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A year to remember for Bolton Wanderers striker Max Clayton

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Twelve months ago Max Clayton was in hospital, his foot in plaster, and wondering what the future may hold.

A serious ankle break sustained playing for Crewe against Wycombe Wanderers in the FA Cup had stalled his promising career and ruled him out for the rest of the campaign.

But they do say a year is a long time in football.

Clayton was back in hospital this week but this time in Bolton Wanderers colours. And instead of feeling down in the dumps, he was dishing out good cheer as he gave out presents to some of the youngsters on the ward.

The striker, who proved to be Dougie Freedman’s last signing at the Macron, is clearly doing the business for Neil Lennon and has started the last four games.

From the bottom end of League One to potentially lining up alongside Eidur Gudjohnsen in today’s home clash with Ipswich Town – the 20-year-old says he has hardly had time to take stock.

“It’s been an incredible change for me,” he told The Bolton News. “It couldn’t really have gone a lot better.

“I haven’t really been able to sit and think about it, if I’m honest. All I want to do is carry on playing and contributing to the team.

“I didn’t really know what to expect when I came here. I knew the old manager had a lot of faith in me because he’d tried very hard to sign me.

“When the new manager came in it was brilliant for me that he had that same confidence – he makes me feel like a top player.

“With a bit of luck I can continue doing well and so can the team.”

Today’s game against in-form Ipswich holds no fear for Clayton, despite the Tractor Boys arriving this afternoon with just one defeat in 16 games.

“Ipswich have gone really well lately but I feel like it’s a game we’re ready for,” he said.

“We have prepared well, we know how they are going to come at us, and we’re in good form ourselves.

“I know we didn’t win last weekend but I thought we did well, and were maybe a bit unlucky not to nick it in the second half.

“We know it will be a tough one but we’re really going to go for it. Hopefully we can take all three points.”

Clayton made his debut against Bournemouth in October by which time much of the negativity on the terraces associated with the Freedman era had started to fade.

But the youngster feels a strong home backing has been one of the key factors in avoiding defeat at home since that day.

“We’re very strong at the moment and I think that has got a lot to do with the way the crowd has got behind us,” he said.

“We’re trying to turn the place into a bit of a fortress, so while Ipswich have been playing well I think they’ll still be nervous coming to the Macron because we are a different team at the moment.”

Clayton was just six years old the last time Gudjohnsen pulled on a Wanderers shirt, coincidentally against Ipswich in the play-off semi-finals of 2000.

Today he could partner the Icelandic legend in attack as Lennon looks to shuffle his strike force in the absence of the injured Craig Davies.

“How can you not learn from him?” he said. “I grew up watching him playing for Chelsea and Barcelona and when he first came into training, I was a little bit in awe, to be honest.

“But he’s a really nice guy and he’ll definitely contribute this season.

“He’s 36 but you’d never believe that because he’s training is absolutely class.

“He’s been great around the boys and slotted in well.

“He’s got such a lot of quality. I’d love to run out together against Ipswich.”

Lennon admitted on Thursday he still felt his side could make the play-offs if they could invest in the right players in the New Year.

Clayton sees consistency as the key as the club look towards the second half of the campaign.

“I guess the big thing is to try and maintain this home form,” he said. “The gaffer wants us to get stronger away and we’re five unbeaten at the moment, so little by little we need to extend that. I can see us going quite far.”


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