Monday, 9 September 2019

Bolton Wanderers' Season Starts Now

If you were to speak to any fan of Bolton Wanderers, you would be forgiven for not understanding their excitement, relief, and joy. The club has had a terrible few years in all honesty with failed takeovers, relegations and a points deduction. However, there is firmly light shining at the end of the tunnel with Bolton finally out the darkness following the completed takeover of the football club from Football Ventures. The club was on the cusp of liquidation but the protracted takeover of the club finally happened and now with a new manager and new team to watch, there is plenty of reasons for Bolton fans to be optimistic in times ahead even if this season does end in relegation to League 2.

Prior to the belated Football Ventures takeover, the club was in absolute turmoil. Players during their Championship relegation season had not been paid for several months and even protested by not playing to get their concerns over to unpopular owner Ken Anderson. Staff at the club also felt the pinch of no wages and the club was desperately sinking into deep financial trouble. There were plenty of excuses and finger-pointing as to why Bolton almost went bust. Ken Anderson failed to look after Bolton efficiently and ultimately gave up caring about Bolton and solely focusing on himself. Laurence Bassini's failed takeover could have spelled more concern with the former Watford owner failing to show proof of funds on several occasions and even took the club to court, wasting even more time in Bolton's hunt for new owners. A blessing in disguise that chancer Laurence Bassini didn't get the club after he constantly delayed Bolton's takeover, but still the shutters were coming down. The EFL also took a heavy amount of criticism for their lack of involvement in protecting the football club and have already faced backlash after expelling Bolton's Lancashire neighbours Bury from the football league, To lose another club would off been even more disastrous for a committee under severe pressure for letting football clubs get into that kind of a mess. But all the aggravation and blame can stop now the club is safe but plenty of lessons would certainly have been learned.  Football Ventures' interest was known in May but their protracted takeover took over three months to complete because of issues on both sides and it took a statement from the joint administrators to get the takeover complete but had the takeover not been done, Bolton Wanderers would have ceased to exist. The fans of Bolton have been to hell and back in 2019 but despite their difficult situation in League 1 continue to support their club and I am sure are very relived their football club fights for another day.

Bolton began this season with a 12 point deduction but with their entire playing squad of last season departing the club, Bolton have been forced to play their academy players and to their credit have battled hard and done the club extremely proud despite only managing to notch 1 point from their 5 league games. Ronan Darcy, Liam Edwards, Yoan Zouma, Harry Brockbank to new a few have done the club proud in hugely challenging circumstances and fair play to the club for protecting them by postponing a league game with Doncaster even though, the EFL will most likely punish them for that act of protection. The situation at the club became too much for Phil Parkinson who quit as Bolton manager when the takeover still wasn't complete. He had done a brilliant job in his time at Bolton in very challenging circumstances and he most certainly can hold his head high. Jimmy Phillips came in as caretaker while the takeover was being finalised and like Parkinson, tried as best he could to get the footballing side of the team going. Phillips will now return to his role as academy manager with a new management team now in place at Bolton.

The optimism is high at Bolton following the appointment of the experienced Keith Hill and David Flitcroft. Hill is back in the dugout for the first time since his sacking from Rochdale back in March. Hill knows League 1 extremely well and knows this will be his biggest job in club management. Flitcroft reunites with Keith Hill having been his assistant at Barnsley. Flitcroft has been successful as a number 1 but joins as Hill's assistant following his departure from Mansfield in May. It has been a busy first 10 days at the club for the new management team with 9 new signings arriving on transfer deadline day and they took charge of their first match which was a draw with Bradford City in the EFL trophy. Hill and Flitcroft will form a connection with the fans due to their long standing love of Bolton Wanderers with both hailing from the area and being fans of the club. Sentiment seems to be creeping into the modern game more often with many clubs in the English Leagues under managers who are supporters of the club. It can be successful as Sheffield United and Aston Villa have found out with Chris Wilder and Dean Smith leading their clubs to the Premier League so while Keith Hill knows League 1 survival will be tough, if he pulls it off, hands down would be the greatest achievement in his career and certainly would top the promotions stated above.

Keith Hill has spent most of his time at Bolton so far putting a team together with Bolton only having Remi Matthews, Ben Alnwick, Luke Murphy, Jason Lowe, Harry Brockbank, and James Weir as senior players at the club. Hill wanted to bring in experienced players to help the younger players at the club and Hill has promised to keep the younger players involved because of their brilliant contribution so far. 9 new faces have arrived since Hill took over. Daryl Murphy and Liam Bridcutt have arrived from Nottingham Forest, two players with bags full of experience and determined to help Bolton wherever they can. Bridcutt brings an assured steel to the midfield while Daryl Murphy knows how to find the net and he will be vital to Bolton's chances of staying in the league. Jack Hobbs and Will Buckley have returned to the club after initially leaving at the end of last season. Both are delighted to be back and are determined to help ignite Bolton's season. Hobbs will be aiming to steady a shaky defence which as conceded 10 goals in their last two league games. Buckley brings much-needed creativity to a side that has struggled for goals. Hill has clearly made the defence a priority because along with Hobbs, Josh Emmanuel, Joe Bunney, and Jake Wright have all joined the Trotters. Emmanuel will slot in at right-back having struggled to make the cut at Ipswich certainly since Mick McCarthy left the club. Jake Wright arrives with plenty of experience at this level but needs to form a good partnership with Hobbs in the heart of the defence. Bunney will complete the defence once fit and knows what Keith Hill expects having worked with him at Rochdale. Ali Crawford and Thibuad Verlinden arrive as new midfield options and will certainly add some much needed creativity, flair and an eye for goal. It is going to be tough to get an instant spark with so many new faces and it is going to take time but there is plenty of belief around the club, that the great escape could yet happen.

Bolton's season essentially starts now. The opening month of the season has been and gone for the club and September is very much where their season needs lift off. A new manager and team are in place and it is a tricky trip to Rotherham for Keith Hill in his first league game in charge. Hill has had time to emphasise his tactics and philosophies with Bolton having not played in the most recent set of league fixtures. The players have had more time to get to know each other meaning connections and understanding have slowly been formed. Despite the difficult challenge ahead, there are plenty of Bolton fans who are excited and optimistic for the rest of the season and beyond even if they end up in League 2 next season. The season starts right now for the Trotters who are hoping to spring a few surprises and hopefully begin trotting towards their closest rivals at the foot of the table.

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