Bolton Blog Zone

The Big Bolton Player Season Review – Part 1


With the dust settling on Bolton’s promotion, it’s time to review the season and assess all our players.

This is part one – we’ve tried to do this in squad number order, with part two tomorrow. Some players haven’t been marked, everyone who has started at least 10 league games has, although let’s be honest marks out of 10 are arbitrary nonsense and even some of my numbers have been plucked out of thin air. There will be some words about Dennis Politic and Liam Edwards in part two but otherwise it’s players who have played in the league only, so no mention of youngsters who only took part in the Papa John’s Trophy. Feel free to leave your opinions on who you’d like to see stay, go or rejoin in the comments too.

Billy Crellin – 3

Signed on loan from Fleetwood in the summer and started the season as the number one goalkeeper. Crellin lasted 11 league games but was dropped in November. A bad first half at Barrow was the trigger, after which he looked nervy and Evatt’s public criticism of him in the days after didn’t seem the wisest move. He remained with us for the rest of the season but didn’t play a minute after a Papa John’s Trophy match against Newcastle’s youth side in November. It was a minor surprise his loan wasn’t terminated in January.

Gethin Jones – 6

Signed from Carlisle in the summer, Jones played for most of the season, but like the team as a whole he did better in the second half of the campaign. Part of that was down how he was deployed – while he started the season as a right wing back, problems on the left meant he would go there while Peter Kioso took over that side. The January window allowed to get some competent, actual left-sided defenders in, and Jones was the first-choice right back as the season went on. Popped up with a few goals and assists as well as his defensive work. There was an option to extend the contract for a year, which seems to be what will happen.

Liam Gordon – no rating

Never seemed up to scratch, the only winning league side he was on was the away game at Harrogate, where he came on for the last 20 minutes or so for Jamie Mascoll. Was loaned out to former club Dagenham & Redbridge in December, where he hasn’t done too badly. Ian Evatt didn’t rule out the prospect of him coming back and earning his place last season, but I can’t see him being good enough for League One. At the age of 21, probably worth another loan.

George Taft – no rating

One of the earliest summer signings, coming from Cambridge, but only played one league game for us, in a home defeat to Newport. A few important blocks that day if nothing else, but never got a go in the side, and his January loan to Scunthorpe very quickly became permanent.

MJ Williams – 8

One of the key January signings to reinforce midfield, having dropped down a division after moving from Blackpool. A little bit of a slow start, with that erroneous red card against Stevenage, but became one of the first names on the teamsheet. Mopped things up, and kept the passing simple. A player we’ll be seeing next season.

Ricardo Almeida Santos – 9

What isn’t there that hasn’t been said? An incredible turnaround too, because his first few weeks at the club weren’t great, and Evatt needed to back him in public, but since then the big man hasn’t looked back. Good on the ball and an absolute brick wall, he was an ever present and was tied down to a longer contract mid-season. Probably the one player that clubs higher up the food chain might be having a look at.

Ryan Delaney – 5

Didn’t start the season, but came into the side for what turned out to be our first win of the season in October. Between then and January he became a regular but a sending off at Tranmere and the transition to a back four meant that was the last time we saw him all campaign. Also came up with one of the moments of the season when he scored the late winner away to Cheltenham. I would be happy for him to stay, but it does seem if he wants first team football next season he might have to go and find it elsewhere, with Santos, Alex Baptiste and Harry Brockbank all ahead of him. His contract is up, having signed an 18-month deal in January 2020.

Nathan Delfouneso – 6

If I remember rightly, I wrote about Delfouneso pre-season and that he should be aiming to get into double figures as well as his support duties for Eoin Doyle. He managed eight league goals in the end. His role changed too in fairness, for the first part of the season he was up top with Doyle and managed seven before the turn of the year. As the formation changed, he moved wider and scored just once in 2021, the late goal away to Bradford. He also stopped being an automatic choice with Lloyd Isgrove and Dapo Afolayan eventually being the preferred options on the flanks. There were still some problems caused to defences though, including that assist for Doyle away to Forest Green. He is contracted for the next season, but if we are to reinforce for next season, he might be a player that gets pushed out.

