Usually when watching football in July during a World Cup year, supporters are cheering on their heroes in packed-out Stadiums set in iconic, exotic lands… This year was no different as Bolton Wanderers headed across the globe to an exotic Ipswich on the opening day of the season. In an uncharacteristically upbeat mood, Liam talks us through five things he noticed from the game at Portman Road
Could it be a bountiful season?
As soon as the fixtures came out, you sensed that Bolton’s opening day trip to Ipswich would be a fantastic test for Bolton to see where they are in terms of a potential promotion bid this season. Fans of the Tractor Boys laid down their pitchforks, shovels, and bales of hay to head down to Portman Road in the kind of numbers only really seen for their annual Autumn Farming Conference and it made for a great occasion.
The two clubs have a lot of shared history and games between them always carry that little bit of spark (away from the barns of course) and this was no exception. Both teams were up for it and pushing to the end, great stuff.
Roll your sleeves up
Dion Charles has proven already to be a great signing for Bolton, he has seemingly slotted well into the team and into the club in general. The forward is already one of our most important players. The attribute Charles possesses that I can never fail to be impressed by is his sheer tenacity to win the ball. The mindset is critical of course but Dion has a genuine ability in this part of his game to win possession for Bolton, I genuinely can’t think of any current striker at any level of the game who wins the ball as much as he does.
It sets the tone for the rest of the team, if the frontman is putting in those hard yards with the added responsibility he has in the team, then you better be doing the same thing. It’s the literal definition of leading from the front. It really channels the Rocky Chasing the Chicken energy of Rocky II. That’s not another farming joke by the way, it’s a fair reference. It just happens to be about chasing a chicken, which whilst I’m sure is something that happens on farms, it isn’t why I said it.
Saturday also saw Dapo Afolayan reprise his role as the ‘Second Striker’ or whatever term they would use on Football Manager for that position. I think the improvement was there to see, particularly in the first half against what I suspect to be one of the better defences in the league away from home. It’s going to take time for Dapo to adjust fully to that role.
No doubt the Bolton talisman was very much on the mind of the Ipswich defence as he was the most devastating thing to happen to Ipswich since Foot and Mouth in his two games against them last season.
Get your hands dirty
One thing that disappointed me about the game on Saturday was how Sam Morsy was able to wrangle control of the game in the second half. This really could have cost us & the Bolton midfield will need to learn quickly from it. We know Morsy well from his time at Wigan and whilst his directness and passing are very good for this level, it was his simple drive and desire that pulled Ipswich into the ascendancy, particularly midway through the second half.
Of course, he should have scored late on.
Off to the Market
One thing I really took from the game was Bolton’s need for another forward-thinking fullback. Declan John is a reliable player for Bolton but if we always want the option of that dynamism on the left-hand side, we probably need to bring in another body to compete over there. I know we have Jack Iredale to come in and he can operate in that position. I just think one more brought in, maybe an experienced type expected to feature in 10-15 games may give us the protection we need.