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Mass Exodus As Wanderers Look To Rebuild

By Rob
Saturday 19th May 2012
A huge rejuvenation seems to be afoot at Bolton Wanderers. Following the disappointment of relegation from the Premier League for the first time in 11 seasons just last week, there has already been a mass exodus as the club looks to swiftly rebuild.

Manager Owen Coyle has allowed 15 players to leave the club, with 14 of those out of contract and midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker activating a clause in his contract that allowed him to leave on a free transfer.

Considering the Bolton squad was already hugely threadbare for much of last season, this may at first glance look like a hammer blow to Wanderers' chances of bouncing back. But in reality it could well be a much needed breath of fresh air at the Reebok Stadium.

Leaving the club are several long-standing Bolton players, including Jamaican international Ricardo Gardner, who has been a fantastic servant during his 14 years at the Reebok Stadium, ever since impressing at the 1998 World Cup finals.

Joining Gardner in leaving are several of the club's top earners, including this season's top scorer Ivan Klasnic, full-backs Gretar Steinsson and Paul Robinson, and the injury stricken Sean Davis, who has become somewhat of a forgotten man having made just three appearances since signing for Wanderers three years ago.

Also finding themselves on the free transfer list are the barely used Robbie Blake, along with youngsters Mark Connolly, Tope Obadeyi, Rhys Bennett, Dino Fazlic and Tom Eckersley.

In addition this season's loanees Sanli Tuncay, which has been a huge waste of money, the ultimately disappointing Ryo Miyaichi, and promising defender Dedryck Boyata return to Wolfsburg, Arsenal and Manchester City respectively.

This mass exodus is expected to slash Wanderers' wage bill by at least 50 per cent, which should go some way towards securing the club's future given the financial horror - stories suggest Bolton are up to £110 million in debt - the club was already in.

Several old faces appear set to remain, with captain and fans' favourite Kevin Davies signing a new one-year contract extension and full-back Sam Ricketts signing on for another two years. It also seems likely that long-serving goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskalainen will remain at the club despite being second choice to Adam Bogdan for much of last season. Also staying, bizarrely, appears to be Zat Knight, which may well have been prompted by the news that first choice centre-back David Wheater will be out for 9 months with ligament damage.

While it's disappointing to see so many players depart, many of these changes were essential to help the club rebuild and refocus. Youngsters like Joe Riley and Josh Vela will be given an opportunity to shine in the Championship, and several players who haven't quite found their feet at the top level may well receive a much needed confidence boost by dropping down a division.

But the most welcome point about next season will be the return of several key players who have been missing for much of this season. Influential midfielder Stuart Holden has only played one Carling Cup game all season, while tricky winger Chung-Yong Lee only made two substitute appearances since breaking his leg in pre-season. Add to that the return of Tyrone Mears, who has impressed at Championship level in the past, and these are akin to three new top quality signings.

The brightest light of a dark season in the Premiership was the astounding form of goalkeeper Bogdan. Along with the impressive January signing Tim Ream, Ricketts, Mears and Wheater, when he returns, that should be the foundation of a decent defensive unit for the Championship.

The return of Holden and Lee, in addition to Martin Petrov, Chris Eagles, Mark Davies and Darren Pratley should form what ought to be a very strong midfield at Championship level.

Marvin Sordell, signed from Watford in January, came off the bench at Stoke in the final game of the season and looked lively, so he is a player who should certainly be given more first-team football next season. And if he can form a partnership with David Ngog, who has been well short of goals this season and needs to be reminded of how to hit the back of the net, then things will be looking rosy up front as well. The wise old head of Kevin Davies will also be a bonus, as the veteran has looked back to his best during the last couple of months of the season.

If Wanderers can add to the side in key positions, ideally with a bit more youth, then next season could see a very exciting new project emerging at the Reebok. Winning promotion from the Championship is, of course, a very tough task but if the side can pull together then they should be able to mount a good challenge despite the huge upheaval over the summer break.

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