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New Contracts, Clean Slates and Fresh Starts

Who would you like to see stay on at Wanderers?

Bolton Wanderers v AFC Wimbledon - Sky Bet League One Photo by Andrew Kearns - CameraSport via Getty Images

It has been an exciting week to be a Wanderers fan. It has only been six days since the announcement of Ian Evatt as Head Coach and the plans for our League Two campaign have certainly not stopped there. Following his appointment, Evatt was quick to tie down Ali Crawford for a further two years and has seemed to have already made his inaugural summer signing as Wanderers boss in the form of his former teammate and English football’s top scorer, Eoin Doyle.

Negotiating new deals for those out of contract players that were here last season is a piece of business that I’m sure will be next on the list, if not already underway. I think that it is vitally important that any player that does re-sign for the club is treated the same as any new signing, offered a clean slate. Although opinions are likely to have already been formed, I think it would be unfair to judge a player completely on performances under a completely different regime and during a difficult period in the club’s history. With the changing of the management team and as we escape the cloud that a certain former owner left us with, we are likely to see a complete change in the players’ confidence, attitude and morale.

There have been rumours left, right and centre regarding the out of contract Wanderers players and whether they will remain at the club or not. With that, and the points mentioned above, in mind, let’s examine who I would like to see extend their contracts at the club and what I believe the likelihood is.

Remi Matthews

There is no doubt that there is talent in there. His shot stopping is good and has pulled off some really impressive and important saves over the past two seasons. Remi is a talented goalkeeper, if he wasn’t then he wouldn’t have been chased by Crystal Palace last summer. Football is a confidence game, if you’re winning and playing well, you play better. Which is something we haven’t done as a club for a long time. We haven’t really seen how good Matthews is with the ball at his feet and playing out from the back. Under previous regimes he’s been under instruction to lump it forward to the likes of Chris O’Grady or Clayton Donaldson, so we can’t really judge that.

Would I like to see him stay?

I think so, I believe that in the right team, he will develop into a solid goalkeeper. I would like that to be at Bolton.

Do I think that he will stay?

I’m not sure, it all depends where other offers come from. I would not blame him wanting to start afresh elsewhere after the troubles he’s experienced here.

Josh Emmanuel

One of few positives in a very poor season. Emmanuel is great going forward and his partnership with Dodoo down the right hand side was frightening at times. In Ian Evatt’s 3-4-1-2, I don’t think there is any better option we could go for. His direct pace and power would be such an asset to the wing back role.

Would I like to see him stay?

Absolutely. As Evatt would say, he is one of my non-negotiables.

Do I think that he will stay?

Yes. I think there will likely be interest from clubs in League One, why wouldn’t there be? But, I am sure Evatt can convince him to buy into his ideas and the ambition that he has for the club.

Jack Hobbs

Is he capable of being a solid centre half at this level? Absolutely. He is League One level defender, at least. Injuries have not been kind to Hobbs during his time at Wanderers and the blossoming partnership of himself and Zouma was halted because of it. What Hobbs could offer in terms of leadership and experience would be really useful in the drop down to League Two. However, I think he must prove he has overcome the injuries before taking a gamble on him. He’s only 31, so he does have a good few years left. But, the decision must also be based around whether he fits Evatt’s system in terms of what he wants from his centre halves.

Would I like to see him stay?

I’m really in two minds about this one. If I was to make a definitive decision, I would err on the side of caution and say he should be let go. The likes of Rhys Bennett and Jordan Turnbull are both experienced defenders that are available free transfers whom could replace Hobbs without the persistent injury risk.

Do I think that he will stay?

No, I don’t think he will be kept on. I think Evatt and Phoenix will go down a different route when it comes to what type of defenders they want.

Yoan Zouma

The young Frenchman has the potential to be unstoppable with some defensive coaching in terms of his positional play and decision making. This is something I think Evatt and Atherton could really help with. His pace, power and size would intimidate League Two defenders and he could be a real asset in a back three, alongside an experienced head.

Would I like to see him stay?

Yes, definitely.

Do I think that he will stay?

No. Sadly, I have a feeling that Yoan will leave us this summer to go back to France. I really hope I’m wrong as I believe there is a good player in there waiting to be unleashed, I would just hope Wanderers could be the ones to do so.

Joe Bunney

His Wanderers career has been a bit of a non-starter after his car accident just the weekend after he signed for the club. As an attacking minded full-back, he could be useful on the opposite flank to Emmanuel. After spending a large part of his career as a forward, he clearly possesses the attacking intent that will be required, should Wanderers opt for the 3 defender formation this season.

Would I like to see him stay?

Maybe, but it wouldn’t upset me if he were to move on. If the deal is right, then I don’t see any harm in giving him another season. I would like to see what he can do at this level as he has spent the majority of his career in League One.

Do I think that he will stay?

No, I don’t think so. Should Keith Hill get a job before the start of the new season (I heard Tranmere have a vacancy..) then I think he will more than likely take Joe with him. I also think that Evatt and Phoenix will have drawn up their own list of wing backs and would rather go for one of their own, given the importance of that position in the 3 back system.

Luke Murphy

On his day, he isn’t actually half bad. The issue is, those days can be few and far between. I think that Luke Murphy has probably played his final game for the club, but I can see him sticking around in League One. Newly promoted Crewe Alexandra have been linked with their former academy graduate and I think it would be a good move for all parties.

Would I like to see him stay?

