We begin our season inquest with a look at the goalkeepers and what we call, at times laughably, the defence. Look away now Zat.
Seventy seven. Think about that number for a moment. Seventy seven. It`s a big number. The kind of number that, a few seasons ago, you would never have expected a Bolton defence to concede. Yet, concede it they did. The two goalkeepers and eleven defenders who played a part in our relegation let in the second highest total in the Premier League and the highest total in our history for forty eight years, another season when we were relegated from the top division. You may say that the strikers didn`t score enough goals. Whilst this is true, a team in the top half of the table scored less goals than we did. If blame falls on any position, it is this motley crew of players, including one who may well be lining up in the Champions League Final this coming Saturday.
So, join us once again as we dissect the defensive performance, give our season score out of ten and generally wish that few, if any, of them play in a white shirt again.
22. Jussi Jääskeläinen
Played 18 Goals 0 Yellows 2 Reds 0
It seems strange to talk about Jussi in the past tense but with the emergence of Ádám Bogdán it may just be that we have seen the last of Jussi as a regular player. Of the goals scored against us, over half went past the Big Finn who, just as last season, seemed to be a shadow of his former self. Compared to the Hungarian, his distribution seems laboured and he has always had a problem with crosses and Bogdan appears to be just as capable, if not better, at shot saving. Whilst it is true that goalkeepers can have careers longer than most, reflexes can go so quickly it takes longer to dawn you that they have. That was his problem last season and nothing he did this makes you think that he will regain his place.
Out of contract. Will he stay or go?: Rumours suggest that Jussi may be one of those who wish to remain in the Premier League, although whether anyone would want him remains to be seen. Big Sam has always been a fan so West Ham may be a destination, but it is difficult to see him uprooting his family. I think he will stay and we do need an older head alongside Bogdan, with Rob Lainton and Jay Lynch only just out of nappies in goalkeeping terms.
1. Ádám Bogdán
Played 20 Goals 0 Yellows 0 Reds 0
The Player of the Year, which should tell you something as to how the rest of the team played, Bogdan was THE discovery of the year, and who amongst us could say that when Chelsea showed his naivety up on their way to a 5-1 win at The Reebok in October. Most of us would have wanted to crawl up in a corner after that so it makes you wonder how he felt. And then Tim Howard scored a goal from his own half against him in the New Year that, although it wasn`t Bogdán`s fault, should have affected his confidence. That he came back and kept Jussi out of the side says a lot for him and some of the saves that he made in a way proved the manager right in selling Al-Habsi, although that is a different matter. At the age of twenty four, he can only get better so it appears a position that we have never had a problem with is in good hands, if you`ll pardon the pun.
In contract. Ain`t leaving.
2. Grétar Steinsson
Played 23 Goals 1 Yellows 6 Reds 0
Like Lazarus caught on a loop, Steinsson always seemed to have dropped out of contention before being called back due to him being the only choice. First Boyata didn`t work out so Steinsson was brought back. Then he was replaced by Joe Riley, who was then injured, so Steinsson was brought back. Then Tyrone Mears came in and….you know the rest. Had injuries of his own this season and missed the end of it, so Boyata was brought back and, in the end, Steinsson was missed. However, he was, as usual, insufferably in and out of form, sometimes within the same half and his crossing was usually as abject as it always has been. His goal against Liverpool was well taken but he is just too unpredictable for our new position.
Out of contract. Will he stay or go? On too high a contract to be affordable and has replacements in Joe Riley and Tyrone Mears waiting in the wings. Thanks Gretar, your tattoos will be missed.
3. Marcos Alonso
Played 5 Goals 1 Yellows 0 Reds 0
Started the season injured in the game at Macclesfield so it wasn`t until December that he got his chance once Paul Robinson had used up all his lives. Seemed to do well at Fulham and then was heading towards man of the match at Blackburn before being injured against. Came back for the rearranged game at Spurs and was poor, was poor at Wolves despite scoring and was then shown up by Damien Duff in the Fulham home game. It is easy to forget that he is still only twenty one, so may benefit from playing in the Championship. Also has his Spanish court case hanging over him.
In contract and a back up for Sam Ricketts. Staying.
4. Paul Robinson
Played 17 Goals 0 Yellows 5 Reds 0
What can you say about Robbo? Passionate? Yes? Committed? Yes (possibly should be at times). Premier League quality? No. Yet, with both Alonso and Ricketts injured at the beginning of the season the manager had little choice but to play him until one or the other returned. As such, we were weak down the left and Robbo, as Robbo always did, blamed everyone else (team mates, ref, assistant ref, ball boy) but never himself. Thirty nine goals were conceded with him in defence. It was with a sigh of relief that Sam Ricketts returned and Robbo first went to the bench, then out of the team, then to Leeds where he blamed everyone else (team mates, ref, assistant ref, ball boy) but never himself as Leeds fell away. The one abiding memory of Robbo is his celebration at QPR, which all seems such a long, long time ago.
