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Sheffield United's Jake Wright on why Bolton was a "good move"

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karlypants

karlypants
Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
If Jake Wright can have a similar impact on Wanderers in League One as he did at Sheffield United, there may not have been a more important arrival on transfer deadline day.

When Chris Wilder brought the centre-back into his team in 2016, the Blades were incredibly sitting bottom of the league with one point from their first four games.

One of the defeats had come at the hands of Phil Parkinson’s Wanderers on the opening day of the season – but after making the necessary alterations, Wilder saw his side get themselves back on track against both his and Wright’s former employers, Oxford United. The rest, as they say, is history.

Bolton’s new loanee did not lose another league game all season. In 28 starts Wright finished on the winning side 22 times and drew just six as the South Yorkshiremen finally escaped the third tier and plotted a route which would end with Premier League promotion.

The story plateaus slightly after that for the Keighley-born defender, who still made an impressive impact at Championship level – his record standing at 12 wins and just five defeats from 18 games – but who suddenly had some expensive rivals for his position in the side in the form of John Egan and Richard Stearman.

“I was disappointed to come out of that team but the manager had paid big money for some players so I can understand from a football point of view why it had to happen,” said Wright, who then suffered a horrific broken eye socket and cheekbone in a pre-season friendly at Stocksbridge Steels, which decimated last season.

“That was a big blow for me because I was out of the side for three or four months and then by the time I got back the team was absolutely flying,” he continued. “I wasn’t getting in the team, wasn’t really getting in the squad.

“To a man they were brilliant getting promotion. So I can’t really sit here and complain. When a team progresses like that there are bound to be casualties and in this case I was one of them.”

Wright considered a loan move at the start of this year and looked set to join Scunthorpe United until a late change of mind.

Wilder insisted his experience and influence in the dressing room was still beneficial as the Bramall Lane men secured promotion to the top-flight for the first time in 12 years.

This season, however, he knew a move had to materialise. Other options were on the table when Keith Hill called him hours after his appointment had been made public but the lure of Bolton seemed a good fit.

“I could have stayed and seen out my contract, not really being involved at Sheffield United,” he said. “But I wanted to play football and when the manager contacted me to say he wanted me I knew straight away it would be a good move.”

Wright heads straight back over the Pennines this weekend as Wanderers seek to end a 53-year wait for a victory in Rotherham and begin whittling down a significant 16-point gap to safety.

Worrying about the points disadvantage is not something the defender or his manager, Hill, is allowing to occupy their time.

“There’s no point thinking you need to do this, or that, or win a certain number of games,” he said.

“It might get to that stage somewhere down the line. But right at this moment you need to get going, get the points column ticking over.

“I’ll concentrate on Rotherham, then Oxford, then Sunderland… Then hopefully you get to that situation where you can set targets.”

As one of nine signings on deadline day, the last week has been a getting-to-know-you exercise for both manager and players. The free weekend, caused by Bury’s sad demise, did at least give the hastily-assembled squad a chance to acquaint themselves.

“We had four days last week and we’ll get the whole of this week, so it has given us time to bed in,” he said. “Ideally in a pre-season you get six weeks, so this is different, but we have got to get on with it.

“We know the situation we’re in. We need to get our skates on right away.”

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