Bolton looked certain candidates for relegation early on in the season with Gary Megson becoming increasing unpopular with our neighbouring fans. Then Owen Coyle came in and saved the day, much to the disappointment of Burnley fans, who then saw their team take a turn for the worst and get relegated, whilst Bolton finished a respectable 14th.
Chris Mann from Bolton blog Burnden Aces has spoken to me about last season and hopes for the future, amongst other things.
Scott the Red: Were you happy with your team’s performance last season?
Chris Mann: Until midway through the season we were really preparing ourselves for relegation. After keeping us up and adding some stability to the club, it was time for Gary Megson to move us on. Unfortunately for him, the football was poor and the results were even poorer, resulting in his dismissal just after Christmas. Owen Coyle came in and while the points return on a par with Megson’s, the football improved and towards the end of the season we were looking good, as well as eventually pushing clear of that trapdoor.
STR: You were some way off relegation in the end. Building on from that, what are your aspirations for this season?
CM: Every club outside the top eight hopes for survival these days, but after seeing what the likes of Fulham, Blackburn and Stoke are capable of, hopefully a push towards the top 10 isn’t out of reach. We really need a season where we aren’t involved in a relegation battle because sooner of later, we won’t be quite as lucky.
STR: So if you are to assume you won’t be relegated next season, which player do you anticipate being your most important?
CM: Ivan Klasnic has just signed a permanent deal with the club. He was on loan last season and, while never really 100% fit, managed to chip in with 8 goals. If he, along with Martin Petrov, can stay fit for 3/4 of the season, we should hopefully start to look a bit more dangerous in the final third.
STR: You’ve touched on Owen Coyle’s appointment already but how do you rate his ability to take Bolton forward?
CM: Coyle is still unproven as a manager but after signing the likes of Jack Wilshere, Stuart Holden and Vladimir Weiss in January, followed by Martin Petrov, Robbie Blake, Marcos Alonso and Ivan Klasnic this summer, it looks like we’re relying on him pulling off loans and free transfers. Of those just mentioned, only Alonso cost a fee and he is the one that nobody has ever heard of. Coyle’s ambition to make us a little easier on the eye seems to be working, hopefully the results will follow suit. One thing is for sure, he has the backing of the fans!
STR: When he took over, Bolton were below Burnley weren’t they? So he certainly should have the backing of the fans. Anyway, what’s your favourite chant you’ve heard sung at your ground?
CM: This is the worst question of the lot! When have you ever heard a chant at the Reebok? Anything other than “Wanderers Wanderers Wanderers” is quite an achievement for us.
STR: It’s interesting you say that because whenever you come to Old Trafford your lot sing about our support being a load of shit. Even with the corporates and the plastics in we’re more creative than “United! United! United!”. Hmm. Moving on, where do you think we will finish this season?
CM: United seem to start slowly every season, while Arsenal start well and get everybody jumping on their bandwagon until Chelsea come out of the shadows. Rooney, after his awful World Cup, will hit form again but I don’t think the signing of Chris Smalling will make much difference and Hernandez, although looks a prospect, is unproven. As always, United will be there or there abouts, but I think will fall just short again in 2nd.
STR: You’ve mentioned a couple of our players there but if you could have any two from our current squad playing for you, who would they be?
CM: Have you seen the squad at Bolton? We’ll take any one of them! It would be great if Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs could give Bolton a few seasons but on a realistic note, we’ve recently been linked with Tom Cleverley. From what we can gather, he’s highly rated at Old Trafford so I’ll put him on the list. Another that I rate very highly is Darron Gibson. Those two will do please Sir Alex!
STR: Interesting choices. What are your thoughts on United’s debt?
CM: It’s pretty scary but given that United are a worldwide name in football, it doesn’t make any difference whether the debt is 10p or £500million. Bolton are thought to be about £70million in debt and with the number of loans and free transfers we’ve made this year, it looks like the club are trying to deal with it. Give us the debt that you have and we’d be out of business in a day.
STR: Well at least you’re heading in the right direction. Depressingly, our debt is growing every year. Anyway, what is your favourite game your club have played against United?
CM: Old Trafford, 20th October 2001. United went in front early on through Juan Veron, only for Kevin Nolan to equalise soon after. Michael Ricketts (who?) then won it for us late on! We’d just got promoted back to the Premier League and coming from behind to win at Old Trafford is an achievement that will live long in the memory of us Wanderers.
STR: And the worst?
CM: Luckily I’m not quite old enough to remember you beating us 6-0 at Burnden Park, but the 4-0 at the Reebok when Rooney scored a hat-trick in 2006 was a bad day.
STR: It was 4-0 last season at the Reebok and all, or have you blocked that one from memory? Anyway, what about this Wilshere lad? Is he as good as everyone makes out?
CM: He impressed but didn’t set the world alight. Saying that though, he was one of our standout players and at just 18, will go on to better things. We’d love to have him back at Bolton but Arsene Wenger has said he wants to keep him. He will probably end up staying at Arsenal for a few years before moving to a club like Everton or Villa. A top half club, but not a top of the league club.
STR: Gary Cahill is another one tipped for big things. Do you think you can hold on to him?
CM: We only kept 5 clean sheets last season and all came during an 11 game spell when Cahill was injured! Of course we’d like to keep hold of him but if somebody offers the silly money that has been branded about in the press, I think he’ll be off in a flash.
STR: Kevin Davies gets a lot of stick for being a dirty player. Is he or does he just have a bad reputation?
He’s only been sent off once while at Bolton and that was harsh, but he has been shown a few yellows which should arguably have been red over the years. When you ignore what Fergie has to say about him, he’s not a dirty player. He is an old fashioned centre forward who is hard but fair, doesn’t go out to intentionally hurt anyone and just wants to win the game. At times last season it looked like age was slowly starting to creep up on him, so whether he’ll start to see less game time this season remains to be seen. Patrice Evra will be a happy little girl, oops, I mean man!
STR: Ha, whatever mate. Davies kicked the shit out of Evra that day. Regardless, hope you enjoy the season.