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Can Phil Parkinson lead Bolton Wanderers back to the Championship?

Saturday 28th January 2017
Breathing down the neck of Sheffield United and Scunthorpe, Bolton are a side tipped to bounce back to the Championship at the first time of asking, but can they actually do it?

After being relegated to England's second division in 2012, life at the Macron Stadium has been tough for Bolton fans.

In their first season back in the Championship, Bolton – under the management of Dougie Freedman – narrowly missed out on the play-offs on goal-difference as Leicester managed to nick the final sixth-placed spot.

The Trotters finished in 14th place the following season, before falling again to 18th place at the end of the 2014/15 season.

Financial issues started to affect them even further. In December 2015, Bolton were £172.9m in debt, being handed a winding-up petition from HM Revenue and Customs over unpaid taxes which enforced a transfer embargo for the following month.

The financial difficulties plaguing the club succumbed Bolton to relegation at the end of the 2015/16 season, but on the bright side, a takeover from the Sports Shield consortium in March 2016 – lead by former striker Dean Holdsworth – enabled the Trotters some financial stability to begin planning life in League One.

One of the first moves made by Holdsworth was to bring in Phil Parkinson as the new manager at the Macron Stadium to replace Neil Lennon.
Parkinson, who previously had been the boss of Charlton and Hull, was the fifth-longest serving manager in English football just prior to his arrival at Bolton, having lead Bradford to the League Cup final in 2013 before being promoted via the play-offs in the same season.

The summer transfer window saw Bolton add to their side with a mix of mostly free transfers and loans, with the likes of Jamie Proctor, Mark Beevers and Chris Taylor arriving permanently while players such as Sammy Ameobi, Andrew Taylor and James Henry were signed on temporary loan moves.

Bolton's start to the 2016/17 League One campaign could not have gone any better with Parkinson's men winning their first four matches of the season, before a 1-1 draw with Charlton started a run of seven games without a win.

Nevertheless, the Trotters defeated Swindon on the 8th October to boost confidence and win their next three matches to advance up the table.

On New Year's Eve, Bolton managed to secure victory against fellow promotion rivals, Scunthorpe, with a 2-1 scoreline thanks to a last minute Henry strike, to take them back into the automatic promotion spots behind first-placed Sheffield United.

However, a 2-2 draw with Coventry followed by a 2-1 defeat to Swindon resulted in Bolton dropping a spot to third, five points behind Scunthorpe, who are second, albeit with a game in hand.

But judging by Bolton's squad, with a couple of extra additions they are more than capable of snatching one of the automatic spots come May.

The midfield is glistened with talent such as Josh Vela and Zach Clough, with the pair scoring a combined total of 14 times in the league for Parkinson's men.

Elsewhere, Gary Madine has led the line superbly while defender David Wheater has contributed both at the back and going forward, with four goals to his season's tally.

If Bolton are going to make it back to the Championship then a couple of new additions wouldn't go unwarranted, but Parkinson certainly has the capability of leading the Trotters to promotion come May.
Greg Stubley
Greg graduated with a first in Sports Journalism from the University of Brighton in Summer 2016 and has already managed to gain experience in the industry, working for companies such as Charlton Athletic and talkSPORT. Greg is currently the regular commentator on Charlton's "CAFCPlayerHD" service, bringing full-match live commentary along with Terry Smith of Addicks' games up and down the country for subscribers to listen.

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