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Bolton Nuts » BWFC » Bolton Wanderers News » Can a return to the training ground be a first important step for Wanderers?

Can a return to the training ground be a first important step for Wanderers?

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
The gates are set to open at Lostock on Monday morning to a piecemeal first team squad of players, still unpaid, and a club still in desperate need of direction.

Scars from last season are far from healed and so there is an admirable sense of duty in the fact a scattering of first team players and scholars will report back for duty still not knowing what the future will hold.

Just eight players are listed as ‘first team’ on the official website right now, and even their attendance is not guaranteed because of international commitments over the summer.

Josh Magennis has been playing for Northern Ireland and may be offered a longer rest, Luca Connell is set to go off to the European Under-19 Championship with the Republic.

Without making too much light of the situation, there will be plenty of space on the car park.

The date itself, July 1, is a telling one, for it will be the first that 18 players from last season’s squad will no longer be employed by the club. Some, including popular defender David Wheater, have not given up hope of staying on but the vast majority have now moved on to pastures new.

There will be no new signings on show, nor trialists expected, but the fact a training session is taking place must be viewed as a tentative first step towards getting the football club functioning as normal once again.

Phil Parkinson and Steve Parkin will take charge of the session, a statement even they would have struggled to make with any confidence when the team walked off the pitch at Nottingham Forest back in May.

They may be doing so out of sheer obligation or knowing that with impending change in the boardroom their immediate is future is less than secure, but they will be there.

So too will be Erhun Oztumer, despite a flurry of stories linking him with a move to Charlton Athletic. Ben Alnwick and Remi Matthews have been in the same boat but both senior keepers will be back under the watchful gaze of Lee Butler.

It has become a dangerous game to make predictions or set timeframes on when a takeover will be completed but the message yesterday, as it has been throughout this entire process, was that every effort was being made to get it completed as quickly as possible.

Wanderers’ administrators said from the off that they were not here to organise friendlies, sign players, sell season tickets or replica shirts, but to complete the sale of the club. And when that day comes, the atmosphere inside the training ground – indeed, around the town – will be celebratory to say the very least.

Until then, Bolton’s players and coaching staff will have to diligently go about their business. Still unpaid, still frustrated but still bound contractually to the club unless they exercise the right to terminate as Sammy Ameobi and Pawel Olkowski did earlier this summer.

Even though at this stage it is a case of ‘grin and bear it’ for those who have stayed on, there is a clear hunger to leave last season’s problems in the past. To a man, every player signed to a contract is simply looking forward to a time when football – and not money – can be discussed.

Far from being the privileged mercenaries they are so often painted to be, the common thread among each and every footballer interviewed at Bolton since the start of this year has been a desire to return to normality.

They do not want to deal with financial jargon, club politics or be left scrolling through social media for scraps of information on their employers, they want to be left to concentrate on the game itself and be judged on how they play it.

Results in the second half of last season show what happens when emphasis and focus is lost. Whether that was preventable is a whole different argument altogether.

So when players return to the training ground on Monday, we can only hope it is done with a fresh slate and a new outlook. Much will depend on how quickly stability is restored and pay issues are resolved – but also by the squad’s ability to look forward to League One, rather than the issues of the past.


Natasha Whittam

Natasha Whittam
Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Absolute drivel.

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