There are few constants in life; ageing and not being as cool as you once were are the obvious ones but feeling apprehensive as a Wanderers fan before the start of a new season is my main one. After a dream end to last season, thanks to (Sir) Aaron Wilbraham, I went into this summer feeling optimistic about our chances going forwards. It seemed that all we needed to do was stay up and all the other problems would fade away into the background, i.e.- we’d get taken over finally and have cash to burn. Unfortunately we now know that wasn’t the case. After a bit of an up and down summer; players striking, zero investment, a certain Anderson on twitter, a lack of signings and an overall depth shallower than the reservoirs around Bolton have left me nervous once again for this club. It’s no wonder really that the bookies have us second favourites to go down but I think that if you look at some of the teams around us then we’re better than that. The moves we’ve made so far, while not spectacular, look alright when compared to the work of our closest rivals and while it may not seem it from this opening paragraph, when it comes to Bolton Wanderers, I’m an eternal optimist.
Lets get to it then! (*disclaimer* anything said below is a prediction, it may be wildly optimistic and unrealistic, therefore the author cannot be held responsible for actual reality and anything that doesn’t happen as stated)
What else do you think we need before the season starts?
A left back, a centre mid or two, a backup keeper and maybe another striker. If rumours are to be believed then we aren’t far off getting Robinson back on loan (please God above be ITK Twitter randoms) and that will sort us out for LB. Gary O’Neil and Stephen Ireland have been names ever present throughout the summer but I wouldn’t be against Karl Henry coming back at this point as we get closer than ever to the window closing. We really need someone to challenge Alnwick for the first team spot, as he isn’t infallible and quality depth in this spot really shows if an injury comes around (cough Rachubka cough). With Hobbs and Magennis announced, it seems like we’ve finally got the wheels turning as we approach deadline day.
First six games
4th August: West Brom 1-2 Bolton Wanderers
11th August: Bolton Wanderers 2-0 Bristol City
18th August: Reading 2-1 Bolton Wanderers
22nd August: Bolton Wanderers 1-1 Birmingham City
25th August: Bolton Wanderers 1-0 Sheffield Utd
1st September: Preston 2-0 Bolton Wanderers
If there’s one thing that gambling has taught me it’s that I’m shite when it comes to predicting results. I’ve gone for a mixed bag here to try and hedge my bets, as it can be almost impossible to predict anything in this league. Saying that I do think we can beat West Brom, Jay Rodriguez and all because of the relegation hangover. I don’t think Bristol are that good, we’re always stronger at home than away and as it’s our first game in front of the ever faithful Parky will be looking for a strong performance. Then we will immediately follow up that good win with a disappointing away loss to Reading, probably a last minute winner for them. The next two games really could go either way but I can see us winning at least one of them. Actually, the only thing I’m even a tiny bit confident about is that we’ll lose to Preston at Deepdale, but regardless, I can’t see us being as bad as the first eight games of last season.
Final League Position
10th/21st? While I do think that we’re a better squad than last year we’re still nowhere near the quality that some teams in this division have. I think that the coming season will be much like last year and we’ll be in a mini league at the bottom of the table scrapping it out with the likes of Blackburn, Rotherham, Reading and Wigan. If we do better than expected then we might squeeze into the lower end of mid table, if not then a season not unlike last year awaits us and we could end up going to the wire again.
Connor Hall is the obvious one, had a cracking season last year and if he doesn’t end up going out on loan and we don’t sign another striker, he could be knocking on the door at some point this year. We know he’s got an eye for goal and if he can keep up last year’s level of performance then it’ll be hard for Parky to keep him out of the first team. Jack Earing and Jake Pritchard are names to watch out for during the course of the season too, especially given our current depth in the middle of the park.
Signing of the Season
Erhun Otuzmer. This little man already is the signing of the season as far as I’m concerned, a great steal for us on a free transfer. Lets hope the Turkish Messi can step up to Championship level and show us what he’s capable of. Lord knows we’ve been crying out for some consistent creativity in this team for a long time now and he’s a man that can single-handedly change games.
Josh Magennis, our new signing is due a big year. Perfect Parky player, will work hard and put in a shift up front as the first line of defence and then also be our attacking focal point. Magennis suits us down to a tee and I think he’ll come good here.
Supersub of the Season
Craig Noone. Looked lively towards the end of last season when he was given more of a chance in the first team. The winger has a lot to prove having done very little so far in his time at Bolton and now that he’s down to the last year in his contract. Not sure that he starts above Sammy but because of that he is a good option off the bench as he can provide that creative spark or grab a goal.
Will Phil Parkinson still be our manager come the end of the season?
Yes, unless Ken finally snaps and installs himself as Director of Football with Lee as acting Head Coach.
Which old, semi-legendary player will we sign in Winter?
Well, maybe not old but one who’s semi-legendary in Bolton Wanderers land, a certain Mr Zach Clough. Can see him coming back on a short-term loan deal again, after another poor first half with Forest. Like last year I fancy there will be much hype but little to talk about after the dust has settled. Old legends? Not much around on a free and I don’t think we’ve got quite the pulling power as back in the day. But it has to be a straight toss up between Yaya Toure and Wes Hoolahan, you never know how the season could play out.