It was a season of two halves and indeed two managers for Bolton last year. Fans finally got their wishes granted when Gary Megson was sacked as manager – the tipping point was when the club threw away a two goal lead against Hull City only to draw 2-2 at Christmas. Megson had always been unpopular since taking charge and no doubt the fans were much happier when his tenure was cut short in favour of former player – Owen Coyle.
Coyle left Burnley, the side he had got promoted to the league the season before, to become manager, ultimately, it looks as if he made the correct move as the Clarets were relegated from the Premier League at the end of the season, while Bolton finished 14th on 39 points – nine clear of Burnley – making this season, like Blackburn, this will be the clubs 10th consecutive year in the top flight.
Having been appointed just after the January transfer window had opened, Coyle was able to shuffle the deck and bring in a couple of players – Stuart Holden joined from Houston Dynamo, while Jack Wilshere came in on a loan deal from Arsenal, proving to be a bit of a revelation in the process. All of these aided Bolton’s survival challenge and stopped the rot that Megson had left behind him.
Bolton are by no means working on the funds that they had when they enjoyed European football, so they are not exactly going to be attracting the calibre of players they signed in the past. That hasn’t stopped Coyle going out and signing 19 year-old Marcos Alonso for an undisclosed fee from Real Madrid. Of the youngster, Coyle has said: “I think we have a real talent on our hands.” Alonso, marks Bolton’s third signing as Martin Petrov and Robbie Blake have already signed from Manchester City and Burnley respectively.
Departing the club is Ricardo Vaz Te who has left to join Panionios, while reserve goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi has joined fellow Premier League outfit Wigan on a season long loan. Last season Bolton lost a total of 19 games – which counts for half of their season, they will need to be a lot more consistent this season or they could easily find themselves embroiled in a relegation battle.
As Gary Megson was reminded only too often, he was not Sam Allardyce and neither is Owen Coyle, nor will either of them ever be. However, being a former player of the club, he seems to be getting a lot more respect from the fans than Megson ever got during his time in charge – that is not to say he should rest on any laurels because the Bolton fans are capable of changing their attitude very quickly.
Without question, Bolton are a different side since Big Sam departed but, that is not to say Coyle can’t bring back the days of European football at the Reebok Stadium, the problem is, the league is now far more competitive than it was a couple of years ago when Wanderers achieved that feat and the clubs around them have gone out an invested in bringing in new faces. It could very well be another difficult season ahead for Bolton and indeed their manager.