Things have picked up for Bolton in the last few months and the odds-on relegation candidates are slowly creeping away from the drop zone. What’s changed at the Macron recently?
They’ve found a way to win. I don’t think many of us gave Bolton Wanderers much of a chance over Christmas; they had quite a rough run of fixtures against Cardiff City, Middlesbrough, Hull City and another game sandwiched in there against Sheffield United. We were thinking that if they could stay in touch with that 21st spot, they probably would’ve done quite well. They’ve happened upon a formation that is working for them and recruited some players to freshen up the team. It has all worked out quite nicely for them.
Experienced midfield pair Karl Henry and Darren Pratley have both been ruled out for the next few weeks. How much will Bolton miss that duo?
They’ve got to go to plan B. They’ve been looking at setting up in a similar way to Brentford, certainly since the last meeting, and it’s solidified them quite a bit. Henry, in particular, has been very influential and brought the best out of Pratley. Pratley will be out for six weeks or so and I doubt Henry will feature this weekend, so he will be a big miss. The pair of them are very physical; they break up the play. Against a team like Brentford who have a good possession rate and like to pass and probe, you need those type of players. There are others who can step into the system, but I think Phil Parkinson might well play a different way and ask different questions of Brentford this time around.
How does Parkinson set up his team?
That’s the million-dollar question. Because Pratley and Henry aren’t there, the 4-2-3-1 would be less effective – you’d be introducing others to a role that’s been done for most of the season by someone else. They are hoping to get Josh Cullen back from West Ham United on loan, which might ease it a little as he can play that role, though Jem Karacan or Derik Osede could step in if needed. If he plays like that and tries to match up Brentford, don’t be entirely surprised, but he could equally go 3-5-2 and play wing-backs. I imagine the fans would like to see that as they’ve been longing for someone to play alongside Gary Madine, but whether he shows that much bravado away from home, I don’t know.
In which areas do Bolton need to strengthen this month?
They are looking to bring in another striker to relieve some of the pressure on Madine. They also want to bring in a midfielder as a slightly more attacking option to Henry and Pratley. I think maybe another centre-half to complete the set. If they get all three, I think Parkinson would be delighted. He’s got a relatively big squad but, let’s be honest, it’s assembled with parts that other clubs didn’t want.
What’s your score prediction for Saturday’s game?
I think Bolton may escape with a 1-1 draw. Anything over and above the 3-0 defeat at the Macron earlier in the season would be a bonus!
For the full chat with Marc, exclusive interviews with Josh McEachran and Michael Turner plus all the usual favourites, pick up a copy of BEES around Griffin Park for just £3.50.