We’ve had a mass squad culling, Amos thrown under a bus, player strikes and a rebuild that seems a month behind where it should be. Recipe for disaster? Maybe, but we also have Parky and he seems genuinely excited about the team he is building. This is the man remember, that has already performed two footballing miracles.
Making a season prediction when the loan window still has a month to run, is like deciding how the kitchen refurb has gone when only half finished. But it’s what we do before the first game of the season and the LOV boss expects us to get off our lazy summer arses and write something.
So, here are my 2018/2019 Wanderers predictions:
What else do you think we need before the season starts?
A goalie, obviously. We were all ready to welcome Walker into the Bolton family only to find that he’d eloped off back down south for a more committed relationship with Reading. Boaz Myhill gets a mention, but I think he’s bound for one of the promotion chasing Champ clubs. We need a decent backup because we are only an Alnwick injury away from a crisis.
A centre and full back. Jack Hobbs looks like he will fill the former role. A Robinson loan return has been mentioned by Sun journo Nixon for the latter. Hobbs has the pedigree despite a few injury riddled seasons. Robbo would be a huge boost although at time of writing it appears that Wigan have made a strong play for him as well.
A defensive and creative midfielder. Recent signing Marc Wilson can fill the DM role but I suspect he will be busy covering the inevitable injuries and suspensions in central defence. Aussie international Mark Milligan, 32, who has left Melbourne Victory for a European experience, was mentioned earlier in the summer. We also have Gary O’Neil on trial, but I’d rather have Karl Henry back. Not as easy on the eye but Henry unsettles opponents which is what’s needed. The talented Stephen Ireland also gets a mention, but a calf injury on day one of his trial suggests his injuries are not behind him.
Two strikers. It looks certain that one of them will be Magennis. Our first cash signing in three and a half years no less. Apparently we are after Wyke or Garner to fill the other slot. Either would be a decent signing although I have a sneaky suspicion that we will end up with another Prem loanee.
First six games
4th August: West Bromwich Albion 4-0 Bolton Wanderers
11th August: Bolton Wanderers 1-2 Bristol City
18th August: Reading 1-1 Bolton Wanderers
22nd August: Bolton Wanderers 2-0 Birmingham City
25th: Bolton Wanderers 1-1 Sheffield United
1st September: Preston North End 2-0 Bolton Wanderers
Five points from our six games. Despite five of those games being against easier teams, I think Bolton’s poor preparation, due to too few signings too late, will show through. Coupled with this is the fact that Bolton always seem to start slowly in the Championship.
Final league position
Whilst I’d love to give Parky some well deserved moral backing, I honesty can’t see us getting out the bottom three. A small squad, containing too many players who have had bad injury records and/or coming to the end of their careers, will see us coming up short for another great escape. Whilst there are always exceptions, as shown by Bolton last season, the squads that get the least investment are generally the ones that get relegated.
Connor Hall is the fans choice but I think a midfielder is more likely. Going off reports from last season plus the preseason games, Jack Earing, Joe Pritchard and Dennis Politic are all in with a shout.
Signing of the Season
Whilst Olkowski, Wildschut and Oztumer are the favourites, I cannot look past Jason Lowe. If we are to survive, then central midfield is the key. We particularly need the option to play just two in the middle on occasion. Something that could not really be done last season. So we need Lowe, and Vela for that matter, to come up with the goods.
Probably ALF, assuming that he isn’t loaned out in January because Parky has managed to sign BGM mark 2 before August is out.
Supersub of the Season
Gotta be Clayton Donaldson. The veteran striker has been there and done it regularly in the Championship. He won’t be a regular starter but I can see him becoming a cult hero with late goals to get the team out of a hole.
Will Phil Parkinson still be our manager come the end of the season?
The answer should be yes. Parky has done what’s asked against the odds for two seasons, so if he comes up short when managing with one arm still firmly tied behind his back, he should stay. Anderson will back him as well. But relegation battles are rarely exciting and our games will still be painful to watch. Fans are notoriously fickle, so if we go down, I cannot see Parky surviving.
Which old, semi-legendary player will we sign in Winter?
Karl Henry. Who else?