Things continue to look up for Bolton fans. Owen Coyle is building a very strong team, and has so far resisted the rumours linking him with moves to bigger clubs. We spoke with BPF columnist and Trotters fan Chris Glover ahead of the new season.
What is your greatest hope for the season ahead
Owen Coyle lands one of the high profile players he has been after like Jeffren, Thiago or Reo Coker. Okay, not Reo Coker but anyone who’s played a few games at the Camp Nou is worth a look and would surely help the team take the next step on the road to total football. With the success of Wilshere and Sturridge on loan over the past couple of seasons it would be nice to land a developing youngster on a longer term deal. The development of City and Spurs into legitimate teams makes European football a pipe dream but a solid mid table position with a cup run would do just fine.
And your biggest fear
The team fails to replace the goals of Elmander and Sturridge and they get sucked into a relegation battle for a large chunk of the season. Losing Gary Cahill would also be a big blow as watching Wheater and Knight against speedy forwards could be painful for all parties.
Thoughts on the club’s summer transfer business
There hasn’t been much to talk about with Darren Pratley the only arrival to date. The aforementioned Jeffren is intriguing though in truth a goal scorer to play alongside Davies is probably the priority. It doesn’t seem to be too popular with many of the fans but I’d welcome Robbie Keane provided the money was right. I heard he’s been a fan of the club since he was a young lad. If we are going to lose Cahill I would prefer it to happen now so that there is plenty of time to find a suitable replacement or two. With Matt Taylor on his way to BWFC 2.0, depth will also become an issue unless new signings come in.
Who’ll be your most important player this season
Probably Kevin Davies. He’s so important to what the team wants to do in the attacking third and is so much more than simply a target man/battering ram. He brings players into the game with his hold up play and his goalscoring over the past couple of seasons has really come on. His aggression and commitment lead by example and you couldn’t ask for more from your captain.
Davies is again the obvious pick but an outside choice would be Stu Holden. He won the Fans’ Player of the Year last year despite getting injured in March and really won the crowd over with his style of play, quality and overall game. He’s set to miss the start of the season (thanks John O’Shea) but he will hopefully get back on track soon after and continue where he left off.
Anyone new who we should keep an eye out for
I haven’t heard too much about new youngsters ready to break through, though there is a fair amount of buzz around Ivan Klasnic who is said to be in the best shape of his life and ready to take up the slack left by Elmander. Klasnic is a pretty good story having recovered from a kidney failure in 2007 though he seemed to take a step back last year after an impressive showing in the prior year. The hope is that Klasnic can take the next step and return to the goalscoring form he showed at Werder Bremen where he netted a goal every three games.
The player you’d pay his taxi fee to his new club
It’s a small squad and to be honest there aren’t any players I’d be dying to see the back off, after Nicky Hunt, Gavin McCann and Dany Shittu were shown the door last year. Robbie Blake clearly isn’t Premier League class at this point (if he ever was) so I wouldn’t be sad to see him leave and I’d probably throw in a couple of quid to get him a ride back to Burnley.
Who do you want to beat most this season?
It’s the easy choice but it has to be Man Utd. Bolton haven’t got one over their local rivals since 2007 with only Jaaskelainen, Gardner and Davies remaining from the team that scored the victory that day. It’s so long ago that United were able to field a team including Gerard Pique and Carlos Tevez, before both secured moves to bigger clubs.
Opposition players you admire and you despise?
I personally always make a note of the day Arsenal come to the Reebok as they’ve provided many of the best players this leagues has had to offer over the years (Henry and Pires at their peak were a particular highlight for me). I’m also very much looking forward to seeing what Luis Suarez can do in a full season in England, as I’ve been a big fan of his for some time. The unpopular players are the likely candidates – Rooney, Nani, Terry etc. and pretty much anyone else in a United shirt.
Have you got the right manager, and what advice would you give him?
Absolutely. I was a massive Allardyce fan and still maintain he was underrated to this day but Coyle has finally brought the club out of Big Sam’s shadows and developed his own way of playing rather than simply trying to avoid rocking the boat and merely surviving like Sammy Lee and Gary Megson. The quality of football is substantially better while the results have been almost as good as those heady days under Sam. I’d like Coyle to keep swinging for the fences with his signings and not resort to recycling other teams’ castoffs to merely pad the squad. Going after the likes of Jeffren and Thiago shows the kind of ambition that hasn’t been seen in these parts for some time.
And finally, where will you finish?
Last year’s 14th place finish looks like an underachievement but in truth the team were just 3 points behind 8th place Fulham (though admittedly also 7 clear of the drop). Provided Coyle can either secure a goalscorer or get Klasnic playing again and Cahill hangs around for another year, the top half should be the target, playing some entertaining football along the way.