Out of contract and, unless OC does another Robbie Blake, outta here.
5. Gary Cahill
Played 19 Goals 2 Yellows 3 Reds 0
Gary Cahill will, injury permitting, play in the Champions League final and the European Championships this summer and we can all be proud that he was made in Bolton. But, his goal against QPR notwithstanding, he never raised his game to the levels that he is so obviously able to do during his final four months with the club. It may have been the not knowing what was happening, first at the end of August and then towards the end of the year, it may have been the continual placement next to Zat Knight, it may have been his continual whoring around the league by the manager, but there were times that you got the idea that Cahill`s mind was somewhere else. Did become the first Bolton player in over fifty years to score for England and we all wish him well for the rest of his career.
No longer here, so we don`t have to worry about him this summer. Or next season, unless we get Chelsea in a cup.
12. Zat Knight
Played 25 Goals 0 Yellows 1 Reds 0
Oh, good lord, where do you start? Continually beaten in the air, continually beaten on the ground, this was the season where Zat Knight had no place to hide and the management team finally saw fit to remove him from our sight, although that took until February and the signing of Tim Ream. His game and a bit cameo at the end of the season only served to remind us just how poor a player he is and the fear is that due to David Wheater`s injury, Knight may be offered another contract. A player who is no longer wanted by the fans should be allowed to leave and take his large wage with him. With the ball going high in The Championship more than the Premier League (even without Stoke), he will be a liability.
Out of contract and should be given a map to the door marked exit. However, whether that will be done remains to be seen.
15. Tyrone Mears
Played 1 Goals 0 Yellows 0 Reds 0
Unlucky with his injury, but join the club. Signed with Chris Eagles, the idea was for him to be Steinsson`s replacement at right back but he was injured in a pre season training session, with those in the know blaming Zat Knight. If he comes back he will be one of the “like a new signings” that we will have plenty of next season.
In contract and staying
18. Sam Ricketts
Played 20 Scored 1 Yellows 3 Reds 0
Badly missed down the left hand side during his lay off that stretched back to last season when he came back there appeared to be more stability to the back line, but a piece of plywood and some sticky back plastic may have been able to do that just as well. His goal against Wolves, curled in from the edge of the area, had some people shouting “shoot” every time he got near the area for the rest of the season. Hilarious. Ricketts can play all over the defence, which will be handy if he decides to stay and it would be difficult to see us getting someone in with his versatility.
Out of contract. Will he stay or will he go? Difficult. Has agreed a reduced contract in principle but may cast an eye towards the Premier League where he will be free and a useful addition to a team in the lower reaches or who have been promoted. At the moment, 50/50.
25. Dedryck Boyata
Played 14 Goals 1 Yellows 4 Reds 0
A difficult one this. Started on the bench but was quickly drafted into a defence that was leaking faster than Thames Water before being despatched after the Sunderland home defeat. Was in a years loan so could not be returned to his club and from then on was in and out of the team, but mostly out. Neither a success nor a real failure. Just meh.
On loan so back to Citeh where he will probably be released.
31. David Wheater
Played 24 Goals 2 Yellows 4 Reds 2
Brought in to replace Cahill, Wheater started on the bench while Cahill and Knight formed a partnership of non equals. Finally getting his chance when Cahill was injured, he almost immediately got himself sent off for clipping Theo Walcott at The Emirates. Got back into the team ahead of Knight after one calamity too many, a lack of right backs and a need not to play Steinsson on OC`s part against Everton led to Wheater starting at right back and lasting nineteen minutes before being sent off again. Finally cemented his position after Cahill`s sale and played alongside Knight for a while before one calamity too many saw the team of Wheater and Ream come together and play as well as can be expected. His injury may cause him to lose a yard of pace that he never really had but when he comes back the defence will be the better for it.
In contract, in plaster, in the treatment room.
32. Tim Ream
Played 13 Goals 0 Yellows 1 Reds 0
Brought in to replace Cahill (hang on?..), it took one calamity too many from Knight (wait?..hang on?., I`ve just written this haven`t I?) for Ream to settle in as first choice. The jury is still very much out on the American but he was wanted by at least one other team before joining Bolton and, whilst he may not have covered himself in glory during the back end of the season, he didn`t put many feet wrong either. Could do with using his head to clear the ball more but a season in the lower division may do him well.
In contract and possibly the senior central defender until Wheater returns.
39. Joe Riley
Played 3 Goals 0 Yellows 1 Reds 0
With Bolton`s luck with injuries this season, it should have come as no surprise that as soon as Riley looked like he would play some part this season, he went and suffered a hamstring injury, that restricted the rest of his appearances. From what little we saw, the future of the right back berth is in safe hands and he will be another who may benefit from playing in a lower division.
In contract and the future. No pressure.
So, there you have it. We feel that the goalkeeper of the year is Ádám Bogdán and the defender of the year is David Wheater. Tomorrow, we will focus on the midfield. Don`t be surprised if Stuart Holden wins that.