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'Don't let history repeat itself' - Philliskirk's hangover warning to Wanderers

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse

'Don't let history repeat itself' - Philliskirk's hangover warning to Wanderers 18151699

Wanderers have been warned that they will be marked men in League One next season, as clubs look to exploit their play-off disappointment.

Former striker Tony Philliskirk experienced first-hand what impact a defeat at Wembley can have as part of Phil Neal’s squad 33 years ago.

Beaten by a single Chris Makin goal in extra time, Bolton struggled for consistency the following season, drawing a club record 17 games, and finishing an unremarkable 13th in the table.

Philliskirk believes there are comparisons to be drawn between the two situations and hopes his former club can learn from their mistakes.

“You have to give Oxford some credit for the way they negated Bolton but they didn’t get out of second gear all game and I’m sure that will have hurt them, the feeling that they didn’t do themselves justice on the day,” he told The Bolton News.

“We had been well clear of Tranmere in the league, we’d beaten them at Burnden Park, we’d beaten them in one of the cup competitions as well, we knew them really well, and when we got to Wembley we just didn’t turn up, it was a nothing game.

“I don’t think we had a shot on target and maybe the occasion did get to us. It mirrored what happened to Bolton, who had beaten Oxford very comfortably six or seven weeks earlier. There are a lot of similarities there.

“We started the next season really slowly, there was a massive hangover. It is never easy but Phil didn’t change the team loads and thought we were close. But it was a case of after the Lord Mayor’s show.

“And actually, it becomes tougher. You are a marked card, a target. Every club who comes up against you know you got to Wembley and could have gone up and they raise their game.

"And for Phil, sadly that cost him his job.

“You don’t just have to maintain your standard, you have to raise it. And looking at the clubs coming into that division I think they might have to do that.

“You have to go again because there will be teams who hope they can kick you when you are down.”

Evatt hinted in the immediate aftermath of the play-off final that there would be change and alongside sporting director Chris Markham he is now actively recruiting for new signings to freshen the squad.

Opinion is split among the fanbase on how extensive the rebuilding job might be, and Philliskirk doubts that the Bolton boss will drastically alter the group which finished third in the table and was ultimately 90 minutes away from the Championship.

“I think when you take the emotions out of it and take a step back, they weren’t far away. You could say it was a successful season in many respects,” said the former striker, now in charge of Burnley’s Under-18s. “I am sure Ian will have a little break and dissect what happened. They are obviously a very good team and there is probably not major surgery needed.

“Maybe if you get two or three good additions that will take them one step further. And I am sure he knows that after going that close, fans will be wanting to jump up next time and be in the top two positions.

“The group he has there got to Wembley, they weren’t far away at all. Maybe they need to invest a little bit to strengthen it but I doubt he is thinking about letting many of his players go and starting again.”


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