Bolton Wanderers – Don’t mention the R word

By Henry Austin

Bit early you might say, a shade pessimistic. After all, it’s only September. Surely you can’t bring up the dreaded R word already.

Maybe it is a little hasty, but as we resume against Sheffield Wednesday, we can hardly say we’ve had a good start to the season.

Two wins, scraped in extra-time against lower league opposition in the Capital One Cup and one draw, albeit against a strong Nottingham Forest side in the league, leave us three points adrift in the bottom three.

Aside from the 3-0 opening day defeat against Watford, we haven’t lost by much, but at the same time we haven’t looked very good either.

Defensively, we have not kept a clean sheet since April. While the personnel at the back have hardly been settled, it’s the timidity no matter who plays, that is most concerning.

Since pretty much the start of last season we haven’t exuded confidence at the back and this shows no sign of changing.

In theory, that shouldn’t be the case, David Wheater and Matt Mills at centre back, yet somehow as teams attack, their lack of pace and seemingly awareness is always a cause for concern.

To be fair the injuries at full back haven’t helped, but neither has playing Tim Ream as a full back. Whether he’s out of position, or just not good enough he gets easily beaten too often and he never seems calm either with or without the ball. This is a man who warranted a new three-year deal apparently.

With two defensive midfielders in Spearing and Kamara, you’d think we’d look solid, but although Davies and Lee are excellent players and Danns seems pretty good, the five across the middle of the park are seemingly incapable of passing the ball to each other.

This along with wastefulness up front means that at the moment things aren’t boding well and understandably some people’s patience with Dougie Freedman is wearing thin.

The trouble is, he’s been given time to get things right, to do things his own way and in theory to build the side that he is happy with.

Some say he started woefully at Palace, but eventually turned things round there, but although he’s had the majority of this squad for some time, we don’t seem to be improving at all. If anything, they’re regressing.

Either way, we need a decent league win to kickstart our season, if not on Saturday then soon, because the longer this woeful start goes on, the harder it will be and the more untenable Freedman’s position will be.

Quite who would be available or more importantly want to replace him, is the subject for another column. But let’s hope it doesn’t come to that and he can turn things round soon.

Because although it’s only September and no one can go down now, but the foundations of how the season goes are being laid with every game.

Just don’t mention the R word.

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