The season build-up starts here. We look at the Wanderers backline, and the keepers too.
Last season was poor all over for Bolton Wanderers, but the defence even more so. Initially they seemed solid and well drilled, but after Johan Mjallby departed the club in September that fell apart. If it could fall apart even more, it did in the immediate weeks after Neil Lennon left, letting in eight goals in the eight days that sealed our relegation at Derby in April.
When we were slowly piecing together a back four that were playing reasonably well in the last few games, they have all conspired to disappear over the summer. Rob Holding was sold to Arsenal, Tyler Garratt left for Doncaster, while Niall Maher and Oscar Threlkeld were released.
David Wheater was also shown the door, but he has been with the squad in pre-season and it seems a case of when, not if, he is handed a deal of some sort.
So, what are our options this season?
Firstly, the goalkeeper. Ben Amos looked to keeping his starting jersey. Last season, it was pretty much by default. But credible competition has arrived with the arrival of Mark howard from Saturday’s opponents Sheffield United. Howard has been given more minutes over pre-season, is that an indication he the starter at this moment in time?
It’s pretty much nailed on we will play four at the back. Our central defenders are largely not good enough to play as a three, and previous attempts under Lennon have been mixed.
At right back, Lawrie Wilson as it stands is the only out and out option. The vacant 2 in the squad numbers list might suggest another right back is on the way, Neal Eardley and Frazer Richardson have been on trial, and although his recent injury record has been horrendous, if we could sort a deal for Eardley, and he stayed fit, he would be a solid acquistion. Josh Vela has played there a lot, but he needs to be in his natural home in midfield for me.
Into the centre back spots. Mark Beevers, signed in the summer, and very close to going up with Millwall last summer, will certainly be the first name on the team sheet at the back. Injuries are a massive concern at the moment with regards to the other positions. Derik is probably most people’s choice to partner him, but would fare better pushed up into midfield? He seemed more comfortable there last season.
Dorian Dervite is the other senior option at the moment. Derided at times, he did start brightly last season before his red card at Blackburn and he dropped off a bit after. But he has been part of a league winning backline at this level so should not be written off just yet.
Alex Finney got some game time at Brentford last season but it didn’t work out. He’ll get far more opportunities this season, and it will be a fairer reflection of what he is able to do. Alex Honeyball should be in line to get on the pitch soon, and good things are being said about him.
Will anyone else come in? Wheater, talent wise, he would be a good signing. The concerns are both financial and again, the dreaded injuries. Danny Collins has been on trial, as has Gordon Greer but he went on trial at Blackburn and has since signed. And if I’d rather choose, I’d sign two full backs first.
Left back will be Dean Moxey, and there is no senior backup for him. We’ll have to hope he won’t replicate his horrendous form in the second half of last season, especially when his most obvious successors, Maher and Garratt, both moved on.
Likely back five: Howard in goal, Wilson at right back, Beevers and Dervite in the centre of defence for now, with Moxey at left back.
The verdict: Competition in goal, but with injuries and just no cover in the full back positions, we still seem short. Potentially a solid centre back partnership but we could be still vunerable with teams getting us down the flanks.