September has rolled around and it’s not just my Dad’s advancing years that is making him unfamiliar with our current line-up, as we have brought in 18 players (including youth players) to bring some much-needed freshness to the squad. So, let’s take a look at the first team’s new faces and discuss what they bring to the Bolton Wanderers party.
Goalkeeper: Remi Matthews; Age: 24; Previous Club: Norwich City
A Norwich City youth product who was sent out on loan no fewer than five times around the Football League, without making a single appearance for the Canaries. After being linked with several ‘keepers, Matthews was brought in to fill the boots of Mark Howard as competition to Ben Alwnick.
Verdict: Good to see a young keeper being brought in and did nothing to disgrace himself against Leeds in the Carabao cup. Alnwicks current good form is likely to restrict him to back-up for now.
Left Back: Jonathan Grounds; Age: 30; Previous Club: Birmingham City
Another Middlesborough youth product left back to add to our collection, Grounds was brought in on a season long loan from Birmingham City to contest the left back slot with Andrew Taylor. Making over 150 appearances for the Blues since 2014, Grounds arrives with a wealth of Championship experience and plenty to offer at this level.
Verdict: Personally I would of preferred a younger more enterprising left back, but after missing out on Robinson there was perhaps little quality alternatives available. Grounds has the pedigree to deserve his chance and hopefully he improves on a shaky display against Sheffield United
Centre Backs: Marc Wilson/Jack Hobbs; Age: 31/30; Previous Clubs: Sunderland/Nottingham Forest
I’m being lazy but these two are very similar signings in my eyes. Primarily centre backs but have been known to fill in elsewhere in defence and midfield, Wilson and Hobbs will provide cover for first choice pairing of Wheater and Beevers. Both these players have good pedigree, Wilson in particular playing most of his career in the top flight, and as such both could feel they are better than the bench warming role they are currently occupying.
Verdict: If these players have the right attitude and stay injury free then they should be able to push Wheater and Beevers for those central defensive spots. Showed against Leeds that they both have more quality with the ball at their feet than the current incumbent central defenders, if they can prove they can equal the spirit and commitment of Wheevers then they deserve a shot in the first team.
Right Back: Pawel Olkowski; Age: 28; Previous Club: FC Koln
Polish international right back who appeared at the University of Bolton stadium to little fanfare and had Wanderers fans scouring google to find out more. Olkowski has let his football do the talking with energetic and committed performances at right back, tigerish in the tackle and has already opened his goalscoring account with a stunning strike against PNE.
Verdict: If this form keeps up he could be the steal of the summer, looks like he could be comfortable playing at a higher level. Him and Ameobi are forming the beginnings of a very strong right-hand side for Wanderers.
Centre Midfield: Jason Lowe; Age: 27; Previous Club: Birmingham City
After missing out last summer, Parky finally signed the former Blackburn Rovers captain (we’ll have to forgive him for that) on a two-year deal. Comfortable in defensive midfield or at right back, Lowe has started for Wanderers in the screening role in front of the back four. Looked steady for the most part, occasionally overwhelmed against better midfield players who can move the ball quickly through the lines
Verdict: Upgrade on last season in the defensive midfield spots, perhaps could do with a touch more aggression. Uses the ball better than expected, Lowe has played his part in Wanderers good start to the season.
Centre Midfield: Luke Murphy; Age 28; Previous Club: Leeds United
Rolled off the Crewe Alexandra production line, Luke Murphy has gained a reputation as a box to box central midfielder at Championship level with spells at Leeds United and Burton Albion. Often deployed in a more attacking role at Leeds, his spell for Burton was generally spent playing a little deeper, and Bolton will likely hope to draw upon that versatility.
Verdict: An experienced operator in the centre of the park who could turn out to be a shrewd addition. Will need to shake off some average performances in recent weeks to prove he deserves a spot in the centre of the park with Vela, Oztumer and new signing Williams snapping at his heels.
Centre Midfield: Joe Williams; Age: 21; Previous Club: Everton (signed on loan)
Proof that Parky listens to LOVpod, Williams was signed on loan a week after being named dropped by Tom on LOVpod. Gaining a steady reputation for himself as an aggressive defensive midfielder with an eye for a pass after a good season on loan at Barnsley, it was seen as a bit of a coup when Wanderers secured his services for the season.
