After Bolton’s Tuesday night draw away to playoff-chasing Exeter City concluded, Bolton settled into 17th in the table – seven points away from the playoffs and exactly the same distance from a relegation spot. So where do we go from here? The major thing that has been lacking in performances this season has been consistency. At times the team has been playing some of the best football we’ve seen at the Unibol in years, with slick passing moves capped off by cool finishes, mostly from talisman Eoin Doyle – but they have been too sparse to have any lasting effect and that’s not even season-wide, that’s each game. There are periods of matches (usually when Bolton go behind) when the team clicks up a gear and the team dominate both possession and chances, but again this is too inconsistent in terms of taking advantage of that domination.
Then there’s the other side to this team – the sloppy mistakes, the all-out gaffes and the complete insistence to play almost every single ball out from the back. Now, whether that insistence is the players’ fault is widely up for debate and most would fall on the side that the manager’s ethos dictates this dangerous way of playing. One thing that has helped in that regard is the confidence and stability of having Matt Gilks in goal, but a 38-year-old goalkeeper that was more or less retired from the game isn’t the answer long-term. This side of the team is more prevalent this season and ultimately costlier to results.
There’s also the issue of squad players that are obviously not thought of in any good standing with the manager. George Taft, Jak Hickman, Jamie Mascoll, Reiss Greenidge, Lloyd Isgrove, Shaun Miller, Arthur Gnahoua, Liam Gordon & Brandon Comley have 25 starts between them – less than 3 starts per player. To put that into perspective, Ricardo Santos has 22 on his own. Certain promising youngsters have seemingly been frozen out of the team, with Ronan Darcy, Bright Amoateng, Sonny Graham, Liam Edwards, Matthew Alexander, Regan Riley, Adam Senior & Finley Hurford-Lockett having very little to do with the first team. George Thomasson only recently broke into the first team after being bundled out on loan to Bamber Bridge. I make that at least 10 players not contributing in any significant way to the team whilst taking up vital spots on the roster. Recruitment over the summer will have fingers pointed in all directions, but again the question looms – where do we go from here?
The signings of Declan John and Kieran Lee in January have been positive (even if John got injured before he’d even played a minute of football in a Wanderers shirt), but moving on the apparent no-hopers in the hopes of bringing in more quality in depth remains to be seen – it’s a mammoth task.
Ian Evatt certainly hasn’t helped himself in certain situations, coming out with odd soundbites like telling his young mistake-laden goalkeeper to “man up”, a phrase synonymous with toxic masculinity and exacerbating men’s mental health problems – not a good look for a manager supposedly youthful and intuitive. Calling Bolton the “best team in the division” and saying “”there is no other team who can play the football we can” when the club were languishing in 15th not only rubs people up the wrong way, but is just completely baffling. It’s not a surprise that a manager plying his trade in his first league manager’s role is suffering from a few gaffes, but when do you draw the line?
I tread very carefully when it comes to managers. I have fallen victim to jumping on the ‘get them out’ bandwagon a couple of times in my time watching BWFC, most notably with Gary Megson & Sammy Lee and as a result I’ve tried my hardest to reserve judgement on managers until the latest possible moment in the hopes that they may turn it around. Ian Evatt is no different. Have I been impressed with his catalogue at Bolton so far? No. But neither has he to be honest. I don’t think he’s had long enough in the role, especially considering this will be his first transfer window in complete control of signings. So what I’m saying is in answer to the question is that I don’t know. I don’t know whether this is the man to take Bolton Wanderers back up the football league.
Again the questions pops up – where do we go from here? Our next five fixtures are:
- Cheltenham Town at home (6th)
- Tranmere Rovers away (15th)
- Mansfield Town away (12th)
- Leyton Orient at home (9th)
- Salford City away (5th)
Each of those teams are currently above Bolton in the table, a few of those riding the new manager wave. It remains to be seen whether Bolton have the resolve to drag themselves into the playoff race, which brings the ultimate question – is Ian Evatt the man to take Bolton Wanderers forward?
The question I’ve posed in this entire piece will be the death of me. Where do we go from here? The meteoric slide has not stopped – if Bolton fail to get out of the division it will be the lowest finish in the club’s history. But the team aren’t finished with the season just yet. Where do we go from here? I’m going to cop out and say that I have absolutely no idea, but I will be along the ride to find out.