Brandon Comley – no rating

A big disappointment after being the main defensive midfield signing in the summer. Often caught out on the ball, often giving it away, he hasn’t featured for the club since coming on in the second half of that 6-3 home loss to Port Vale. One who will surely depart in the summer, but he does have a year on his contract.

Eoin Doyle – 8

Apart from his first few matches and a five-game goalless patch around Christmas, Doyle has been a consistent source of goals, managing 19, not quite the insane numbers he posted at Swindon last season but our top scorer in a single season for about 20 years. Good movement and pressing, and his goals in March and April in particular proved to be crucial ones that got us over the line in those games – think Harrogate, Carlisle, Forest Green, Walsall and Cambridge. Of course, he’ll be around next season, but at his age it might be wise to have good back up and competition for him

Antoni Sarcevic – 7.5

Was included in the League Two team of the year – that was a bit of an odd one but Sarcevic has delivered, along with Doyle, he was one of the big two summer signings. Earlier in the season it felt like he was carrying the team. In the second half of the season, he had a couple of injury spells which meant he wasn’t always involved, but was back for the final three games, and arguably saved his best for last, with the opening goal at Crawley and an assist to boot. He’ll be a key component next season too.

Ali Crawford – 4

The curious case of Ali Crawford. Signed by Keith Hill last season, he looked promising but had his injury. He was handed a new contract in what was one of the first acts after Evatt came in, but ended up leaving on loan for Tranmere in January. His only league goal for us came in the win away at Stevenage, and while he did provide four assists, he wasn’t ever truly convincing. He wanted to go out on loan this season, and it’s hard to see him starting in League One, so where does his Bolton career go from here?

Jak Hickman – no rating

A young signing from Coventry, notable for a previous off-field incident, but he seemed to endear himself to a lot of Wanderers fans. He only played four league games for us, the last of those being Grimsby in October, in which Evatt subbed him off bemoaning the quality of his crossing. He did like getting forward though and was an outlet. He would play in the cups, including a goal in the Papa John’s. In March he joined National League strugglers King’s Lynn on loan. Being on an initial one-year deal, I’m not sure how that works, but as he can’t get in ahead of Brockbank or Jones, it’s hard to see him staying on our books over the summer, unless we extend and give him a year out on loan to develop.

Matt Gilks – 8

Initially coming in as a goalkeeper coach and backup, Crellin’s poor form led to Gilks taking over number one duties in mid-November and has played every league game since. In a season played predominantly without fans in attendance, Gilks’ relentless shouting of instructions became the soundtrack to games. While there was the occasional mistake, he also came up with some incredible saves, and 16 clean sheets in 35 games ultimately is the bottom line. Of the goalkeepers who have played a decent number of games, only Vaclav Hladky and Josh Griffiths had a better percentage. At his age though, there needs to be an able number two at the minimum next season, and long-term a replacement.

Tom White – no rating

A summer loan signing, someone Ian Evatt had previously worked with at Barrow. He couldn’t make the step up to League level though, ceased being any sort of regular starter come November, and Walsall in December was his last action for the club. He returned to Blackburn, who sent him out to National League side Hartlepool for the rest of the campaign.

Marcus Maddison – no rating

Big hopes for Maddison when he arrived in January on loan from Charlton, but the mental pressures of living away from family during another lockdown saw him leave early and questioning his future in football full stop. Hope he finds happiness.

Jamie Mascoll – no rating

As with Liam Gordon – left-back was a major failing of the summer recruitment. Mascoll seemed capable of getting into positions from what little we did see of him, but his last league start came against Grimsby, and he was loaned out to Irish top flight side Waterford, where he provided a few assists. His contract is up in the summer, and it’s hard to envisage him coming back.

Reiss Greenidge – no rating

Only made three league starts, the last of those ending with a sending-off against Crawley. Never looked more than okay at best, and even though he has a year left on his deal, he could be one to move on in the summer.

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