Wanderers fans have been desperate for some real football news to whet the appetite – and the confirmation that Ronan Darcy has agreed a new deal certainly hit the spot.
The academy graduate looks to have both the character and skillset to be a big player for Bolton for years to come and having seen his former team-mate Luca Connell slip through the net so cheaply the previous summer it is heartening to think that we will see Ronan develop.
Seeing the likes of Matt Alexander, Callum King-Harmes, Adam Senior and Sonny Graham signed up was another big plus for Bolton fans, and just reward for their hard work last season when times really were tough.
But the real celebrations will be reserved for when Bolton manage to tick a box which has been left empty for far too long.
A striker capable of approaching – even surpassing – the 20-goal mark has eluded Bolton for nearly two decades.
Not since Michael Ricketts scored 21 goals in the club’s promotion to the Premier League under Sam Allardyce in 2001 has anyone been anything close to prolific over the course of a whole campaign.
Only Eoin Doyle has managed to surpass 20 goals in this season’s curtailed League Two but a glance at the previous years shows a pretty distinct correlation.
James Norwood (Tranmere), Kieran Agard (MK Dons), Nicky Maynard (Bury), Billy Kee (Accrington), Marc McNulty (Coventry), Danny Hylton (Luton) – twice – John Marquis (Doncaster), Matty Taylor (Bristol Rovers) and Lyle Taylor (AFC Wimbledon) have all hit the magic mark in promoted teams in the last five seasons.
General consensus in English football’s fourth tier is that plenty of sins can be forgiven but that a goal-scorer is an absolute must for teams who want to go up.
At Bolton, the yearning for such a player has become somewhat of a cliché. Not even the ultra-cool Nicolas Anelka could top more than a dozen goals, which has been the frustrating ceiling for any Bolton player for the last 19 years.
Will another Nathan Blake, John McGinlay, Andy Walker, Tony Philliskirk, John Thomas ever walk through the doors of the club again? Or has football changed so dramatically that they are now out of the Whites’ reach?
A few fine players have looked capable. Anelka, Adam Le Fondre, Ivan Klasnic – even Jermaine Beckford under different circumstances. Daryl Murphy also managed eight last season despite looking hopelessly isolated for 90 per cent of the time.
All too often, however, their predatory instincts have somehow deteriorated their chances of regular football.
Wanderers have been well-served by hard working strikers like Kevin Davies, Johan Elmander or Gary Madine, whose self-sacrifice has been the anchor for their respective managers to build around them. Indeed, their last promotion under Phil Parkinson in 2016/17 was accomplished without a single player scoring more than 10 goals.
Attempting the win promotion in the same attributional style as Parky’s boys did back then would be some gamble this time around. There is a general mood among supporters that if Bolton are to appoint a new manager – or head coach – that they must bring with them a footballing philosophy which can get bums back on seats when they are finally allowed to do so.
Wanderers have spent just one season at this level of football, averaging just 5,018 fans at Burnden Park. Incredibly, a Saturday home game against Wolves on October 3, 1987, was watched by a crowd of just 3,883.
It seems unlikely that things will fall that far next season when crowds are allowed back into the UniBol… but only while the public’s interest is piqued.
If Wanderers’ new recruitment rebuild does nothing else then identifying a goal-scorer within budget would be the best news that the club could bring their fans this summer.
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