doors. We are strongly linked with West Ham duo Josh Cullen and Reece Burke who I saw plenty of after watching a few of Phil Parkinson’s Bradford City side a couple of years back and they were stand out players then.
Tough times ahead …