Bolton are in League One. Just a couple years ago, even with all our financial woes, I would’ve been spitting that statement out with disgust. Context is key though and I can honestly say that this might be the most eager I’ve been for a season in ages. Financial stability, focus on attractive football with a well settled and secure squad, an ambitious long-term (fingers crossed) manager. The future is looking brighter and brighter despite the horror show that has been the 2020’s. So much so that I felt the need to write about it instead of just purely putting it into my usual form of podcasting.
Here are my predictions:
Securing Dapo and John on 3 year deals is probably the biggest coup we could have pulled off. Their chemistry on that left-hand side essentially transformed what was the weakest part of our team the 1st half of last season into the most dangerous.
However, I want to focus on a new signing for this section. The obvious choice is Josh Sheeniesta who looks to be quite the tidy player and will seemingly provide that spark and enigmatic mentality that we lacked for a good portion of last season in midfield. Many comparisons have been drawn to Mark Davies and I can see why. I just hope he doesn’t fall into the same habits of injuries that Sparky did. Honourable mention to George Johnston who I think is going to be a rock solid addition with Rico at the back.
While I don’t think he’ll get as many as last season, I’ll still have to go with Doyle. He’s the most natural finisher in the squad we have. While I think the likes of Dapo, Sarcevic and Bakayoko will be decent contributors too, none of them are as potent as Doyle is. As long as he recovers his fitness levels after missing a couple pre-season fixtures and avoids injury, I’m not convinced anyone will come that close to Doyle for goals.
Game you’re looking forward to most
As someone with family in Accrington, there’s no game that really will have the same kind of importance to me as Accy Stanley. That 7-1 thumping hangs over my head like a guillotine and I’m sure some folks I know will be eager to see it fall so they can keep claiming that Bolton have never beaten little old Accrington Stanley. I need retribution for that humiliation. I hope we thump them so badly that it will revert them back to “Who are they?” for us. That’s exactly what I need.
Opposing player you’d love
Whereas last season was a lot more obvious to choose from considering I only knew about five players from League Two to begin with, I’m more familiar with players at this level so it’s harder to choose. I think out of all the positions, another striker wouldn’t go amiss and there’s a lot of good options for this level. I’d like a pacier option compared to Doyle, Fonz and Bakayoko so I’d want Kayden Jackson from Ipswich. He’s a decent option for this level, would likely suit the kind of football that Evatt loves to play while being something different to his other options up front.
Key player this season
MJ Williams is the vital link between our defence and midfield. The newly transformed vegan wall became essential to keeping our defence solid last season and doesn’t look to have lost a step in pre-season. Adding to this, the fact he is as cool as a cucumber on the ball and can seemingly glide past players surprising gracefully for a man his stature and it becomes imperative that he stays fit. His presence lets our full backs push up without worry, lets the more creative players do their thing without worry and they know he’s reliable and will never waver from the cause, especially considering how many bookings he’ll likely stock up this season. I honestly think we’d struggle a lot more without him anchoring that midfield.
Predict the first six games
Unlike last season where I over-estimated how quickly we’d gel and how easily we’d blow away teams from the off, I’ll be a little more cautious this time around. However, with our settled squad I do feel more confident in predicting these results.
MK Dons (H) 3-1
AFC Wimbledon (A) 0-1
Lincoln City (A) 2-1
Oxford United (H) 2-2
Cambridge United (A) 1-2
Burton Albion (H) 1-1
Final league position
I do genuinely think play-offs are achievable and that we will obtain it. While this division will be a step-up and the quality, especially at the top end will be tougher, I really don’t think the step-up is generally that significant. It’s not that uncommon to see newly promoted teams be challenging towards the upper end of the league and I think with our settled squad combined with our quality and play-style, I legitimately think we’ll have enough to be up for potential back-to-back promotions. It won’t be a simple ride of course but I’m optimistic and ambitious enough to predict us finishing 5th.
Any other business prediction
Bolton will do the double over all the North West clubs e.g. Accrington, Fleetwood, Morecambe and Wigan