A minutes silence for three fallen Wanderers, Colin Styan, Dave Hughes and Neil McGartland all members of Lancaster Whites who passed away during the last twelve months.
After an excellent three course meal, Neil took over the microphone for a Q & A session and I made a few notes...
Q & A.
He was asked what he thought of our prospects for the coming season and he said that promotion or the play-offs was what he would be aiming for. He stressed that it was important that we get off to a good start because positive results breed confidence. His ambition was always for us to finish as high as possible and barring injuries he was confident the teams performances would be an improvement on last season. He said it was every managers ambition to aim as high as possible and he was no different.
He was asked a question about the ins and outs of the squad since he had taken over. He responded by saying that since he took over he has shaved £4 million off the annual wage bill. He said he didn't want to lose Chungy or Adam Bogdan but when a player decides he no longer wishes to play for a club and wishes to ply his trade elsewhere then there is no point trying to hang onto them because their minds are already made up. He said Craig Davies always gave his all but was constantly getting injured. No sooner had he recovered from one setback and be back to fitness then another injury would occur.
As for the incoming players he was impressed with Derek Osede, and he also thought that Gary Madine would make a worthwhile contribution and he was also happy to have signed Ben Amos.
As for the current crop of youngsters he spoke highly of Zach Clough, Tom Walker and Josh Vela. He was impressed with the character and temperament of Zach Clough and he said he was a pleasure to train and work with.
A question as to whether he had been touted for the Leicester job was next up. He replied at no time had he ever been approached about the Leicester job and he reminded us that it had been fifteen years since he played at Leicester and a lot had changed since then. He said that the first he knew about the vacancy was when he saw it on Sky Sports and was reported to be one of the favourites for the job. He said he had just moved into his house in Heaton and when the news came on the TV his son started crying saying he didn't want to leave the house they had just moved into. He said that he was committed to Bolton and that he had a job to do at the Macron and he wasn't looking any further than next season.
A question was raised regarding Derek Osede playing for us and would we be seeing a Derek Trotter partnership in the future? He laughed and said that perhaps we should be looking to sign a Rodney!
He talked briefly about his time at Celtic and the powderkeg atmosphere playing in front of 60,000 fans and the day to day pressures that go with the job. He said he was really enjoying his time at Bolton and he had no difficulty in signing for us having been really impressed with both the Macron and the excellent training facilities plus the Academy.
He was asked about team selection and whether Chairman Phil Gartside and Eddie Davies had any influence. He replied that player selection and signings were his decision and his decision alone. He said that he had regular meetings with Chairman Phil discussing club matters but Phil never ever got involved in the running of the first team and left that to him. He said he had a good relationship with the board and that if he wanted a player then it was simply a matter of whether the money was available or not. All decisions on players were down to him.
A question was raised about potential signings of former players like Kevin Davies and Kevin Nolan and he replied that it simply wasn't viable. He admired what Kevin Davies had done for the club but his age was against him. As for Kevin Nolan? It was highly unlikely that we could afford his wages.
He touched on the legacy of Bruce Rioch and Big Sam and said that when Bolton were in the Premiership other teams didn't like playing there in a similar way to Stoke and that he wanted to instil the same mindset in the current squad.
He mentioned the number of injuries we had suffered and how losing key players is always a setback but it's part and parcel of the game.
He said that with a fully fit Mark Davies and Zach Clough together with Josh Vela, Tom Walker and new signings Ben Amos and Gary Madine he thought we were better equipped to compete and he has not ruled out further signings although he didn't want to mention any names until any potential deals were done. He also said that we should ignore Madine's bad boy reputation and just judge him on his performances on the pitch. He said it's easy to judge people on a heat of the moment incident but he signed Madine because of what he thought he would bring to the team.
All in all, he came across as an articulate, personable individual with a calm manner which belies his reputation as a firebrand. He shared a couple of glasses of red wine with the guests on his table and they were all very impressed with his demeanour. When he spoke he reminded me a bit of Bruce Rioch and he definitely gave the impression that he wants to succeed at Bolton.
He finished by thanking the Wanderers faithful for their support since he took over and he made mention of the game at Anfield in the FA Cup where the Wanderers fans were brilliant.
For more information on the Lancaster Whites you can visit their site at http://www.bwfclancaster.org.uk/