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Lancashire hotpots an appetising prospect, says Parkinson

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
The Championship will have a real Lancastrian flavour next season – and Phil Parkinson can’t wait to get started.

For the first time ever, Bolton Wanderers, Preston North End, Wigan Athletic and Blackburn Rovers will start in the same division when the action kicks off again on August 4.

Had Wanderers not fought back to save themselves from relegation on Sunday, they would have faced local games at Rochdale, Accrington Stanley, Blackpool and Fleetwood.

Instead, they can look forward to a first visit to the DW Stadium and Ewood Park since 2015, following the Latics and Rovers’ promotion from League One.

“It’s added a touch of spice,” said Parkinson. “Wigan and Blackburn have had good seasons and got promotion.

“With Preston up here as well we want to be right in the mix of those Lancashire derbies next year. We can’t wait.”

Sunday’s drama eclipsed even that of Parkinson’s first season, when he led Wanderers to promotion on the final day of the season with a home win against Peterborough United.

And the manager admits he was struggling to see a successful outcome after defeat at Burton Albion on the penultimate weekend.

“It’s about how you deal with all the tension,” Parkinson said. “We had it last season when we went to Oldham and got beat and then to Port Vale and thought we’d done it, but didn’t, so very rarely you get to this stage of the season and it’s not tense.

“I didn’t feel we’d been dealing with it recently.

“We were particularly low after the Burton game because it was a very, very poor performance and we’d looked toothless. That was the point me and Steve looked at each other and said ‘how are we going to get a goal?’

“We had to make ourselves more threatening.”

Parkinson played Aaron Wilbraham up front from the start, introducing a second striker in Adam Le Fondre on the hour.

Within seven minutes Le Fondre had opened the scoring but the Bolton boss said putting both players in from the start would have been a risky strategy.

“The problem in football is that if you go an open 4-4-2 against a team like Forest you don’t get the ball back on a hot day,” he said. “We couldn’t open the central midfield up. It’s tough chasing in that heat and Forest have good technical players who can keep hold of possession all day.

“All supporters, across the board, when you get beat and go on any newspaper’s website will say ‘why aren’t we playing 4-4-2?’

“Sometimes the answer is just making sure you don’t leave your team hung out to dry. You have to keep control.”

Parkinson is in no doubt as to the way forward for Wanderers now they have secured their Championship place.

Having gone four transfer windows without paying a transfer fee, he is now keen to emulate the likes of Preston by adding players with longer-term worth to the squad.

Alex Neil’s side missed out on the play-offs on the final day, thanks to Derby’s victory against Barnsley. But their steady progress has been monitored by Parkinson and Ken Anderson as a blueprint to follow.

“We have got to use this as a club to move forward,” he said. “This club needs investment on the playing side, to build for the future.

“It’s a great club with a fantastic infrastructure and the fans have shown they will come out in their numbers.

“What a fantastic platform to build and get a better squad, better quality all the way through the squad.”


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