Wanderers are finally seeing the light after embargo issue

Bolton manager Phil Parkinson - Marmite to fans. Picture: PA

Bolton manager Phil Parkinson - Marmite to fans. Picture: PA - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Suddenly it looks like things are coming together at Bolton – what’s happened?

Bolton's influential Josh Vela, up against City's Alex Tettey. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Bolton's influential Josh Vela, up against City's Alex Tettey. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

We were still under a transfer embargo through pre-season and August, dating back to the previous owners’ regime. This meant we could only have a squad of 23 professional players and couldn’t pay transfer or loan fees. We managed to make a number of early free transfer signings in Sammy Ameobi from Newcastle, Stephen Darby from Bradford, Mark Little from Bristol City, Andrew Taylor from Wigan and Will Buckley from Sunderland. However, the Football League, obviously unhappy at us being promoted under a transfer embargo, inexplicitly changed the embargo rules halfway through pre-season without warning and ruled we couldn’t sign a player on wages of more than £4,500 per week. This was a game changer, particularly as the manager, Phil Parkinson, hadn’t finished building his squad and the remainder of his recruitment plans were in disarray. The major fallout of this was that one of the previous season’s star performers and c aptain, Jay Spearing, hadn’t yet signed a new contract and was earning considerably more than £4,500 per week. Replacing Spearing proved impossible under the restrictions and this led to us being short on numbers in the midfield. Confidence was high at the start of the season, and then on the eve of the first game against Leeds at home, we lost Ameobi to a knee ligament injury in training. We narrowly lost to Leeds 3-2, but the biggest blow was losing arguably our best player and midfield workhorse, Josh Vela, to an ankle ligament injury. From this point on we struggled, Parkinson not really knowing how to adapt his tactics which depended so heavily on Vela. He switched to three at the back, but with the loss of Spearing we didn’t have a midfielder who could break up play which left us very exposed and shipping goals. It is no coincidence that our upturn in form has happened as Vela and Ameobi have come back from injury which has led to a return of four at the back. However, perhaps an even bigger influence on this improvement has been us finally coming out of the transfer embargo, after 630 days, in September after much hard work by our owner Ken Anderson who finally managed to gain full control of the club which allowed the club to submitted a sustainable business plan to the Football League. This allowed us to sign free agent Karl Henry, who has bags of Championship experience. His guile, along with Ameobi’s goals, have been a revelation and four games later, we are unbeaten and only four points from safety.

Is Phil Parkinson popular with fans?

He’s like Marmite at the moment. I would say the majority of fans are backing him based on the miracle he performed last season in getting us promoted under embargo, and the fact he was dealt such a blow with his recruitment plans in the summer. In his two seasons at the club he has yet to sign a player for a transfer fee, and with the injuries we have had to big players he has some leeway with the fans. However, this season’s early results, his stubbornness with three at the back tactics and his inability to fit proven scorer Adam Le Fondre into the team has left many fans calling for his head.

You’re still bottom of the table but there are plenty of games remaining – do you think you will stay up?

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Believe it or not I most definitely do. Most people at the club would have taken fourth from bottom in May at the start of the season under the circumstances imposed on us.

You face a Norwich City side with an impressive away record – confident?

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We are unbeaten in four and playing much better than our position suggests. With Norwich in ninth and having lost their last two games, Bolton need to be winning these kind of games at home to stand any chance of staying in the Championship. If we manage to cut out the late goals, we will have three points in the bag come 5pm!

Which players should City keep an eye out for?

The homegrown talent of Josh Vela will stand out as will arguably the best Championship free transfer of the season, Sammy Ameobi. I also have to mention Karl Henry, who when playing against Bolton for the likes of Stoke and Wolves over the years was always a pain in the derriere. Watch out for set-pieces with the mighty David Wheater sneaking in to score.

Finally, a prediction please…

Norwich will score, so Bolton will need a least two! I think it will be a nervy 2-1 to the Super Whites.

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