Saturday sees the start of the new football season with Bolton featuring in the very first game. Manny Road takes a look back over the summer, and a behind the sofa peek at what lies in store.
Buddy Can You Spare a Dime?
After previously being sponsored by a company that manufactures landmines, Bolton continued to show a lack of judgement in that area, by teaming up with pay day loan spivs Quick Quid. Protests by fans and campaigners made the deal so toxic that is was abandoned, but whoever thought of this idea should be led away gently but firmly by men in white coats.
The North Stand will be sponsored by Bartercard, an organisation that enables member businesses to exchange goods and services with other member businesses without using cash. So it should be possible to swap Phil Gartside for an old goat, or Zat Knight for a big bag of shit.
Walking under a ladder, spilling salt, putting shoes on the table, opening an umbrella in the house. Stuart Holden must have done all of these things on the same day – probably Friday the 13th, whilst breaking a mirror and impaling a black cat on the shards of glass. Has there ever been a footballer plagued by such lousy luck?
Holden’s previous misadventures are well documented Now the midfielder faces further surgery to repair an anterior cruciate ligament torn whilst playing for the USA in the Gold Cup Final on Sunday. He’s been under the knife more times than Jackie Stallone.
In public, Holden has been typically upbeat, but shortly, if not already, he’ll be in the darkest of places. Bolton’s favourite adopted American deserves unstinting support and the decision of the club to stand by him is the right one.
The Dressing Room
Full backs have been a problem at Bolton for some time. Even Ricardo Gardner was a convert from midfield. The grisly experiment that involved Henrik Pedersen playing on the left side of defence isn’t fun to remember. To be fair, Ol’ Henrik was only greatly embarrassed once – by footballing midget Sean Wright Phillips in a game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, but the fear of what might happen was always present.
More recently there’s been the painfully past his best Sam Ricketts, angry dwarf Paul Robinson and the waste of a football strip that is Tyrone Mears. It remains to be seen if new recruits Alex Baptiste and Marc Tierney can improve matters. A word here for right back Joe Riley, who has also suffered the curse of the cruciate. Hang in there kid.
The centre of defence is worrying. The clumsy and frequently out of position David Wheater isn’t top notch, but he’ll do at this level. Unfortunately he’ll be joined by the walking lapse in concentration that is Zat Knight (unless that deal with Bartercard goes through.)
Up front, David N’Gog will never be prolific, Marvin Sordell has his mind on something else, namely Twitter, whilst Craig Davies serves a comedy role. That’s eight million quid up the Swanny. No wonder the Whites have financial problems.
Jermaine Beckford is an interesting acquisition. He had an impressive goal scoring record at Leeds, before losing his way after joining Everton. At 29 there is still time to come good. Tom Eaves, may in time, become a viable strike partner. The young man has still to learn his trade, but he has strength and mobility and is capable of holding the ball up.
In midfield there are more possibilities. Lee Chung-yong showed signs of his old self at the end of last term and Medo Kamara is an aggressive ball winner. He may be accompanied by rookie Josh Vela in the middle of the park, unless a deal can be struck for Jay Spearing. Chris Eagles will be his usual infuriating self with flashes of brilliance tempered by a lack of commitment and too much of a desire to look good.
Individually the team isn’t talent-rich. Success will depend on manager Dougie Freedman moulding a unit that is more than the sum of its parts. Speaking of which:
And What of the Dougie?
The jury is still out for this fan. Results at the end of last season, were good, especially at home, but performances were not. Freedman’s ideas on building a squad from youth seem laudable and he says the right things. But even Gary Megson talked a good game.
There has been no resolution to obvious faults. Away form is unacceptable, the team doesn’t defend as a unit, ball retention is poor and creativity lacking. This season will be a defining one for the Scotsman.
Last season’s Championship was miserably poor. All three promoted sides will struggle at a higher level. Of the teams relegated from the Premier League, Reading led by Nigel Adkins, seem to be the best placed to return. Wigan may be early front runners, but Owen Coyle will not remedy their inability to defend and it will catch up with them.
QPR is the most difficult to call. Their cash rich owners haven’t got bored yet (although they will eventually) Harry Redknapp’s side may fly or fail, but he won’t be there at the end of the season.
Financially, promotion is a must this time. The parachute payments from the Premier League are the same as last season. Next year they reduce by one half. It will be a scrap and automatic promotion may be too much to hope for. But even with the limitations detailed above, anything less than a play off place will be a failure.
– Richard McCormick