With the Football League kick-off just days away, this series of articles takes a closer look at the 24 teams vying for the £100 million Premier League bonanza.
Bolton boss Dougie Freedman will be hoping his team can fly out of the blocks this time around as much of last season’s struggles were the result of an awful start that saw them fail to win any of their opening ten matches.
By the end of the season you felt Freedman had started to find the squad he wanted and two defeats in the final 16 matches helped them to a comfortable 14th-placed finish. However, there are Premier League ambitions at the Macron Stadium (nee Reebok Stadium) and Freedman may not be offered the same patience this time around.
Freedman’s summer recruitment has largely focussed on bringing in on permanent deals many of the players who served him so well as loan signings last season. There is no shortage of Championship experience among the players signed, but the lack of a big-name or big-fee signing may mean pulses aren’t exactly racing among the Trotters support.
The failure to recapture last season’s loan strikeforce of Joe Mason (Cardiff) and Lukasz Jutkiewicz (now Burnley) and the sale of Team GB international Marvin Sordell to Burnley mean the burden of goals lands at the feet of Jermaine Beckford, a capable player who has flattered to deceive since his prolific days at Leeds. I’m not sure he is quite up to the task these days, so Freedman will no doubt expect contributions from midfield if a reliable source cannot be found.
The signing and subsequent release 59 days later of ex-Southampton trainee Andy Robinson is a set-back as the 21-year-old was seen as a potential star, but Freedman has more than enough midfield experience at his disposal to cope.
I would expect another comfortable mid-table finish from the Wanderers, safe from relegation but unlikely to threaten the promotion chasers.
Last Season: 14th
Manager: Dougie Freedman
Transfers In*: Neil Danns (Leicester, free), Liam Trotter, Liam Feeney (both Millwall, free), Dorian Dervite (Charlton, free), Andy Robinson (Southampton, free), Dean Moxey (Crystal Palace, free), Andy Hughes (Charlton, free)
Transfers Out*: Marvin Sordell (Burnley, undisclosed), Cian Bolger (Southend, undisclosed), Alex Baptiste (Blackburn, loan), Keith Andrews (Watford, loan), Joe Riley (Oxford, loan), Andy Robinson, Andre Moritz, Arran Lee-Barrett, Zat Knight, Chris Eagles, Tyrone Mears, Jay Lynch (released)
One To Watch: Stuart Holden (midfield)
After a wretched few years with serious injury after serious injury, USA international Holden could well provide a dash of quality to the Bolton midfield - if the club can get him fit and keep him injury free.
Wanderers have missed the American’s quality and if he can return successfully he is more than capable of providing the ammunition for target men like Beckford and Craig Davies.
Selected Odds: Champions 25-1; Promotion 8-1; Relegation 16-1
Opening Fixtures: Watford (A), Nottingham Forest (H), Middlesbrough (H)
*Correct at the time of writing
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