The times they are a'changing at the Reebok, but can they change enough to bring about a Bolton win?
It's Dougie Freedman's first transfer season, and it is certainly shaping up to be a busy one. We've already brought in one player (to add to our ever-growing collection of Davies), are looking close to a second, and old stalwart Martin Petrov looks to be on the way out. This can be a tough time for the team, as players are still proving themselves to Dougie to ensure they have a place in his new Bolton. Regardless of this, the football season marches on, and this weekend Bolton is hosting Millwall at the Reebok.
The last clash with Millwall was not a happy one. It was a dismal performance from the Whites, and the racist abuse perpetuated against Marvin Sordell really just capped it off as a terrible night. That was 3 months ago, before Owen Coyle's sacking, and a different Bolton side. Millwall, on the other hand remain a challenge. The London club is currently 7th, with only their inferior goal difference keeping them out of the playoff spots. They currently are sitting on 4 away wins in a row, and will be eager to extend that streak to a fifth.
The Lions have been involved in the market as well, and their new signing Martyn Woolford, a 27 year old winger signed from Bristol City, could make his debut for the club. This is a good thing, as two of their wingers Liam Feeney and Chris Taylor are out due to injury. On the Bolton side of things, the injury landscape is pretty similar. We're all well aware that Stuart Holden has been involved in some reserve matches, but he is still not first team fit. On the doubtful side of things, it looks as though Benik Afobe will not be involved thanks to a hamstring injury. A bigger blow is the loss of Keith Andrews who is still struggling with an Achilles issue.
It's been an up and down holiday season, with last week's FA Cup match against Sunderland being more of a flat line than anything else. But we are verging on an important period for the club in a couple of different ways. Freedman has been slowly shaping and molding the team from the slapped together effort from Owen Coyle into a cohesive unit. This January will serve as a transition period, allowing Dougie to offload players he sees as surplus, and bring in ones that may be indicative of the future of Bolton Wanderers. At the same time, it's important for players to prove their worth within this new system, prove that they can do it. The pressure is on.
Aside from the players, the pressure is on the club itself as well. There's still only 8 points between Bolton's 16th place position and the playoff spots, but the Championship table is beginning to solidify. Promotion this season is growing less and less realistic, but in spite of this, the club should be striving to play at a higher level to make another promotion push easier next season. A lower mid table finish this season could sentence the club to a longer stay in the second division than they bargained for.
This will be a tough test, but by no means one that Bolton can't match. A win this weekend would be an excellent statement of intent coming from a club that has been lacking one all season. A loss on the other hand could prove to be the nail in the coffin of mediocrity. Come on you white men!