A year in review. Let’s hope for better things in 2016!
As I look back on 2015, the contrast to hopes at the start of the year and how we feel now are unfathomable. We were a team on the ascendancy, as Neil Lennon looked to be the man to answer our prayers. Josh Vela had established himself in the first team and Zach Clough made his mark with a sensational debut against Wigan Athletic in the cup. The play-offs looked a possibility.
Injury after injury meant that Neil Lennon had to scrap in the transfer window and for every Adam Le Fondre and Barry Bannan, we had a Simeon Slavchev and Filip Twardzik (who still remains with us).
That said, we were still a very competitive team, and our two televised cup clashes against Liverpool reminded the world of the team we still could be. From Zach Clough skinning millions of pounds worth of Liverpool talent to Eidur smashing home a penalty, to Matt Mills holding his own up front to Adam Bogdan`s incredible agility, those games made us proud to be Bolton fans again.
While we didn`t necessarily finish that season on a high- in fact we finished well rooted in the bottom half of the table when a top six finish looked a possibility, we were still in the Championship; we still had a lot to look forward to; we still had (a little) money.
Over the summer we restocked with the likes of Stephen Dobbie, Lawrie Wilson and Gary Madine all with experience at this level and points to prove that they could cut it in the Championship. Their attitudes all impressed during pre-season and they showed real promise. The respective arrivals of foreign full backs Francesco Pisano and Jose Manuel Casado were much hyped. Meanwhile, returning loanee and fan favourite, Ben Amos was brought in alongside veteran and fellow former Red Devil, Paul Rachubka. Young centre halves, Derik Osede and Price Desir Gouano also joined. Osede, a talented graduate of Real Madrid`s academy with a good reputation as a ball playing defender while Gouano, a highly rated centre back on loan from Atalanta, impressed on his debut against Derby. Wellington Silva also arrived from Arsenal- a signing that stirred excitement with many having played with him (to great effect!) on Football Manager.
It didn`t start off badly at all with a draw to Derby. However, losses that came after really dented the confidence of a Wanderers team backed by manager Neil Lennon to challenge for the top half of the table. Confidence plummeted as the Gary Madine missed chances which, had he scored, would have seen him a different striker than the one we`ve seen over the last few months. Wilson started well, but after a horrible game saw himself almost completely exiled from match day squads. Dobbie scored a great goal against Nottingham Forest but struggled to find his best form after. Meanwhile, it took time for Pisano to get up to speed, and when he did looked okay. However, after coming off at QPR, he`s failed to feature other than in a worrying cameo against Preston North End. Casado impressed for a while with his passionate, combative style of play along with his good left foot though was sent off for a dumb challenge and has struggled to make the team since the return of Dean Moxey. Ben Amos has done well given the circumstances he finds himself in, but has been found wanting on occassion. Osede and Gouano have both been very inconsistent, the former struggling to hold down a place following injury in pre-season and the latter having made too many fatal errors. Silva impressed before picking up an injury.
Meanwhile, all our shining lights have been dimmed by unfortunate circumstances. Forwards Zach Clough and Max Clayton have constantly been picking up injuries- the latter is out for the best part of the season now and seem to be destined never to play together. Meanwhile, captain Darren Pratley has struggled to regain the form that made fans love him last year. While, with the exception of David Wheater and Dean Moxey, we`ve found ourselves asking questions of all of our outfield players.
Off the pitch, situations have deteriorated as our long term benefactor, Eddie Davies, has ceased his stream of revenue coming into the club which has meant financial turmoil: players and staff not being paid, land being sold to name but a few.
I won`t go into details about how our manager`s stock has plummeted too but the once Messiah has now lost the backing of many fans who admire him greatly for both footballing and non-footballing reasons.
While we can take away positives from 2015, pretty much all of which came last seasons, I think we`re all pretty happy to see the back of what has been a stinker of a year and look forward to 2016 (provided that the club sorts out its finances!)
Have a great New Year from myself and all of Vital Bolton. Here are a couple of messages left by some of our contributors:
I hope my articles have provided a distraction from watching the Whites this year! Hopefully you’ll continue to enjoy them and we’ll have a bit more to shout about as we move into the new year! -Mark Lawrence
Thanks for reading the articles and I hope we have more positive things to talk about in 2016 -Tom Jenkins