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Monday, 2 July 2012

Welcome to the Championship (4/6): Bolton Wanderers

The fourth in the Exiled Robin’s series of six posts introducing you to the Championship’s newest members focuses on perhaps the most surprising addition.  Bolton were an established Premier League club and in Owen Coyle had snared one of the brightest young managers in the game, yet found the going last season just too tough.


Find other posts in the series here:

Welcome to the Championship (1/6): Blackburn Rovers

Welcome to the Championship (2/6): Sheffield Wednesday

Welcome to the Championship (3/6): Charlton Athletic


About……Bolton Wanderers
Nickname: ‘The Trotters’ Manager: Owen Coyle
Play at: The Reebok Stadium, 188 miles from Ashton Gate
Capacity: 28,101; Last Season Avg Attendance: 23,669
Interesting Facts:  Bolton have spent more years in the top division (71) than any other side without winning the title >>> Two of the most famous FA Cup finals of all time featured Bolton, the 1923 ‘White Horse’ final – the first at Wembley, and in 1953 they lost 4-3 to a Sir Stanley Matthews inspired Blackpool >>> In 1958 Bolton were also the Cup final opposition for Manchester United in the weeks following the Munich Air disaster – their last major trophy

Notable match vs City: City 3 Bolton 0, Freight Rover Trophy Final, Wembley, 1986
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHEw2aL3TuQ (must watch for City fans!)
2012-13 Fixtures: 20th Oct (A), 13th Apr (H)
Many thanks to big Trotters fan Matilda Hankinson, co-editor of the comprehensive Wanderers website, the Lion of Vienna Suite, for this insight into one of the big clubs of this year’s Championship.  Bolton had spent 11 years in the top flight prior to May’s relegation and will undoubtedly be looking to bounce straight back up.

How are you feeling about playing in the Championship, a few weeks following your relegation?
I am slowly coming to terms with it. Even before relegation was a certainty, I wrote this article on why relegation could actually help the club. In short, the club has been floundering on and off since the departure of Big Sam. Relegation gives Coyle the chance to clear the slate and build the team back up in a sustainable way. A successful, productive season in the Championship is far preferable to another relegation battle in the Premiership to me.
What does your club bring to a tight, competitive and entertaining division?
Bolton will certainly be going through a major transition period this season, which will mean lots of experimenting with new players and old players in new combinations. If Owen Coyle takes this opportunity like I think he will, the club will be trying out lots of new things to figure out the best way to go forward in the future. I can't guarantee it will always be pretty, but it should be exciting.
What style of football/formation do you play?
As I've said, I'm not positive exactly what Bolton will be playing, and hopefully it won't be exactly the same week in and week out. Last season Coyle tended to switch back and forth between 4-4-2 and 4-5-1, generally being more successful with the latter. Stuart Holden should be back this season, and if he manages to stay fit for more than half a season, that should put a huge emphasis on passing through the midfield again.
Who are the star players we should all look out for?
While I hope that Coyle will be making quite a few additions to the squad before the season starts, in the current batch, Martin Petrov is undoubtedly the most talented player. The left winger is no spring chicken at age 33, and has been criticised for being 'lazy' and failing to get back to help defend, but when he has a good game, the Bulgarian is unstoppable. He plays with a certain grace that is very appealing, and his crosses are works of art.
And is there an up-and-coming future star in your midst?
We've got a few up and comers that I have high hopes for. Stu Holden isn't a new name, and given the fact that he'll be 27 when the season starts, he's not a youngster, but given that his career has been plagued by a series of very serious injuries, he's still building up his reputation. After missing effectively all of last season, he'll be rearing to go this season. If you managed to watch Holden at all in the 2010-11 season, you'll already know why we can't wait to have him back. He can control the flow of the game, his distribution is superb, not to mention the fact he scores a goal or two himself. Adam Bogdan is the other one to watch, the young Hungarian managed to displace living legend Jussi Jaaskelainen last season, which should tell you all you need to know. I think we could have another incredible keeper on our hands, and I'm excited to see what he can do now that the starting spot is undeniably his.
What are your views of your manager?
Owen Coyle earned himself a lot of criticism this season, for very obvious reasons given that the club was relegated. He's extremely charismatic, and when he gets it right, his football is quite fun to watch, but the problem is that he appears to have no Plan B for when he doesn't get it right. Tactically speaking he can be quite inept, and I think this is an area where his relative youth hurts him. I still think he could make a good manager, but he needs to seriously work on his tactical approach, and improve his backroom staff.
….and of your owner/board/Chairman?
Overall I'm a big fan of the way the club has been run in the past few seasons. There's been quite a few fan incentive deals, including free travel to some away games, many giveaways over social networking sites, and a very good direct debit scheme for season tickets. The club is in quite a bit of debt, but it is basically all owed to the owner, Eddie Davies, instead of a bank which puts the club in a better position. The wage bill is certainly too high, but that could probably be said of most clubs. Phil Gartside, the chairman, picked up a lot of criticism for not sacking Gary Megson sooner, but since then has come good in my eyes.
What are your expectations for the upcoming season?
I hope to see a lot of change, and most importantly a coherent vision of where the club is going from Owen Coyle and the club in general. The goal should be to get back to the Premiership within the next few seasons, and it's important that this season takes a big step in that direction.
Who will be your big rivals in this division?
Lancashire is a football rich county, so there are always plenty of local rivals to contend with. The fiercest will probably be Burnley. There's been a rivalry between the clubs for a long time, and I think they still haven't quite forgiven us for poaching Coyle from them.
And finally, do you have any specific favourite memory of playing against Bristol City?
Unfortunately, I can't say I do! I'm a relatively young football fan, only becoming seriously interested after the Euro 2004, and the two clubs haven't been in the same division since then.
(ER: I’ve added my favourite at the top, my, and City’s first ever visit to Wembley in 1986)

Many thanks again to Matilda for these answers, you can follow her website – the Lion of Vienna Suite – on Twitter here.

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