New writer Jack Crosland’s first post: how Bolton should strategise
Southampton`s fairytale rise from the obscurities of League One to battling the elite for a spot in the Champions League has caught the imagination of nearly every football fan. Their success even prompted an NBC documentary over the pond describing the ‘British talent factory`. The Saint`s success with their academy system is what`s made their meteoric rise possible and with limited resources available to Neil Lennon, the timing of our own conveyer belt of young talent couldn`t be better.
Under Dougie Freedman, there appeared no long term plan for a team filled with emergency loans and Bosmans. Too many times a loan signing would change the fortunes of a struggling Bolton team only to return to his parent club leaving Dougie the impossible task of replacing them. Frustratingly, this persisted to be the road the then manager chose to go down. Although he famously doesn`t like signing players from his old teams (just as Matt Mills appears to be completing the formalities of his move to Nottingham Forest), one of Dougie`s many exceptions to that rule, Owen Garvan, emphasised that players joining on short term loans would not be taking Wanderers back to the Premier League.
Refreshingly, Neil Lennon seems keen on addressing that issue. The manager has stated his intention to use the loan market sparingly and focus on building a team with a long term vision. However, it`s no secret that finances are tight at the Macron, making it unlikely the club can compete with its championship rivals in terms of wages and transfer fees for the best players available this summer. The pressure is on the Eddie Davies academy to pay back its hefty price tag and finally we are beginning to see a return on the investment made. Without doubt the most positive thing to take from last season was the emergence of Josh Vela, Zach Clough and Tom Walker. Zach Clough`s goal against Brighton, set up by Josh Vela`s marauding run, was a goal made in Bolton and there was not many more satisfying moments than that one in an otherwise dull season. Hopefully we can see them cement their place as first team regulars next season, alongside Walker, backed by a manager who is willing to give young players the chance to impress. Andy Kellet, Oscar Threlkeld and Quade Taylor will also all be keen to emulate the success of the academy graduates next season. Southampton exemplify what`s possible if a club can continue to produce players that improve the first team. The question is: Can Wanderers` academy consistently rise to the challenge?
This summer the Saints sold Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Calum Chambers and others for over £100m and went on to finish amongst the elite in the division. Players that have had their first taste of first team football at St. Mary`s continue to have a big impact on the football world. Even the world`s most expensive player plied his trade in Hampshire before going on to win the Champions League. They are the club that everyone wants to emulate. There`s a reason fans get excited when a player from the academy makes his debut, it offers fans a reason to get excited about what the future may hold for their club. There`s not many Trotters fans expecting fireworks in the transfer market this summer, but there may be a few dreaming of a promotion push spearheaded by ‘one of our own`.
The days of Bolton spending millions to take on the likes of Bayern Munich have gone. If Wanderers are to progress as a club, emphasis has to be on producing more young players for the first team rather than relying on free transfers and emergency loans. Although it may be a while until Real Madrid come calling for a player moulded in BL9, the rise of Southampton sets an example to other clubs showing just what`s possible when you can produce a Gareth Bale yourself.