We’re coming to the end of a nightmare season - beset by financial issues and instability - that players, staff and fans of Bolton will surely be incredibly glad to see the back of. They survived last season by the skin of their teeth; how much worse has this campaign been?
The pay problems have affected them a lot more this season, there have been brushes with administration and just a lot of stuff that players don’t need to know about and that has had a massive effect. They’ve had a big change around in the squad, though there have been questions about how good that’s been, how effective that’s been, what investment has actually been made in the squad and how much money has been wasted on that. Overall, it’s been a season where off-the-field matters have totally eclipsed the on-the-field stuff.
To add to the off-field issues, fans were calling for Phil Parkinson’s head during the Easter Monday defeat to Blackburn, which you described as “a one-sided game played at testimonial pace”. I know he’s said he thinks he can help the club next season, but do you think he’ll be given time?
It’s going to be very much down to how the owner sees it and how any new ownership sees it from here on in. The fans have said their piece; I think that’s well documented now that there’s a good, sizeable squad that want change from top to bottom, but there’s also an argument to suggest the manager and his staff have had enough and would benefit from a change. They must be sick to death of having to deal with this on a day-to-day basis. Parkinson made a very good point that if you were looking for a fresh start and somebody to get you out of League One, he would be a very, very good shout. He’s got a great record in that division and did miracles, as far as I’m concerned, getting them promoted a couple of years ago. But a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then and there are plenty of people who are saying that change is needed, so we will wait and see.
Laurence Bassini has agreed a deal to take over from controversial former owner Ken Anderson. Given his previous financial troubles, coupled with the fact there are so many members of the current squad out of contract this summer, would you agree there’ll be a sense of anxiety as Wanderers head down to League One?
The takeover hasn’t yet been ratified by the EFL and a lot of things could potentially happen before he takes over. But there is a sense of worry for supporters because there are a lot of intangibles from here to when the first ball gets kicked in League One. There are seven outfield players contracted for next season and two goalkeepers, so there’s potentially a huge, huge change in the summer. We don’t know what budgets we are operating with, we don’t know lots of things: what manager, what ownership, what board. There’s so much that we don’t know about at the moment so it’s almost impossible to guess.
Which player would you name as your Player of the Year in this most challenging of campaigns?
It’s very, very difficult because nobody has covered themselves in glory completely, but there’s two people that I would pick out. The first is David Wheater, who has consistently shown himself to be Bolton’s best defender. I think he handles Championship level and he has been with the club so long that I hope they give him a chance to stay on next season and sort something because he is the heart and soul of the dressing room.
The other one is Gary O’Neil who has surprised a lot of people; he’s 35 and he’s played at the top level. We were a bit worried when he came in because he had injuries that hampered his time at Bristol City, but he’s been first class when he had the chances. His energy has been outstanding and he’s really come through for the club.
How is Phil Parkinson likely to set up his side for the visit of Brentford?
I would like to think that it’ll be more attack-minded than what we saw against Blackburn, because that was too defensive for a lot of people’s tastes, but I think we could guess it’ll be a 4-2-3-1. He’s not ventured too far away from that recently. A lot of fans would like to see more players up front, but he may not feel he’s got them, or feel that he’ll gain more by employing that formation, particularly against a team like Brentford who can pass teams to death. I imagine he’ll try and keep the midfield tightly-packed and try to choke the life out of them, I suppose.
What’s your score prediction for Saturday’s game?
I would like to wring out my last tiny drop of optimism and say that Bolton will score, so I’m going to sit on the fence and say 1-1.
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