I don’t think so.

Do I think that he will stay?

No, can’t see it at all. I’m sure the club will be looking to move on the current higher earners.

Jacob Mellis

The less said the better. In fact, this sentence alone probably contains more words than Mellis had touches of the ball in a Bolton shirt.

Would I like to see him stay?


Do I think that he will stay?

Absolutely not.

Jason Lowe

My player of the year. I really like Lowe, maybe part of that is because I think he’s a good guy. I’ve seen people say he’s not good enough to be playing for Wanderers, but that’s not true. If it were, he wouldn’t be linked so heavily with teams in the division above. For me, Lowe’s versatility is one of his strong points as well as his model professionalism and leadership, however I can’t really see the need for him to be filling in at RWB at any point this season. I’m not sure that Lowe will really suit Evatt’s style either.

Would I like to see him stay?

Yes, perhaps for more sentimental reasons though.

Do I think that he will stay?

No, I think he will be off to Blackpool as recent reports suggest. I think we will miss his leadership, but I have every bit of faith a suitable replacement will be brought in that suits the new regime more.

Will Buckley

I was genuinely gutted for Buckley when he got injured against Bristol Rovers after he re-signed for the club in January. At the time, there were a lot of people that criticised the decision to bring him back when he’s “always injured” but a freak tackle causing a break to the leg put him out for the season. It was reported at the time that his incident was no way caused by a pre-existing issue and was just an unfortunate coincidence. I think that was probably his last game in a Wanderers shirt.

Would I like to see him stay?

I think he’s reached the end of the road in his Bolton career. Perhaps some people will be glad, but I think Buckley is a huge confidence player and it’s been almost impossible to see the best of him given the circumstances of recent years.

Do I think that he will stay?

No, I think he will be let go. I also think that he played better in the middle, rather than out on the wing. Given we already have Crawford and Darcy, and we will likely see wing backs as opposed to wingers, I don’t see any space for Buckley in Evatt’s plans.

Chris O’Grady

I’m going to leave this part blank.

Would I like to see him stay?

No. No. No. No. No.

Do I think that he will stay?

Nope. It would be really bizarre if Keith Hill’s best mate was kept around. I think he will likely follow Hill to wherever he ends up next, jobs for the boys and all that.

Daryl Murphy

He’s clearly a good goalscorer and would be useful in League Two, but he will be turning 38 this season. It is also highly unlikely he would drop another division. For me, it seemed like Daryl lost his mojo from February onwards.

Would I like to see him stay?

He would be a useful option, but I’m sure there are far cheaper options out there. With the ever-likely addition of Doyle, I don’t think Murphy is needed.

Do I think that he will stay?

No, I don’t think he will. Recent reports have linked him with a return to his native Ireland with a move to his hometown club, Waterford United. I like the idea of him returning back to his boyhood team for one last time before hanging up his boots.

Connor Hall

One of the most unlucky players to have been at Wanderers in the past few years. Three days before the opening day of the season, Hall was injured on the training ground. The young striker missed the opening 9 weeks, this could have been the perfect time to kick start his Wanderers career. Instead, Bolton had Eddie Brown and Brown-Sterling leading the line in his absence. He made his first appearance of the campaign against Plymouth in the FA Cup, but suffered a hamstring injury. Shortly after, he was loaned to Chorley of the National League. He scored 3 in 6 and looked in good form, but the early curtailment of the season yet again put another dent in the progress Hall was making.

Would I like to see him stay?

I would really like to see him succeed at Wanderers, however I think for his own sake he needs a complete fresh start at a new club. I think Hall would be a good back up to the senior strikers, but at his age, I think he needs a permanent move with promised game time.

Do I think that he will stay?

No, I think Connor will move on and I wish him every success. It does make you think what may have happened if he didn’t get injured a few days before that Wycombe game.

Joe Dodoo

There has been a bit of debate about this one recently. But, when Joe turns it on, he is frightening. His pace is a real asset and as mentioned earlier his understanding and partnership with Emmanuel was really good. There has been argument to suggest that Dodoo didn’t “turn it on” enough and he wasn’t as consistent as others. Although I would tend to agree, he would be a real menace to the opposition’s defence in this division. All he needs is that one moment, much like that goal against Burton, where he can create a chance out of nothing. What we must remember is that for the large part of last season, Joe was played out of position and came into the side much later than the others. I think he would really suit a two-man attack, and would offer the pace and power whilst Eoin Doyle acts as the fox in the box.

Would I like to see him stay?

Yes, I think he would be a great striking partner for Doyle. Not only this, but he also provides versatility in any position across the front line. At Swindon this season, Doyle was partnered by Jerry Yates, resulting in a combined 39 goals in all competitions between them. I would like to see Dodoo stay to be a part of that. Joe is another confidence player, in a winning team – I think he only gets better.

Do I think that he will stay?

I hope so. I see his future at a higher level and I would expect he does as well. I think it will all come down to whether he buys into what Evatt wants to achieve and the ambition of the club. Big names signings and statements of intent like Doyle could help swing the odds in our favour of him sticking around for another year.

So, that's my take on those out of contract Wanderers players. It will be interesting to see over the next few weeks who we keep hold of and which new players we bring in. As mentioned earlier, I think it will only be fair to judge any player that we re-sign as a new signing and offer them a clean slate. I believe Evatt and his coaching team will get the best out of any player he wants in his side.

The good times are on their way back. Onwards and upwards!