After 11 years in the top flight, Bolton succumbed to relegation in May. Matilda Hankinson from the Lion of Vienna Suite site tells us what to expect from the home side.
First time back in the second tier since 2000/01, how does it feel?
For me personally, this is a whole new experience. I only started really following football in 2004, so Bolton have been in the Premier League for as long as I’ve been a serious fan. After getting over the initial disappointment of relegation, I’ve become very excited for this season. It will be interesting to follow a new league and I also think that it will be good for the club in general. As I’ve said many times since relegation, I would much rather have a rebuilding season in the Championship than another relegation battle in the Premier League.
What’s the verdict on Owen Coyle?
I’m still not ready to deliver a verdict on Owen Coyle, even though he’s been with us for two-and-a-half years now. The Trotters have certainly played some good football under him, but it’s difficult to tell how much of that is due to the excellent raw material he had to work with (namely Stuart Holden). The club’s collapse since Holden’s injury has not reflected well on Coyle, and he has seemed incredibly tactically inept at times, including last Saturday in Bolton’s opening game against Burnley. He could still turn out to be a very good manager, but he has a lot to learn before he gets there.
Have there been many changes since relegation?
Squad-wise, the club released 15 players over the summer, although many of them were deadweight really and Coyle has brought in quite a few new signings this summer, so there has been some turnover. But if Saturday is any indication, it is still the same Bolton. What I would like to see relegation bring to Bolton is more of a mind shift rather than big changes. The club needs to centre itself and really become one team, rather than the scattered affair that was relegated last season.
What can we expect tactically?
Bolton like a passing game, with a crisp build-up. A lot of the offensive play goes through the wings, because of the talent there in the form of Martin Petrov, Chung-Yong Lee and, to a lesser extent, Chris Eagles. Goals come from many different positions because of this. However, this strategy relies on having a decent amount of possession, something the midfield isn’t always good at maintaining. With Holden gone, the team lacks a certain amount of tenacity, they won’t chase the ball down when they lose possession. If the opposing team breaks up Bolton’s possession, then they end up looking like school boys wandering around the pitch.
Who are the key players to watch out for?
As mentioned above, the real talents of the team are on the wings, Petrov on the left and Lee on the right. Petrov is a truly quality player, whose elegance can often be mistaken for laziness. When he decides to put on a show though, there aren’t many players who can face him. Lee combines two important qualities of immense skill and immense work rate. While his loss last season wasn’t felt as keenly as that of Holden, the team definitely missed him. Bolton were lucky to keep hold of both of those players this summer. The other obvious answer is goalkeeper Adam Bogdan. While he’s still quite young and will make mistakes, his spectacular saves have kept Bolton in many games they probably didn’t deserve to be in.
What’s going to happen on Friday?
I’ve been told that one can never predict the Championship, but I’m going to be an optimist and predict 1-0 to Bolton. Hopefully the Trotters can re-establish Fortress Reebok, they’ll certainly need to in the season ahead!
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Image: Alexander P Kapp (CC-BY-SA-2.0), via Wikimedia Commons