Inside Bolton Wanderers column: Why international friends can help club out

FOR too long, Wanderers seemed reluctant to reach out and use their network of international players to help further their cause in the transfer market.

When you consider some of the worldwide stars who have pulled on a Bolton shirt in the past couple of decades, it is positively baffling that the club has not managed to pick up more talent from foreign shores, as they once did so successfully.

Whether it be Gudni Bergsson in Iceland, Ivan Campo in Spain, Stelios Giannakopoulos in Greece, Stu Holden in the US or Dwight Pezzarossi in Guatemala, Bolton have global coverage when it comes to ex-players, the vast majority of whom still care passionately about the club.

So why the reluctance to keep in touch?

Ego has certainly played a part. Every manager wants to do things their way, they all scout in their own particular style, and very few accept outside interference from former players with a smile on their face.

Football is intensely nepotistic. Many managers like their own people around them and a change at the top has invariably meant a turnover of backroom staff in the past.

I would like to think that has changed at Wanderers. Certainly, the big investment in analysis staff working under Chris Markham should provide a department which would not suddenly up sticks should – touch wood, it doesn’t happen – but Ian Evatt decide he wants to move on some day.

We need only to look back at the carnage that followed Sam Allardyce’s departure in 2007 to know the value of structure, and why just ripping it up and starting again is a dangerous business.

Wanderers have put a lot of money into improving recruitment in the past 18 months, and the results have been good. Evatt and Markham’s success rate has been impressive and for the first time in a long while there seems to be a genuine plan in place.

The data-driven approach has not always been celebrated by the more traditional Bolton supporter, raised on Bruce Rioch and Colin Todd’s scouting trips and tales of bargains picked up from Friday night reserve games up and down the land.

But this summer we seem to have struck a happy medium. What if the recruitment analysts can highlight a player who has the requisite data to play for Bolton, then get some first-person advice from someone they trust?

Eoin Doyle left Wanderers in January to return home to Ireland with nothing but well-wishes from folk at the UniBol. Sure, his form after promotion did not quite hit the same heights as it did in League Two but he remains the top scorer in Evatt’s two-year reign by some distance and held in high regard by fans and coaching staff alike.

He was kept on the Bolton payroll in a scouting capacity despite continuing his playing career with St Patrick’s – and some folk on this side of the Irish Sea wrinkled their nose at the arrangement, claiming it was a convenient backstory to see one of the bigger earners in the squad out of the door.

It has been good to see, however, that the arrangement is now paying dividends. Doyle has given his input on potential recruit Eoin Toal from Derry City and B Team defender Eric Yoro, and the Irish market now looks more accessible than ever.

How great to think this same approach could be used elsewhere in Europe, and that Wanderers can cash in on some of the eyes and ears they have dotted around the footballing world.

Doyle’s focus remains on his playing career. He has offered advice to Wanderers but in no way is that compromising his work with St Pat’s.

What a great story it would be if one of the main components of the last promotion-winning squad under Evatt could also have a positive effect on the next?


Oh for my creature comforts

WHATEVER lies in store at Carlisle United on Saturday afternoon, I just hope there is somewhere to park my backside.

I’ve been very fortunate to cover games behind closed doors against Stockport, Wigan and Watford, but I don’t half miss press box luxuries like a seat, a plug socket or some lovely shade.

During the course of this summer I have balanced my laptop on a wheelie bin, perched it precariously on a metal rail and on the back of another journalist’s camping chair. Don’t ever say I am not resourceful.

Though we have been a little over-exposed to the elements, it has been great fun seeing Wanderers’ team prepare for the new season ahead.

I just hope I can do that at Brunton Park this weekend with a nice cup of tea as well.


New away shirt sure looks good

I’M getting a bit long in the tooth to be worried about what football kits look like – but the new Wanderers away shirt is definitely a beauty.

Clearly Italian influenced, Napoli-esque, I’d say it is the best that Macron have produced, and definitely the only shirt in recent memory that I could see myself wearing.

Sadly, kits these days tend to be fitted, which doesn’t quite suit the, ahem, ample undulations of some football fans like myself!

Oh, for the uber-baggy 1990s. Those shirts really did hide all!

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