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Why Bolton boss has to get it right in the international break

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
A year ago Wanderers endured an international break of serious introspection, sat rock-bottom of the Championship with just two points to their name.

Records had tumbled during a nightmarish start, and grimly, the history books showed no club had ever recovered to avoid relegation from such a deficit.

Well, they do say there is a first time for everything.

Beaten in a tight game at Aston Villa at the end of September, the two-week lay-off presented Ken Anderson with a choice: Back his manager, Phil Parkinson, or accede to the calls from sections of supporters who wanted a change. The chairman picked the first option, and gained instant reward with a victory against Sheffield Wednesday, which triggered the slow ascent to safety, achieved by the narrowest of margins on the final day.

A year on and there is nothing like the same depressing look about the league table. Even a frustrating home defeat to Blackburn on Saturday evening was lent perspective with 15 points already on the board.

This autumn international break is just as important for Parkinson and his staff; In fact, it could be even more so.

Whereas the big decision a year ago rested on the shoulders of Anderson, the onus over the next 11 days will be solely on Parkinson and his staff to identify and remedy what has caused a dip in form. A run of one win in eight games, and two goals in six, suggests there are issues which must be addressed in the here and now.

Parkinson can bank on some of his injured stars – namely Andy Taylor and Ben Alnwick – being closer to full fitness by the time Wanderers travel to Rotherham United, and recharge the batteries of others who have played in a hectic spell which started so brightly with victory against Derby County.

“The break comes at a good time for some of the lads,” the manager said. “Players like Jack Hobbs have done three games in seven days and need a little breather before we go again.

“When we get them back in we’ll do some work to get ourselves ready for the next batch of games.

“They are a great group of lads and they are hurting – it’s a local derby and we know what the result meant to the supporters. But I don’t think there is a great deal wrong at the moment.”

Pressure has also been raised slightly on the manager with recent comments about the playing budget for this season, described as “mid-table” by his chairman only last week.

Without access to up-to-the-minute accounts from other Championship squads it is difficult to estimate whether Bolton have, indeed, raised their wage bill to such a level but if so, has the expectation on Parkinson also increased?

Speaking yesterday to The Bolton News, Anderson made no apologies for aiming high after a busy summer window in the transfer market.

“My expectation is that this group of players should be mid-table,” he said. “Maybe after the start we have had it should be top half?

“People will say that puts pressure on the manager but there are different types and the one we had last year at the bottom of the table was immense.

“This kind of pressure – where a chairman wants better results to finish higher up the table – is one I’m sure we all enjoy more.”

Anderson qualified his comment about a mid-table budget, reasoning that the club’s spending compared more with Wigan Athletic, Bristol City and Preston North End.

“They are what I’d term mid-table teams,” he said. “When we were buying players last season we were offering similar levels of salary.

“There are teams who we cannot compete with – the three who came down, the ones getting parachute payments and what I call the wealthy clubs, like Derby.”


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