Bolton Wanderers season review – Trotters face drop after lengthy top-flight stay

Premier League – 18th

FA Cup – Quarter-final

League Cup – Fourth Round

As the Bolton Wanderers support clapped off their players after the first game of this season, many would have forgiven them for dreaming of a return to the top-half and Europa League football. The club had just trounced newly-promoted Queens Park Rangers 4-0 with an emphatic performance. With the Trotters having finished the previous season on something of a high – the club reached Wembley for the first time since its re-opening – spirits were high at The Reebok Stadium. Little did they know what was in store for the rest of the season.

Unfortunately for fans of the Whites, those early season hopes wouldn’t last long. Bolton came crashing down to earth with a six game losing streak, including five goal hammerings from Chelsea and Manchester United at home. The tone for the season was set. Wanderers would struggle to break losing runs, often going runs of six or seven matches without a point. A lack of confidence and a lack of cohesion within the playing squad was obvious, with the teams key players often found wanting in vital matches.

The season wasn’t without its high points. Supporters would have enjoyed the 5-0 thumping of Stoke City which avenged their poor performance against the Potters in last season’s FA Cup Semi-Final. A double over rivals Blackburn Rovers, a comfortable victory against Liverpool and impressive away wins over Everton and Aston Villa will live long in the memories of the supporters.

But they will not be enough to suppress the pain of relegation to the Championship that the season ultimately ended in. The Lancashire outfit found itself in the thick of one of the closest and most entertaining relegation battles the Premier League has ever seen. Most presumed Bolton would remain safe, but the campaign was to end in heartbreak as the club stuttered to a 2-2 draw against Stoke City (who are fast becoming a club for Bolton to dislike) amidst the final day drama, which wasn’t enough to secure Premier League status.

The miraculous story of Fabrice Muamba is likely to be one of the over-riding memories of the season for not only Bolton supporters, but football fans everywhere. The heart-warming story of his recovery, after suffering a cardiac arrest on the pitch in the FA Cup quarter-final against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane, is one that will live on in the hearts and memories of football fans, who came together from all over the world to offer their support to the midfielder.

However Bolton Wanderers fans need not fear as the club ends its eleven year stay in the Premier League. Chairman Phil Gartside has expressed his desire to keep manager Owen Coyle at the club and, given his previous success in the Championship, the support can be confident that the Glaswegian is the right man to remain in charge. He’ll plan to alter the squad and get The Trotters playing the attractive football that he favours in hope of an immediate return to the Premier League.

Manager – Owen Coyle: Coyle’s insistence on short passing football and lack of ‘back-up plans’ may have been a contributor to his team’s downfall. Signings such as those of Nigel Reo-Coker and David N’Gog failed to have the desired impact but he can count on the support of the majority of the Bolton faithful for next season.

Player of the Season – Mark Davies: A rare bright spark in an otherwise flat season, Davies’ guile and work-rate in the centre of the park helped him win over many doubters in a solid campaign personally. Likely to be a key player in the second tier next season, if the Trotters manage to keep hold of him, he also picked up the Players’ Player of the Season award at the club.

Turning point: A home loss to Wigan Athletic in February proved to be more than just a devastating derby defeat in the grand scheme of the season. The Latics used the result as a catalyst as they surged up the table in the latter stages, whilst Bolton looked devoid of confidence.

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