It’s finally here! The Sky Bet Championship season is almost upon us and thanks to Aaron Wilbraham’s last day heroics Bolton Wanderers are taking part in it. What a time to be alive, eh?
Unfortunately, given the uncertainty surrounding the club in the form of player/owner disputes, a lack of signings and a bit too much “Superagent-ing” for my liking, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. We are second favourites to be relegated with most bookmakers and the fanbase is getting worried that an injury crisis could see us unable to fill a substitutes bench without reinforcements.
However, you all know by now that I am forever the optimist and while I will try to be realistic with my predictions for the upcoming season, please note that any wild suggestions I make about us winning away or even winning at all are put forward mostly out of hope. But isn’t that what football is all about?
What else do you think we need before the season starts?
We need competition for Ben Alnwick so he doesn’t feel comfortable in that No. 1 jersey (we all know what happened to Joe Hart because of this problem), a left-back with the ability to manipulate The Force (please come back Jedi we need you!), a centre-half to challenge the Wheavers partnership that came up short so often last season, a midfield shithouse (excuse the expression) to help us see out tight games and a couple of strikers. With Josh Magennis either signed or about sign depending on when this goes out we have one of these positions locked down but it’s a hefty list with only a week to go.
First six games
4th August: West Bromwich Albion 3-1 Bolton Wanderers
11th August: Bolton Wanderers 1-0 Bristol City
18th August: Reading 1-1 Bolton Wanderers
22nd August: Bolton Wanderers 2-1 Birmingham City
25th: Bolton Wanderers 1-0 Sheffield United
1st September: Preston North End 2-0 Bolton Wanderers
Now I know what you’re thinking: that’s an awful lot of wins for one month but hear me out. We won’t beat the Baggies, we all know that, but Bristol City are nothing special anymore despite some of their additions, Birmingham haven’t been able to sign players and weren’t good to begin with and Wanderers vs Sheffield United is a lottery due to the animosity between the two clubs. I reckon we have a good chance of coming out of those three matches with wins. The Reading game is away so we won’t win but could get a point whilst I think Preston are a good shout for a play-off place so should beat us comfortably. 10 points from the opening 6 is optimistic but I think it’s achievable.
Final League Position
I think we will finish 16th i.e. flirt with relegation but be safe by mid-April at the latest. We have recruited well so far and look set to continue to do so given the names that we have been associated with. I think we could struggle badly against some of the division’s stronger teams but looking at the teams who could be in and around us I have every confidence we can secure enough points. After all, if we had closed out games in which we were ahead going into the last 10 minutes last season we would have finished around 16th. Essentially, I don’t think we need to worry as much as we did last year.
The obvious answer to give here is Connor Hall but I don’t see him playing nearly enough games for this to apply to him. It’s interesting to me that we haven’t signed a new natural holding midfielder (I see Marc Wilson as defensive cover) since the acquisition of Jason Lowe and I think it’s possible Parky may be happy with the likes of Jack Earing and Joe Pritchard as backup. Earing captained the successful youth side last season and Pritchard has, by all accounts, been thoroughly impressive in pre-season. It would be great to see either of these lads follow in the footsteps of Kevin Nolan to be our next homegrown midfield general.
Signing of the Season
The one most people are excited about is Yanic Wildschut and I am jumping on the bandwagon. It has been some time since we had a player with his searing pace and it is exciting to think we could, potentially, have both him and Antonee Robinson on the left-flank. A special mention must also go to Pawel Olkowski. I would have been happy to have Mark Little as my first-choice right-back this season but Olkowski is exciting given both his pedigree and his pre-season performances. The flanks could be our best chance of winning matches this year.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure ALF will get enough game-time to take this award though I’m sure he’ll do well when called upon. I’m going to go left-field and say Erhun Oztumer if he starts over 25 matches and Sammy Ameobi if he doesn’t. Oztumer certainly knows where the net is, and I think he could do an Andre Moritz and nick the top scorer award by whacking in a couple of screamers every now and then despite playing a bit-part role. If he starts matches I back him to get 10 goals. If he doesn’t, however, then Parky has spoken about his desire for Sammy to score more often and given he seems to be crucial to his plans I think the winger could deliver on this promise (Sorry Rob).
Supersub of the Season
Adam Le Fondre, he is a Wanderer. Ole Ole! Ole Ole! Enough said.
Will Phil Parkinson still be our manager come the end of the season?
Which old, semi-legendary player will we sign in Winter?
Where have all the good men gone? There genuinely seems to be nobody interesting that we could sign to fit these criteria. If we are struggling and we need a hero, it’ll have to be the shithouse extraordinaire: Karl Henry.