Here's another stab in the dark at how I think things will pan out this season. This time, a Wanderers special.
First Six Games
August 6th - Bolton Wanderers 2-2 Leeds United
August 12th - Millwall 1-2 Bolton Wanderers
August 15th - Birmingham City 1-1 Bolton Wanderers
August 19th - Bolton Wanderers 0-2 Derby County
August 26th - Hull City 1-0 Bolton Wanderers
September 9th - Bolton Wanderers 1-3 Middlesborough
I can't honestly see us getting any more than five points from five if I'm honest. It's a really difficult start to the season for us, but there's at least one winnable game in there amongst a couple of potential one pointers.
Final League Position
19th. As mentioned in my previous prediction article, I think we will manage to avoid relegation, there are some much worse teams in this league than us, but more that are better, some purely because of their style of play and team work ethic, and some, well, because they're loaded. Despite how disheartening loss after loss can be, we have to accept that we're going to lose more than we're going to win this season, and the home record won't last either. There's no denying that we will be flirting with relegation, but, I think, come May, we'll have done enough to stay up.
Has to be Josh Vela. The lad did extremely well last season after being thrown around numerous positions in the team under numerous different mangers who couldn't figure out what his best position was. The number 10 role suited him down to the ground last year and I hope, by playing him in that further forward position, Vela can shine once more and evade the disheartening mentality that most players will have after losing on a Tuesday night at the other end of the country in the driving rain. Should he continue to progress at the same rate as last season, he'll be in the big time before you know it, hopefully so will we. However, at the same time, it's important to keep his feet on the ground and continue to keep up the grind and the results will come. Keep going Josh, good things come to those who wait.
Signing Of The Season
Based on what I have seen so far in pre-season, two have stood out to me as contenders for the best bits of business we have done over the summer. Jem Karacan and Adam Armstrong have both throughly impressed so far with their work rate, determination to win the ball and the game as well as their general contributions to the wins and good performances that the boys have put in, even when we've not found the net. Jem, I hope, will become a permanent fixture in the centre of midfield, we need someone of his calibre, eagerness and desire to win to allow us to survive this season. It seems we will be relying on him as this year's backbone to the team, replacing Jay Spearing, who we may or may not have seen the back of. Adam Armstrong's proven track record in front of goal will hopefully help us equate the number we're inevitably going to concede and keep us afloat along with Alfie. I hope his loan deal will be extended in January as it seems, he has a lot to offer us.
If he was here to answer this one himself, I think we'd hear a repeat of his reply to the meaningfulness of his goal against Stoke, "are you really asking me that?" It has to be Adam Le Fondre. It was hugely important for Alfie to hit the ground running with goals in pre-season to allow him to kick-start his run of scoring before the season starts, to avoid the drought of ten games which we've previously seen in his loan deals, and he's done just that. Goals against Stoke and Arbroath will hopefully see him go on to get at least ten this season, hopefully more, bUt let's not get too carried away eh?
Adam Armstrong. With Parky now having four different attacking options to go at, Armstrong will most likely find himself starting from the bench against Leeds and for most of the first half of the season, based on the team against Stoke, offering a likely reflection of Parkinson's chosen main XI for the season. Armstrong's pace, nimbleness and agility will hopefully see him come on and tear up tiring defences in the latter stages of the second period and potentially grab himself a goal here and there too which should then hopefully earn him an extended deal. Ameobi is a popular shout amongst our other writers, but I have a feeling that he'll eventually be embedded somewhere in to the starting eleven. Will Buckley is another possibility, but has struggled to find his feet as of yet, for that reason, it has to be Armstrong.
How will Parkinson go on?
This is a topic which I have raised in our writers group chat and on previous LOV Podcasts numerous times. Promotion to the Championship is a massive step for Parkinson, but will also prove a massive test for him to see if he's got what it takes to keep us up in the top two divisions with such a similar team to that which Neil Lennon took us down with. Despite having had the opportunity to put his mark on the team since the start of last season, there are still number of faces who experienced the drop from the championship last time round. In my best attempt not to confuse everybody, here's my theory of what influence Parkinson has on our final league standing. Should we do considerably better than last time out, that'll be all Parkinson's work. To do better with what is a relatively similar group to before, the manager will have influenced the players to up their games and will show that he has a much better understanding of the players and the league than Lennon, but that's not hard to tell anyway. Should we experience the same failure as last time, Parkinson will have added very little if the players are performing no better, showing that it may as well be anybody in charge, it'd still be the same result. Effectively then, I think Parkinson deserves all the praise if we do well this year, he will have shown what can be done with that group of players if the tactics are right and the business done in the transfer windows is right. In saying this, I'm taking nothing away from our achievements last season, but the Championship is a whole new ball game, which I hope he will be able to master and take by the scruff of the neck and show us how good he is as a manager and why we should be losing sleep if there's ever any rumours of him on his way out. We're all behind you Parky, let's hope we can pull it off now starting with Leeds on Sunday.