AFTER finalising who would be leaving Wanderers for nothing this summer – one of Dougie Freedman’s next big moves will be to decide the futures of five players coming back into the fold.
Keith Andrews, Marvin Sordell, Craig Davies, Josh Vela and Tom Eaves will all finish loan spells this summer and, all things being equal, head back to Bolton.
Andrews and Davies have both had their campaigns extended with Brighton’s and Preston’s involvement in the Championship and League One play-offs, respectively.
But have any of them done enough to change the manager’s mind and guarantee themselves a place in his plans at the newly-named Macron Stadium next term?
Here we turn the spotlight on the prodigal sons and their potential returns.
How he left it: The Irishman featured on the opening day of the season at Burnley and came on as a substitute against Shrewsbury Town in the Capital One Cup. His exit freed cash for Dougie Freedman to sign Jay Spearing from Liverpool.
How he fared: Andrews has been a regular for Brighton as they inched into the play-offs last weekend, making 35 appearances and scoring one goal to date.
One of Oscar Garcia’s early signings, the 32-year-old has gelled well into the Spaniard’s possession-based style.
What the future holds: Dougie Freedman insists Andrews can have a future at Bolton, so long as he appreciates his intention to rotate the squad.
That view is not necessarily shared by the player himself, judging by an interview he gave in March. “Although I have a year left on my contact, I would be very surprised if I was there,” he said.
Realistically, Andrews’ high salary is the major obstacle to a return to Wanderers and the offer of another season on loan – at Brighton or elsewhere in the Championship – would be viewed favourably.
How he left it: Sordell never truly looked settled at Wanderers after his £3.2million move from Watford and he was loaned out to Charlton before a game was played this season.
How he fared: His lack of chances prior to Christmas prompted Freedman to consider a recall at the start of the year to loan him elsewhere – but Sordell has since featured regularly for new Addicks boss Jose Riga. The former England Under-21 star scored eight goals in 35 appearances, including a hat-trick against Sheffield Wednesday to steer the London club towards safety in the Championship.
What the future holds: Both Wanderers and Sordell would probably agree they would be better off without each other – but with some time left to run on his contract, the question is how much of a hit would the club be willing to take on their investment?
Another season out on loan beckons. Like Andrews, Freedman has invited Sordell back into the camp but it would be a surprise to see him pull on a Wanderers shirt again.
How he left it: A surprise exit in January when he left Wanderers on loan for Preston North End – and not one necessarily celebrated among the club’s fans. He had played just 10 games for Dougie Freedman before his exit and had not scored a goal.
How he fared: Davies has contributed to Preston’s success in League One but dropped out of contention in the run-in to the play-offs. He took a while to earn a start for the Lillywhites but has scored five goals in 18 appearances for the club in total.
What the future holds: If Preston get promoted his best chance of a permanent move could rest with the Deepdale club.
Doesn’t have the same financial baggage as Andrews or Sordell, so it is not inconceivable that we will see him make a return to Bolton – but could his success in the play-offs tempt Preston into an offer?
How he left it: Vela had impressed in the Development Squad to the point that he was pushing for a first team place but then joined Notts County’s relegation fight to gain some first team experience. Previously, his battle with a knee injury had restricted him to two cup outings.
How he fared: Vela helped the Magpies to safety, featuring seven times, but some comments made to the League One club’s website about his expectations next season did cause a stir.
Vela shows no lack of confidence predicting that he can become a major player for Wanderers next season – but whether the coaching team agree is another matter.
What the future holds: Many Whites fans are desperate to see the ‘next big thing’ fulfil his prophecy and that could hinge on how sharp he returns in pre-season. Vela has always had the talent but can he put his tools to good use?
How he left it: Played against Tranmere Rovers in the Capital One Cup but left for a loan spell at Rotherham soon after that was supposed to prime him for more first-team involvement at Wanderers.
How he fared: In the end, his lack of success at the New York Stadium, which saw score just once in nine games, led to a spell at Shrewsbury, where he had enjoyed great success last season. Eaves failed to repeat his goal-scoring exploits, however, and after netting just twice in 25 appearances he failed to stop Shrewsbury’s slide into League Two.
What the future holds: The young striker comes back to Bolton with a lot to prove and major doubts as to whether he is ready for Championship football. Another loan spell could be the best solution for both parties.