It has been a strange few months, with not full certainty over when the 2020/21 season would start for Bolton Wanderers, but some pieces have fallen into place over the last couple of days with the first cup draws of the season.
Wanderers’ season will start on the weekend of September 5, and after this morning’s draw we now know it’ll be a home tie in the first round of the Carabao Cup, as we host Bradford City. The tie will come just over a full calendar year after we played the Bantams in the EFL Trophy group stage. On that occasion we drew in 90 minutes before losing a penalty shootout to miss out on a bonus point.
Bolton have failed to get through the first round of the League Cup since 2017, on that occasion we beat Crewe and Sheffield Wednesday before losing in the third round at West Ham. A season later, we lost a first round tie away to Leeds before losing 5-2 at Rochdale last season.
It’s not an exciting tie, playing another side from the same division. It’ll also be behind closed doors, as will all games that are played in September, when the first four rounds are set to be played. Nonetheless, it’s obviously a winnable tie and progression would be nice, although Ian Evatt may use it as a chance to fine-tune ahead of the opening league fixture a week later.
In between those two games, we’ll start our EFL Trophy campaign, while the order of those games is yet to be confirmed, we have been drawn against two League One sides in Shrewsbury and Crewe, while earlier today Newcastle were drawn as the youth side that will complete the quartet. It would have made sense to me to play the group stage entirely in September. Hardly anyone attends the early stages in this competition (our tie against Bradford last season aside) so it would have hurt far less to play the group stages without fans than the Carabao Cup. Having said that, it would be nice to have a run in this competition, while the league needs to be prioritised it would still be nice to have a trip to Wembley later in the season.
On Friday, we’ll know our league fixtures for the upcoming season – expect a lot of midweek fixtures to fit in a full 46 matches. Pre-season friendlies seem to have been conducted on the quiet, but it was announced last week we will host Blackburn next Saturday.