Whilst the league table suggests otherwise, Neil Lennon did a good job when coming in last season to stabilise a club that seems to be sinking like a stone. This season will be no easier given the ins and outs but Lennon’s an experienced manager who can deal with that situation as well as anybody.
Last Season: Championship (18th)
Manager: Neil Lennon
GKs: Ross Fitzsimons, Ben Amos
DFs: Dean Moxey, Tim Ream, Dorian Dervite, David Wheater, Hayden White, Quade Taylor, Oscar Threlkeld, Andy Kellet, Niall Maher, Derik Osede
MFs: Jay Spearing, Liam Feeney, Mark Davies, Liam Trotter, Neil Danns, Darren Pratley, Josh Vela, Andrew Hughes, Filip Twardzik, Medo, Tom Walker, Stuart Holden, Jon Ceberio, Jordan Lussey
FWs: Robert Hall, Max Clayton, Emile Heskey, Kaiyne Woolery, Tom Eaves, Zach Clough, Gary Madine
In: Gary Madine (Sheffield Wednesday), Ben Amos (Manchester United), Derik Osede (Real Madrid), Jon Ceberio (Real Sociedad), Jordan Lussey (Liverpool)
Out: Keith Andrews (Released), Jermaine Beckford (Preston North End), Adam Bogdan (Liverpool), Craig Davies (Wigan Athletic), Georg Iliev (Released), Chris Lester (Released), Andy Lonergan (Fulham), Matt Mills (Nottingham Forest), Luke Woodland (Released), Ryan Sellers (Wycombe Wanderers), Alex Baptiste (Middlesbrough), Sanmi Odelusi (Wigan Athletic), Conor Wilkinson (Barnsley – Loan), Eidur Gudjohnsen (Shijiazhuang Ever Bright)
First Six: Derby County (H), Middlesbrough (A), MK Dons (A), Nottingham Forest (H), Blackburn Rovers (A), Wolves (H)
Likely Lineup: (3-5-2) Amos – Dervite, Wheater, Ream – Feeney, Vela, Pratley, M.Davies, Clayton – Clough, Madine
A word from…Henrik Pedersen
On what clicked under Big Sam A lot of the positive change was due to (Sam) Allardyce. He made Bolton an attractive place to come for foreign players like Youri Djorkaeff and JJ Okocha, big players who were experienced, but were still of an age where they had the hunger to succeed. Once we were able to attract these kind of players, that was the springboard for the success we had.
We were strict in the way we approached play, everybody understood the system and their jobs 100%. We all knew what was expected of us. We also practiced set pieces a lot, and Allardyce was ahead of his time in that, because he understood that if you were a team in the top 3 teams in scoring and not conceding goals from set pieces, it was likely that you would finish in the top half of the table.
On his departure I was very sad to leave. I had 6 very good years at Bolton. I’d actually agreed a new two year deal to stay, but Allardyce changed his mind and withdrew the offer a few days before I was due to sign the contract.
Yes, of course I still follow Bolton’s progress. They don’t show the Championship on TV here in Denmark, but I look on the Internet and in the papers as they were such a big part of my life for six years, and I made some good friends there. I haven’t been back to see a match for 2 years now, but three, four, five years ago, I always used to go back at Christmas, and I hope to go back this Christmas as I still have a few friends in the area who want to know how our kids are getting on.
On what’s gone wrong It was the departure of Allardyce which started the rot. I think he saw that he had got the most he could out of Bolton, and that he wanted to try a bigger club (Allardyce left for Newcastle in the summer of 2007). It’s always difficult for a new manager (Sammy Lee followed by Gary Megson) to follow somebody who had been so successful.
Unfortunately, I think they are quite a way away from getting back up again at the minute, and I think it will take a long time for them to get back up. There are so many good teams in the Championship all competing for promotion, all of whom buy fantastic players, and I don’t see that Bolton are up with them just now. I don’t know Neil Lennon well enough as a manager to be able to tell if he is the right man or not. All managers need time, and he needs time to get his players in, to blend the young players with experienced players and to implement his long term plan. It’s difficult to think like that as a fan, because you want instant success, but you need that long term plan to have success.
On Championship experience In a lot of ways, the Championship is harder to play in than the Premier League. Though the quality of the players is lower, the speed of the game is faster, and that can surprise players who have come down from the Premier League. You need good stamina and a good physique to be a successful player in the Championship. The ball spends a lot more time in the air, so you need to be able to cope with that. Also, as there are so many good teams, the top 10 are capable of winning promotion every year, a few bad games and you’re out of the running.
On what it will take to succeed I think having a core of experienced players is very important in the Championship, particularly for Bolton this season. You need young hungry players who are looking to take the places of the experienced guys in the team, but you also need that experience to keep the young players calm. Young players have to have experienced players to lean on, at 1-0 up, they need the experienced players to tell them how to use the ball right in those situations.
Off the pitch too, the likes of Emile Heskey will have a vital role to play in helping Bolton’s young players. Whether it’s in the dressing room, advising them on the training pitch to help the coaches, talking to them on the team coach etc. Players like this are vital resources who young players can learn from, and this will be especially important for Bolton this season.
The Offside Rule Podcast Prediction: It’s going to be a difficult season with the squad already weakened, but Lennon should be able to find enough in certain individuals and maybe one or two more players coming in to keep Bolton safe for another season.
Key Player: Zack Clough – The youngster made a real impact last season and Bolton’s hopes could hinge on how whether he can continue his rise as a Championship striker. He’s an exciting talent being watched by Premier League teams and could be just what Bolton need.
One to Watch: Ben Amos – After finally leaving Manchester United on a permanent basis, Amos can now show what he’s made of and why he was at Old Trafford in the first place. As important as Clough will be at one end, Amos will be equally as important at the other.