Date: 21st February 2014 at 9:21am
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Burnden Aces Editor Chris Mann helps us preview Saturday’s trip to Bolton

Burnden Aces Editor Chris Mann helps us preview Saturday’s trip to Bolton.

How has the season panned out compared to your expectations?

Whether it was through blind faith or just hope, rather than expectation, a lot of our fans thought we would be challenging for automatic promotion this season. Personally, I had us down for mid-table. I don’t think many expected us to be fighting against relegation.

Although we ended last season on an amazing run – one we hadn’t seen for 20 years – we were in a similar position to where we find ourselves now until late February. There has been a losing mentality at the club for a few years now and until that is fixed, we’re going nowhere – under Dougie Freedman or anybody else.

I can’t see us repeating last year’s late season winning run, but I also don’t think we’ll go down. We just need to get the season over with, get shut of some more of our Premier League wage earners and continue to build for the future. It’s tough for some people to take, after 11 years in the top flight, but it’s something we have to get used to.

Is Dougie Freedman under pressure from the Bolton crowd?

There has been plenty of criticism online throughout the season and that finally spilled over to the matchday crowd when we lost to Burnley earlier this month.

We’ve only won six out of 31 in the league this season and in normal circumstances, I think he’d have been gone a long time ago. Things aren’t ‘normal’ at the Reebok at the moment, though, and I think Freedman is here for the foreseeable future.

Is Freedman the man to turn it around – if not, who?

After the stable managerial terms of Colin Todd and then Sam Allardyce, Bolton have gone through quite a few managers over the last few years. The constant chopping and changing behind the scenes means money has been spent on managers, leaving very little to bring in players.

Freedman’s long-term job is to help bring through some of our promising youngsters, but he also needs to get results for the first-team – and FAST!

Although a new manager may give the club a short-term boost, it is a job that needs doing properly. For that reason, I hope he is given the chance to turn it around and start afresh next season but I think a poor start to next season could spell the end for him.

As for who I would bring in? That’s another problem – there just aren’t any stand-out names! Neil Warnock is probably the best out there at the moment, but he’d probably be just another who would be out the door within 12 months.

We’ve got Jimmy Phillips and Sammy Lee behind the scenes at the Reebok, but we all remember what happened the last time Lee was in charge of the first-team!

What has changed from last season to this?

Not too much, to be honest. As I mentioned before, we still have a losing mentality that we brought down with us from the Premier League.

The arrival of Craig Dawson last January helped put us on an excellent run, but he returned to West Brom and we haven’t replaced him.

We’ve had to play with four central defenders for most of the season and we only have two senior strikers available to us. Whether it’s poor planning from the manager or something to do with our finances, we have to keep fielding a team that is prone to collapsing at any given moment.

How did the January transfer window go for you?

January was a mixed-bag for us, really. We extended Neil Danns’ loan from Leicester City until the end of the season, as well as bringing in Liam Trotter, Lukas Jutkiewicz and youngster Yannick Bastos.

Danns has been dropped to the bench in recent weeks and Trotter has only played a couple of games. Jutkiewicz’s arrival wasn’t well received, mainly because he isn’t a Nicolas Anelka big-name, but he’s started well for us. Joe Mason arrived on loan on Thursday and we’re hoping he shows more than he did in a previous loan spell, which was nothing short of a disaster.

The main outgoings saw David Ngog go to Swansea City and Craig Davies loaned to Preston North End. Love them or hate them, their departures left us desperately short on attacking options.

Are the recently posted financial figures a concern?

They are, but only because we don’t really know the full story. We’re told last year’s £50million+ loss was down to exceptional circumstances, because the club has invested in property development, but even without that, the loss was still somewhere in excess of £30million.

Apparently we owe £10million to the bank and the rest to our owner, who is now charging 0% interest and can only call in the debt at 10-years notice. That’s all well and good, but we can’t keep on losing money at the rate we are now. We haven’t made a profit for the better part of a decade so something has to give.

There are some rumours suggesting Dougie Freedman is still manager because we can’t afford to sack him. Whether that’s true or not is open to debate, but seeing us struggle to put money together for transfers puts some substance into those reports.

Any injuries or suspensions?

We’ve been without Stuart Holden for the best part of three years because of a series of knee injuries. Tyrone Mears, Joe Riley, Marc Tierney and Andre Moritz are all out, while Jermaine Beckford is doubtful with a hamstring strain.

We don’t have any suspensions.

Key player?

It should really be Mark Davies, but he’s struggled for form since returning from a 12-month injury absence. He’ll come good, but it will probably take time.

At the moment, I’d have to say Lukas Jutkiewicz. He’s done well in his short time at the club and we actually have a forward who can now bring down those hopeless 60 yard hoofs from our central defenders!

Match prediction?

I was surprised to see Watford draw at Yeovil in midweek, but at least it was a better result than the reverse fixture! We got lucky at Vicarage Road earlier in the season, but you’ve picked up and we’ve dropped off since then.

We’re not losing at home, but we’ve only won twice in the league all season. We’ve drawn nine of our 15 home games this season, so I’m going for another 1-1.

Chris is the Editor of Bolton Wanderers fan site Burnden Aces. You can also follow them on Twitter – @BurndenAces.