5 March ~ Bolton's first full season following the departure of He Who Must Not Be Named has been a cracker. It has been a couple of years since we have gone into a league fixture being ahead of our opponents today, Aston Villa, and we were unfortunate not to come away with more than a point from the game in September, Gerard Houllier’s first in charge. Owen Coyle has moulded his team from relegation candidates to mid-table (at worst) in a short space of time. We’re now playing some excellent football, and seem to be getting credit for it at last.

Coyle’s masterstroke however has been Stuart Holden. Brought in on a free from MLS, Holden has become the fulcrum of our side, tackling ferociously and attacking with intent – had he been playing for a "big" club he’d be in with a shout of PFA Player of the Year. Mark Davies deserves a mention too; his mobility and skill with the ball at his feet make him one to watch.

Bolton fans began the season just hoping to stay above the drop, with an eye on mid-table, and we find ourselves with a good chance of playing in Europe next season, which would be a magnificent achievement for the club. I think we can do it, as upcoming fixtures (barring Man Utd and Arsenal) are all winnable. With this, fan expectation has grown, so the grumbles after the “failure” to get three points against a ten-man Newcastle can be viewed either as a sign of how our standards have improved or as how we’re getting a little carried away.

I expect another summer of frugality, though should anyone be daft enough to pay over £12m for Gary Cahill then expect Coyle to reinvest with a new forward line being the priority. For all the Johan Elmander contract rumblings there can also be a case made that Kevin Davies is reaching the end of his shelf-life – his performances over the season suggest that seven years of hard graft are beginning to take their toll. Although we don’t know how long we’ll keep Owen Coyle, we’ll certainly enjoy the ride. Chris Manning

Comments (5)
Comment by Bobby Westside 2011-03-05 09:24:21

Its been mentioned that the asking price for Danny Sturridge is £11m, if this is true Bolton had better use their Gary Cahill money on this; when you compare the price of this to Darren Bent and Darren Bent this is incredibly cheap. Bolton must sign him

Comment by jameswba 2011-03-05 11:38:13

I have a soft spot for Bolton, partly, I think because my Dad had a scrapbook of their Cup Final win over Man Utd ; Nat Lofthouse knocking Gregg into the goal along with the ball and all the rest of it.

I don't want to get you started on Megson (well, OK, actually I do) but isn't there at least some truth in the notion that he was trying to get you playing better football in the months before he was fired? I seem to recall high-scoring games against Everton and Spurs around that time.

And Mark Davies was a Megson signing. 1 million from Wolves and got plenty of early chances too. I'm not disputing Coyle's achievements at all, the man has certainly moved you forward. But isn't there any chance at all of some Megson revisionism from Bolton fans one day?

Comment by bearlion 2011-03-05 12:22:31

Hopefully Houllier's last match in charge too

Comment by Efficient Baxter 2011-03-06 13:13:05

I was looking forward to see the new and improved Bolton when they came visiting Craven Cottage in the cup a couple of weeks back. However the game play that day was more of a throw-back to Allardyce days. Have you noticed such a change in tactics between home and away games (let's face it - it was successful at Fulham) or did I just catch them on an off day?

Comment by UncleTupelo 2011-03-06 14:38:12

Stuart Holden stands out as an example of what's available, for free, over in MLS. Fair to say Stuart Holden was one of the more promising players, but far from the best in the league. There are plenty more young promising and hungry players tied to reasonably pitiful MLS contracts (you tend not to earn much until you've proved yourself over 2-3 seasons) who've got passports to play in Europe.

Glad to see my manager, Billy Davies, aware of this. He admitted he was very close to signing Stuart Holden for Nottingham Forest, but missed out at the last. Robbie Findley is on a free, and he says they'll be trying to do more deals with MLS in the future.

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