clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Rating Bolton Wanderers’ start to the season

With Wanderers taking a break due to internationals, Lee rates the start they’ve had to the season

Milton Keynes Dons v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Photo by Andrew Kearns - CameraSport via Getty Images

How would you rate our team’s season out of 10 vs expectations so far?


We’ve failed our tests at home to Wednesday and at Plymouth, despite an encouraging display there. We passed tests at home to Wycombe and at MK, both bogey sides for us in the past, while escaping Portman Road with a point on opening day will definitely be looked back upon as a great result, if not performance.

Throw in a pleasing first hour vs Villa in the Carabao, in full glare of the viewing public on Sky and I think I’ve got to be happy with our start and 5th in the fledgling table.

What has pleased you the most?

I think it has to be the fact that we can rest and rotate our squad (to an extent, mainly midfield and forward areas) and the drop off of quality is pretty much non-existent. We won the first two of our recent winning streak at a canter by the end of the game, and our midfield trio has generally been MJ, George Thomason & Kieran Lee as a pressing 8.

A month ago we started Kyle Dempsey & Aaron Morley as the two 8’s, so the squad is strong and with Josh Sheehan slowly being drip fed back into that rotation as well, the signs are encouraging in the engine room.

Thomason’s emergence in these past three games has also pleased me immensely. I love what he stands for on the pitch, where he’s come from in the game and the fact he was at the local club of Postie round, Longridge Town. Stories like that are why football is such a beloved game. Evatt’s development of him has been great to see and the way he’s handled him has been very shrewd, letting him adapt to the jump in class last season. For him to have recently usurped some of the bigger names in the one area of our squad that’s truly stacked is no mean feat.

What has been the biggest disappointment?

I think it’s that lack of a clinical edge in those games against Wednesday & Plymouth. Time and time again last season we performed well against teams with promotion aspirations and of course when it clicked, it clicked proper against Sunderland.

But on almost every other occasion we would come out with a narrow defeat and Evatt would be talking about a ‘moral victory’ once again. This seemingly mental block needs to be lifted if we are to have serious designs on getting out of this division.

Who’s been our standout player thus far?

It has to be Conor Bradley doesn’t it. Goals, assists and a constant outlet for us.What’s not to love?

I guess we all just hope Liverpool don’t recall him in January. He is on a season long loan but I’m as sure as I can be that there’ll be a break clause. Klopp could see him as a genuine back up to TAA or they could look to send him to a Championship club. I think if we’re in contention for at least the play-offs by then, Klopp/the loan manager there will hopefully see the challenge and pressure that brings as a very much worthwhile endeavour and the best option is to keep developing with us.

As much as it pains me to now be a testing ground for youngsters from clubs that we genuinely used to go toe-to-toe with (and often beat!) in the not too distant past (ok 12-15 years ago is a long time I suppose!) in Liverpool & City, it’s prudent to understand the seismic change in the footballing landscape since then, realising and understanding where we now sit in the football food chain. Utilising any local links we might be able to forge is now key, given it would be foolish not to take advantage of such a scenario.

To gain the confidence of the hierarchy of two of the most consistent clubs sides in world football over the last half decade is smart, savvy and can be a consistent source of untapped potential. They clearly see a club and set up that is now well run and perfect for player development, with a manager seemingly in it for the long haul; someone who is steadfast and unwavering in his desire to provide pleasing, progressive football on the pitch.

Bradley & James Trafford can be just the beginning of a long line of loanees from the local behemoths that the UniBol crowd fall in love with.

If you had a £100k to correctly place our league position, where would you put us?

6th. Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday really should make top two with their squad and resources. Then I think the three P’s of Plymouth, Pompey & Posh definitely have what it takes to finish in the top 6.

I can see Derby strengthening hugely in Jan with players in their peak under new boss Paul Warne, who has gained promotion the last three times he’s been managing in League One. This kind of recruitment is essential for them I feel, as opposed to those at the opposite ends of that spectrum that currently make up their squad.

I believe we can just about oust one of this bunch to get involved in one of sports greatest ever inventions, the EFL play-offs!

Who’s been the best opposition player you’ve seen this season?

I admired Dominic Iorfa’s long unstoppable strides in the early stages of our 2-0 home reverse, pounding down the UniBol right flank and Barry Bannan’s customary graceful, composed performance at his old stomping ground. I know, a 4 month loan 8 years ago can’t really be termed a stomping ground for him, for those football cliche listeners!

And Jesuran Rak-Sakyi looked every inch the Premier league star in-waiting, if only Addicks had got the ball to him more often. He scared the bejesus out of me!