Reviewing and Previewing Pre-Season
Due to the World Cup, TBW's coverage on Wanderers has been pushed back a few weeks into a busy pre-season schedule, or so I had planned. Turns out, I missed one friendly and the odd fortnightly signing. That, in itself, tells it own story of the somewhat disjointed beginning to the 2018-19 season.
So, who would have thought that the forgotten man, Ben Amos, would be the make or break for Wanderers this year. Many would suggest 'make or break' is too dramatic of a term for the now perennially loaned out goalkeeper. However, the reported refusal or delay in his bonus and wages (of which he is contracted to) caused a player strike which led to the trip to Scotland being, essentially, a training camp with worse facilities. This coming just a few days after Marc Iles of The Bolton News reported that Phil Parkinson was considering giving Amos a potential second chance. At this stage, a player mutiny would mean "break". Then, the player was paid, loaned out to Millwall which was quickly followed up by a PFA meeting that led to all happy agreements and Ken Anderson claiming, via the cub's official website, that a six-figure bid for a striker had been launched. Make.
As difficult as it may be, I would like to (for once) ignore the off-field shenanigans at Bolton because, ever so quietly and fairly slowly, a recruitment process is taking shape that could just be about be met with an excitement and real promise. Specific areas of the squad are being targeted and filled with a un-Bolton precision. There is a clear, well thought-out plan of targeting younger players for resale value - following the Preston model. Now, admittedly, Clayton Donaldson and Jason Lowe may not fill that bill with David Cotterill and Gary O'Neil playing friendlies for the club further contradicting that plan. The fact that this strategy is in the minds of the football club, though, is heartening. Lowe and Donaldson are experienced second-tier footballers who are upgrades on any one of Pratley, Henry, Karacan (Lowe will look to fill one of their roles) whilst Donaldson is simply a level above Aaron Wilbraham, as much as his goal will go down in Wanderers folklore. Erhun Oztumer was a coveted flair player that Wanderers have seemingly managed to persuade and outbid other clubs for - same goes for Yanic Wildschut. I believe if other clubs are to make those signings then they will be met with a top-half optimism. Bolton fans want more, demand more and quite frankly, there is still a lot more to do. Olkowski has a solid pedigree but of course it is difficult to suggest how good he is without seeing a lot of him bar a classic compilation YouTube video. There is a spine now in place that could lead to a much, much better season than last.
Looking forward, there is a fortnight to go before we travel to a recently relegated top-tier side who have spent over £10 million already. An extra week, to the day, until the transfer window ends. Without being pessimistic, odds would quite easily have us as a longshot for the trip to The Hawthorns, however, a poor Baggies pre-season with an ageing squad who have been out of this division for a while and a risky appointment in Darren Moore does give me hope for a shock opening match. In terms of transfers, Bolton are reportedly looking at another 6. In a perfect world, 7 would be ideal for me. That would include another goalkeeper to replace Amos and challenge Turner, a LB (hopefully the return of Antonee Robinson), a centre-back which looks likely to be Jack Hobbs but maybe 2, a couple of central-midfielders including Stephen Ireland and a striker with a 5th winger for extra squad balance.
'As things stand' it looks like it might just about be something to look forward to next season. Having said that, I have said that at the beginning of a few recent season.