Freedom of contract can suck sometimes…
So, how are you doing? Two days now since the guillotine slammed down on Bolton Wanderers neck and our Premier League heads tumbled into the basket below. It still doesn`t seem real somehow, and yet we have to face the reality that next season will be one of visits to Barnsley and Millwall rather than Stretford and Anfield. Next season, rather than Aguero and Rooney, The Reebok will be graced with the talents of Grant McCann and Paul Robinson. No, the other one who isn`t a goalkeeper.
And it will be hard. You only need to look at the three teams relegated last season to know that. Only one of them will be promoted and, along with either West Ham or Blackpool and Birmingham, there will be the two that came down with us as well as Brighton, Cardiff, Leeds, Leicester, Middlesbrough and one, and possibly two, Sheffield clubs. To get anything out of next season, we will have to hit the ground running. To gain automatic promotion, we are going to have to win twenty six or seven games and lose no more than eleven. That is a hard challenge in any division and to do it we are going to need stability.
And stability means keeping the manager. I`m no Owen Coyle apologist. Mistakes were made this season and whilst everyone can point to injuries and fixtures, they don`t tell the whole story. However, he has history of getting clubs out of this division (alright, it was only the once) and should have the core of the same team, with one or two “like new signings”, if they can be kept hold of.
Early reports suggest that Nigel Reo-Coker will be activating the little known clause in his contract that allows him to leave on a free due to the relegation. Whilst some say this is done and dusted, the local press feel that he will take his time to make a decision. However, you would be a fool to bet against him moving on. He is a good midfield player, even if his distribution is a little circumspect, and will certainly be on the radar of many Premier League clubs after some of his performances this year. He is still young, he`s free and is certainly better than Championship class. So while he says this:
“I feel like I`ve been emotionally attached to the club and it`s really hard to accept because I`m not just a footballer for the sake of it. I don`t walk away and think of it as just an occupation.“
with Newcastle already being mentioned as a suitor, his head could be turned. And you couldn`t really blame him.
Other players you would expect to go are Ivan Klasnic, Robbie Blake and Sean Davis. I don`t think that the latter two will be missed one little bit, unfortunately for Davis who was so unlucky to suffer a major injury that makes Stuart Holden`s look like a picnic, albeit a picnic with pins in your knee. Blake should never have been signed, let alone offered a new contract and whether or not he has an “infectious” personality, it certainly didn`t do much good in the long run. As for Klasnic, with the pace in the second tier possibly faster than in the Premier League, you get the impression that the game would pass him by.
Of the others, you would expect Jussi, Sam Ricketts and Bibi to be offered new contracts, although on a much smaller scale. SKD looks to be here for another season and his signing should give the other three the impetus to put pen to paper.
And then there is Zat Knight. Despite apparently being on West Ham`s radar, his performance on Sunday (poor) was equal to most of the season (poor, very poor, abysmal and Howard the Duck in equal measure). However, the injury to David Wheater means that we are down one central defender and the club may be thinking it is better the devil you know.
One word. DON`T. To whoever arranges contracts at Bolton Wanderers, I don`t care if Zat Knight`s agent has sent some men round to your house and are threatening to cut off your ten year old daughter`s fingers one by one and sending them to you in the post. You really have to take one for the team. Besides, they can do amazing things with prosthetics these days and I`m sure that in about ten years she will bring herself to forgive you. There is no excuse to resign Zat Knight. Few wanted him when he arrived, fewer want him now. This will make the contract extension to Robbie Blake look like the epitome of reasonableness.
There is always the loan or free market to get someone to partner Tim Ream until Wheater’s return, although Mark Connolly’s announcement on Twitter that he is leaving the club means we are light on cover. Whatever, Zat Knight`s time at Bolton has to be over. We should all rejoice.
Right, let`s get down to the main event. Fantasy League time. First of all, congratulations to the team of the week, AFC Nano, and the team of the month for May, SKD Wanderers. Once again, you win nothing but a warm glow.
However, the Team of the Year, Bradley Lane FC, aren`t that unlucky and win a mug of their choice from Bolton Central. If Kris C could send an email by the usual channels and let us know which one they want. And Gill, if you could send me one as well and let me know which one you want for last season. I will get them. Honest.
And the player of the month for May. With a man of the match performance against Spurs and a third place against West Brom, Tim Ream comes ahead of Martin Petrov and SKD. We now start our polls for players by position, so vote on the right for defender by Friday.
And with that, we`ll get back to you tomorrow. By the way, the photo that adorns this article is London Road, home of Peterborough. It holds less than 16,000 people. Good lord.