June 13 seemed an important date last summer as Phil Parkinson wrapped up the signing of a free agent at the peak of his powers.
Oztumer had been voted into League One team of the season two years running despite playing for unfashionable Walsall, his penchant for spectacular goals – including a long-range strike against Wanderers – had earned him rave reviews.
Bolton had grown accustomed to shopping in the bargain basement under embargo but the addition of an attacking midfielder chased by several Championship clubs seemed significant, not to mention the effect his presence could have on the club’s oft-criticised style of play.
The question many fans asked was: How will he fit in? At 5ft 3ins, the midfielder wasn’t exactly congruous with the physical, foreboding team Parkinson had guided to promotion and then kept in the Championship against the odds.
It was also a reservation nagging at the back of Oztumer’s mind, and one he wanted to address before signing on the dotted line.
“I met up with the gaffer and, being honest, there were doubts signing for him,” he told The Bolton News.
“I had played against Bolton, played against his Bradford team in the past, and I knew they were direct, physical, that players like me didn’t really fit blend with that.
“So the first conversation I had with him was to ask ‘where do I fit in with all this?’ “He said he wanted to try and change the style of play a bit, give his side more options, and that he wouldn’t be bringing in a player like me just to lump it forward.
“What he was saying was logical. I felt he was being honest and that is why I signed.
“There had been things going on at Bolton but when they got promotion it felt like they were going in a better direction.”
The first speedbump occurred in a training camp in Scotland. Players, unhappy that promotion bonuses had not been paid by owner Ken Anderson, threatened to boycott a pre-season friendly at St Mirren.
Outwardly, Wanderers were being portrayed as a club which had been through the worst of their financial problems but, as time as told, the truth was a very different story.
“The manager said the club was in the best financial state it had been in for a long time and it was all going very smoothly,” Oztumer said.
“But then in pre-season the game got cancelled. It was nothing to do with us – the lads who had just signed – but more a case of the players sticking up for the ones who had left and were owed money by the club.
“Those lads had put the effort in to get the club promoted and so a stand had to be taken, and we appreciated that.
“But it got you worrying about what was coming next.”
Oztumer played only briefly during the pre-season campaign, including a cameo off the bench against Halifax Town and his former employers, Peterborough United.
As Wanderers made an excellent start with victory against West Brom he had to wait until the second week of the new season and a trip to Elland Road to make his bow. But Parkinson’s efforts to accommodate the playmaker in a 3-4-1-2 formation had decidedly mixed results, leaving Oztumer unsure once again about his future.
“When the Leeds game came around in the Carabao Cup I played, scored a goal, and I thought it was a really good performance considering they are a top team and a lot of the lads hadn’t really played together before,” he said.
“I felt like I’d given the gaffer something to think about.
“After a few more sub appearances I came into the side when we started losing games, so it was difficult to adapt.
“I felt like when I came into the team there were a lot of tactical changes. We were trying to work the ball out from the back a bit more but it didn’t quite come for us and I was first in line to be dropped.
“The gaffer was great, very honest. He wasn’t blaming me, or anything like that, it was just that when I played I hadn’t quite had that finishing touch.
“When you are not playing, you don’t feel sharp.
“With the way the Championship is there’s not a lot of training, it’s games Tuesday-Saturday, so you do feel a bit lost at times.
“I’d keep myself active, go to the gym, but it’s not the same as playing matches.
“I think the gaffer went for the easier option, played more physical football and it didn’t work in the end. It was a big disappointment for me.
“Bolton had been a dream move. All the hard work to get there to the Championship and it was gone in a matter of months.”
By the turn of this year Oztumer was considering going out on loan. He had made eight starts in the Championship, the last of which had been against Swansea City in November, and had the offer of a return to the club who released him as a youngster, saying he was too small to play professional football.
“Charlton enquired about me in the January window, so the gaffer called me and asked if I wanted to go out,” he said.
“I said if I had a chance of getting into the team I wanted to stay. I wanted to prove that I could play at that level.
“We agreed to leave it for a week or two and then revisit, so a few days before the end of the window I knew Charlton were doing well, playing good football, so I thought I’d feel the benefit of going and getting some games.
“It came down to the last day, the last hours, in fact. So with about 45 minutes before the deadline they asked if I could get to the stadium. I shot round the M60 like you’d never believe.
“Then 10 minutes before the end they said it wasn’t going to happen. I only realised afterwards that it was because they hadn’t managed to get another player in.”
The player in question was Sheffield United’s Ched Evans. Had Parkinson managed to find the target man his Plan A had sorely been missing, Wanderers’ season may well have turned out differently.
Oztumer and the rest of the Wanderers squad, now without another striker in Christian Doidge, began the slow walk to relegation.
When Anderson put the stop on funding completely, the bottom really did drop out of Bolton’s campaign.
Unpaid wages, player strikes, closed training ground and High Court cases dominated the headlines with Bolton’s failures on the pitch relegated to a distant second.
Oztumer did not start another game all season and feels some of the problems encountered may have been easier to deal with had he had the release of playing on a Saturday.
“After the loan move didn’t work out I was really down about it,” he said. “I wasn’t playing football, and I was really disappointed.
“Things didn’t’ improve. It was a lose-lose situation after that.
“By the end of last season there were no plans, no structure, you had lads not coming into training, coaches not coming into training, food you had paid for not being cooked or brought in. It was scary. You just don’t expect it from a club like Bolton.”
Oztumer – like the rest of the professional players and coaching staff – have now gone four months without pay from Wanderers and until new ownership is confirmed, that situation will continue.
There is a desire in the dressing room to put the past in the past. But as the players face the prospect of returning to the training ground once again with no material progress to report, there remains a concern that the nightmare isn’t over.
“It is frustrating because the lads just want to forget about last season,” Oztumer said.
“It feels like nothing has been resolved, the negative stuff has been dragged through.
“We don’t know when we are going to get paid, there are no friendly games, no tours.
“Chatting to the boys, we are just like the fans, we want to know what is going on.
“We want this to be a normal-run club. We want to move on. I genuinely hope we can make the club and the fans proud again.”