As a fan of a ‘smaller’ team, you learn to become accustomed to the fact that your team isn’t going to buy anyone good in the summer transfer window and, even if they do manage to, that player will just get stolen by a ‘bigger’ team anyway – so what’s the point of bothering?
Case in point for me, as a Bolton fan, was Nicolas Anelka. When Bolton signed him, he was damaged goods. No-one wanted him. Suddenly he discovers a bit of passion for the game, and he looks like a world beater again. And lo and behold, he buggers off to Chelsea for a minimal profit which – as usual – the club’s transfer kitty saw very little of.
Summer 2011 has so far seen several months of speculation about lots of teams targeting big money signings even outside the obvious big 4/5/6 - the stand out being Sunderland, who’ve bought a whole new team already. Whereas Bolton, a now established Premier league side after 10 years – I’ll repeat that as it amazes even me – 10 years in the top flight, have been linked with one player (Danny Sturridge), and signed a Championship benchwarmer with a silly name (Darren Pratley).
Bolton just about survived last season on a thread bare squad, which saw them having to run 34-year-old Kevin Davies into the ground and realistically only survived because of a brilliant start to the season. The climax to the season was nothing short of appalling, dramatically highlighted by an embarrassing 5-0 FA Cup semi-final mauling by the mighty Stoke City. No offence Stoke fans, but Barcelona you are not.
Now this season that threadbare squad has been even further diminished by the release of Johan Elmander, who was generally inept anyway, as well as the departure of several, largely rubbish, squad players. Casually scrolling through the ‘first-team profiles’ section on the club website I managed to count 18 actual, realistic first teamers. And even that’s generous, having tenuously included Robbie Blake and sicknotes Sean Davis and Ricardo Gardner, who recently stole a new one-year contract renewal. So realistically, Bolton now has 15 first-team players. And our best player, Stuart Holden, is injured until October. Interesting.
To return to the point at the start of the blog, the likelihood is Bolton’s only half decent defender is going to leave this summer -with Gary Cahill strongly linked to a move away. Owen Coyle has done wonders in his first 18 months or so as Bolton manager, but the task he faces in rebuilding the team before the start of the season in about 4 weeks time, is a mammoth one. A sizeable task that doesn’t fill this writer with a huge amount of confidence.
Considering Bolton need – breathe – a new left back, a new centre back, a creative centre midfielder (who can actually pass, run, walk, dribble or shoot unlike Fabrice Muamba), a quick left winger, and at least 2 strikers, with the grand sum of about zero pounds in the bank, even if Cahill does get sold, there’s not a lot of optimism to be had!
Still – at least we’re not Blackburn, and we’re not owned by a load of chicken farmers. Every cloud…