It has certainly been a summer of change at Bolton Wanderers, as the club prepares for their fourth consecutive campaign in England’s second-tier.
Since my final Shoot blog of last season, 17 players have left the Macron Stadium, with a further five joining the club, in a real changing of the guard at BL6.
After the clear-out of players who left following the expiration of their contracts at the Trotters, many Bolton fans were curious to see what would happen with regards to the recruitment process at the club – given our very public current financial plight that we unfortunately have on our hands.
Duly enough, signings started to make their way through the door at the club. Goalkeeper Ben Amos, striker Gary Madine, and former Real Madrid defender Derik Osede have all linked up with the first-team, while midfielders Jordan Lussey and Jon Ceberio will initially play in the development side.
The signing of Ben Amos was expected, given the departures of Adam Bogdan and Andrew Lonergan, though the captures of Madine, and especially Osede, came as surprises for the Wanderers faithful.
Wanderers manager Neil Lennon has spent the summer culling his squad down to size, with many top earners at the Greater Manchester outfit departing for pastures new – as he looks to rebuild his side for the forthcoming Championship season. A heavy portion of the squad that finished the 2014/15 season in 18th have now left, with more players set to follow suit in the near future.
Bolton also appointed a new captain – in the form of midfielder Darren Pratley, who has gone from scapegoat to skipper in under a year, a transformation which has endeared the former Swansea City man to Bolton fans. Pratley, aged 30, turned down the opportunity to leave on a free transfer this summer, to take up the captaincy vacated by Matthew Mills, with the Londoner rewarded for his hard work with the armband.
Players who had struggled in previous years have had a clean slate under the new management, with Pratley taking his chance and becoming one of Bolton’s leading lights.
One position that questions could be asked about is our presence upfront – with Bolton still chasing their number one summer target, Cardiff City striker Adam Le Fondre.
Le Fondre spent five months on loan at Bolton in 2014/15 – enjoying a fruitful stay in the North West, scoring eight goals in 16 games, and has recently admitted his desire to leave South Wales for a return to his native region.
Any deal for the 28-year-old Stockport-born forward is likely to be a loan move, despite the crowdfunding campaign that a group of fans recently set up in a bid to lure ‘Alfie’ back to the Macron!
It is likely that Bolton will rely upon their young forwards again, and when both Max Clayton and Zach Clough are fit for the new season, the pair possess the quality and have both demonstrated that they can form a lethal partnership in front of goal.
Meanwhile, former Crystal Palace forward Stephen Dobbie is currently on trial at Bolton, having spent last term on a season-long loan deal in League One with Fleetwood Town, netting just four goals in 29 appearances with the Cod Army.
The 32-year-old could be a valuable signing at Championship level – after all, he has enjoyed fruitful spells in the league with Blackpool, Swansea City and Crystal Palace, in previous seasons, and could potentially add some much needed creativity, which Wanderers are severely lacking in.
Dobbie could potentially fill the void by Icelander Eidur Gudjohnsen, who left Bolton for a second time, in favour of a switch to the footballing wilderness with Chinese side Shijiazhuang Ever Bright. Hopefully, should he sign permanently, he will be able to replicate his form of previous years in the second-tier. So far, it has been so good for the experienced Scot, who has featured in all three of Bolton’s pre-season fixtures – netting his first in a recent friendly defeat at Morecambe.
Whatever happens over the course of the rest of the summer months, it will be interesting to see what Lennon can achieve in what will be his first full campaign as manager of Bolton Wanderers Football Club.