On May 13, 2012, former Wanderer Jon Walters bundled Adam Bogdan and the ball into the goal. A controversial penalty then put paid to Bolton's longest stint in the Barclay's Premier League (as dearly departed coach Owen Coyle was so fond of saying in post-game interviews). The fact that Walters also scored the offending penalty - awarded after Peter Crouch dramatically took approximately five minutes to fall after a challenge by goalkeeper Bogdan (although to be fair it is going to take longer for him to fall than it would take most people) was a hammer blow.
Mr. Coyle started the season in the Championship with a team that was touted as favourites to bounce back to the Barclay's Premier League (I'll stop saying that soon, I promise!) and, as fate would have it, faced his former club Burnley in the opening match. 90 minutes and two goals later, our miserable existence in the Championship had begun.
We have since seen the back of Mr. Coyle and the arrival of Mr. Douglas Freedman from Crystal Palace. Speculation abounds as to why a manager who had a team purring like a well-oiled machine and seemingly headed towards promotion, would have been allowed to leave. Leave he did, and since then there has been drastic changes in personnel - most notably, Skipper Kevin Davies. A poor start to the season belied a relatively strong finish and only heroics by the Blackpool team in the final game with the sole intention of preventing Bolton from winning, saw the game end in a draw with Bolton outside of the play-off places on goal difference.
Zatiyah Knight, Chris Eagles and Tyrone Mears were the headline departures at the beginning of this season and it was hoped that with the strong end to last season and the well publicized pre-season, we would have kicked on strongly from the start.So much for that idea.In a surprise twist, Craig Davies was our Player Of The Month. Some cynics would say that is indicative of our season so far, since he has not managed a goal in open play to date.
Fingers have been pointed squarely at Manager Douglas Freedman as the areas of weakness were glaringly obvious to all who cared to look. A closer look, however, suggests that those fingers need to be pointed somewhat higher up. The new recruits to the club have by and large been former loanees with Liam Feeney, Liam Trotter and Neil Danns signed on sans fees and McNaughton and Mason have both returned on loan. The only new signings that have affected the first team are Dean Moxey and Dorian Dervite. Both free. A clearly defined pattern is emerging.
Wanderers’ only cash investments were nominal fees for development squad players, approximating around £20,000 in total. People in football are not expecting the likes of Quade Taylor and Ross Fitzsimons who were released from Crystal Palace this summer, to set the world on fire this season in our developmental squad. We apparently beat Premiership club Burnley (that's still somewhat bitter to the tongue) to the signing of Tamworth striker Kaiyne Woolery for an even more nominal fee but had been sitting and waiting to be allowed to sign Nick Powell and Jordon Ibe from Manchester United and Liverpool, respectively. Both players went elsewhere - largely due to finances.
I am hard-pressed to believe that Mr. Freedman would have spent so much of his meagre battle chest (we clearly do not have a war chest) on midfielders had he been advised that it needed to be spent on all areas of recruitment. He now cuts a frustrated and forlorn figure on the touchline as he watches young Mason miss chance after chance with Beckford watching from the sidelines. Granted, for Beckford to score two goals against the mighty Bury and miss out on all but the last few minutes against his former club Leeds, is mystifying to all but the Manager himself.
If something does not change, and soon, we will be mixing it up in League One next season - something that the club can ill afford. Make no mistake - if we are relegated from the Championship, ask not for whom the bell tolls.