Verdict: Highly thought of at Goodison and a promising debut for Wanderers against PNE, Williams could be a significant upgrade on Karl Henry as our Mr Nasty in the middle of the park, with passing skills to go with it.
Attacking Midfield: Erhan Oztumer; Age: 27; Previous Club: Walsall
Diminutive and clever attacking midfield player who arrived with an excellent goalscoring record over the last two seasons in League One. His stature and scurrying style lead to inevitable comparisons to Lionel Messi, though obviously exaggerated Wanderers fans will be familiar with his penchant for the spectacular after his 40 yard wonder goal against Bolton two seasons ago.
Verdict: Talented player but the verdict is out as to whether Bolton can really play to his strengths, with Parky favouring a direct style of play. Hopefully he is given an opportunity to show what he can do with a decent run in the team, as he provides a creative outlet that many other of the Wanderers midfielders simply cannot provide.
Left Wing: Yanic Wildschut; Age: 26; Previous Club: Norwich City (signed on loan)
Powerful and pacey left winger whose performances for Wigan Athletic persuaded Norwich City to shell out £7million for his services in 2017. His career has not really taken off in East Anglia and he is now hoping to impress back in the North West. Always willing to take a man on, he has had a mixed bag of performances so far, netting the winner away to Reading but often looking a little off the pace and lacking in confidence in other matches so far.
Verdict: Brings much needed pace and power into the wide areas of the pitch and can be a nightmare for a full back if he is on his best form. Needs to up his consistency levels if Parky is going to trust him every week.
Centre Forward: Josh Magennis; Age: 27; Previous Club: Charlton Athletic
Powerful Northern Ireland international striker who Wanderers came close to signing in January was picked up for a measly £200k early in the summer. A slightly underwhelming goalscoring record in League One did not put off Parky from pursuing his man, as Parky clearly values his battling and physical attributes as a target man to provide an out ball for the Wanderers defence.
Verdict: A couple of goals has boosted his confidence and he is looking a snip at £200k, proving a handful for the defences he has faced so far and chipping in with important defensive work at set pieces. His previous goalscoring record suggests that there is going to be lean spells in front of goal, but if his attitude and work rate is creating goals for others then he will be cherished by the Wanderers fans.
Centre Forward: Clayton Donaldson; Age: 34; Previous Club: Sheffield United
Filling the boots of club legend Aaron Wilbraham as experienced striker, the much-travelled Donaldson arrived on a free from Sheffield United. Bags of championship experience and still looks in excellent shape fitness wise, will surely fulfil the role of wise old head coming off the bench to nick a goal or see a game out.
Verdict: Considering the lack of Championship experience of the other strikers, Donaldson could have as big a role off the pitch as on. A knock early on and form of others has restricted his opportunities, though he looks like he has enough juice in the legs to make an impact from the start. I think he will prove a useful option over the course of a long season.
Centre Forward: Christian Doidge; Age: 26; Previous Club: Forest Green Rovers
After being released from Bristol Rovers as a 15-year-old, Doidge has gone on to work his way up to professional level via the lower leagues in Wales and England. His spell of 40 in 73 for Forest Green Rovers in the National League and League Two has persuaded Wanderers to agree to pay around £900k for him in January after an initial loan. A tall and rangy striker, who previously played Basketball for Wales, if he and Magennis are paired together expect plenty of balls into the box for them to feed off.
Verdict: With only one season in the Football League under his belt, it is a gamble to hope that he can reproduce his goalscoring exploits in the Championship. It will be interesting to see if Parky attempts to fit him and Magennis is the team together and what sort of extra dimension he will give the team.
Overall Verdict: In this writers’ opinion, excellent business. It would have been easy to offer some of the aging players such as Morais, Henry and Pratley another year, but Wanderers have been brave, and this has resulted in better players in almost every position. Some of the players are gambles that have so far paid off, though there are likely to be tougher times ahead I think this squad now has the quality to stay in the division, with reasonable alternatives in every position. If I was nitpicking, I would have liked to have seen more pace brought into the side, however maybe that can be addressed in January. If Ken keeps a lid on the off-field issues and the form on the pitch continues, the smiles on Wanderers fans can be worn for a little while longer.