ONCE again, it seems as if a single season in the Championship has somehow been split into two at Wanderers.
Judging which player has been the standout performer over the course of the whole campaign has, like last season, involved a certain amount of selective memory recall after a quite dreadful start.
If you had asked me back in October if a single player would get six marks out of 10 in my end-of-term report, I’d have said “not a chance.”
And yet, given the improvement since the turn of the year, I think there are a good handful of players who deserve a special mention.
Loanees have once again been pivotal to changing Wanderers’ fortunes for the better.
Kevin McNaughton was a rock in his time – and would have undoubtedly topped my list had he stuck around instead of going back to Cardiff – and had Alan Hutton or Liam Feeney been here longer, they too would have made more of an impression in my thoughts.
In the end, I have decided to stick with players I know will be with the club next season and so, with a heavy heart, left Lukas Jutkiewicz out of my top three.
I hope he can top this list in 12 months time, mind you.
JAY SPEARING 7 Apps 46 Goals 2 Made a slow start after returning from Liverpool for good but has gradually built up to where he was last season. Heartbeat of the team.
TIM REAM 7.5 Apps 45 Goals 0 Looked to be heading for the exit until paired up with Mills at centre-half. The American has even adjusted to become an accomplished full-back.
ALEX BAPTISTE 6.5 Apps 40 (+3 subs) Goals 4 His versatility has bailed Wanderers out at times, as have his goals. But Baptiste’s late-season form has taken the shine off his season.
CHUNG-YONG LEE 6 Apps 33 (+14 subs) Goals 3 Few are better on the ball or as technically adept as the Korean wide man – but his lack of killer instinct around the box has been a serious worry.
MATT MILLS 8 Apps 34 (+1 sub) Goal 1 In from the cold, Mills has conquered his fitness issues and produced some commanding displays to become arguably number one choice at the back.
MEDO KAMARA 6.5 Apps 39 (+5 subs) Goals 2 Has the potential to be a major player for Wanderers, yet unrealised. Plays in a similar style to Spearing – and that could be what has held him back.
ADAM BOGDAN 7 Apps 29 Goals 0 Responded to his critics in style by returning from a spell out injured a different player. Looks much more confident than he did earlier in the season.
NEIL DANNS 7.5 Apps 28 (+7 subs) Goals 6 (on loan from Leicester City) Has become a standard bearer with his energy and work-rate. Should score more but Danns’ addition in October changed fortunes for the better.
ZAT KNIGHT 6.5 Apps 28 (+7 subs) Goals 2 It is a shame the big man will be remembered more for a mad five minutes against Boro than the consistency he showed after it.
DAVID WHEATER 7 Apps 21 (+2 subs) Goal 1 Looks fit and played some of his best football at Wanderers in the last few months. You can’t help but root for the Redcar Rock.
JERMAINE BECKFORD 6.5 Apps 21 (+14 subs) Goals 9 Unplayable at times, unfathomable at others. It has been a mixed bag from the club’s top scorer. A good pre-season should remedy his fitness issues.
DARREN PRATLEY 6.5 Apps 21 (+2 subs) Goals 2 One of the few bright spots of the early season. A serious shoulder injury came at the wrong time for Pratley – who must feel he’s back at square one.
LUKAS JUTKIEWICZ 7.5 Apps 16 (+4 subs) Goals 7 (on loan from Middlesbrough) From the Boro subs’ bench to terrace hero, it has been quite a journey for the Juke. I’m not the only one hoping we’ll see him in Bolton colours again.
ANDY LONERGAN 6 Apps 21 Goals 0 After seizing his chance in goal with both hands, Lonergan suffered more than most after the Reading debacle. Needs more first team football.
MARK DAVIES 6 Apps 14 (+4 subs) Goal 1 All the talent in the world but too often a spectator in games. Needs a good pre-season and we might just see the real Mark Davies again.
KEVIN MCNAUGHTON 7 Apps 13 Goals 1 (on loan from Cardiff City) Granite-like defender who was sorely missed when he headed back to South Wales. Hard to begrudge him a shot at the Premier League, though.
CHRIS EAGLES 5.5 Apps 15 (+3 subs) Goal 1 The main attraction last season, relegated to an also-ran this time around. Seemed to shoulder the blame for mid-season woes.
JOE MASON 6.5 Apps 12 (+4 subs) Goals 6 (on loan from Cardiff City) Out of place in his first spell on loan but his return saw the young striker forge a fine partnership with Jutkiewicz. Missed since his departure.
DAVID NGOG 4 Apps 12 (+7 subs) Goals 4 Flashes of genius interspersed with so much banality. Will inevitably go down as one of the worst value for money Wanderers signings in history.
ROB HALL 6 Apps 13 (+11 subs) Goals 2 Tipped for the top by his manager, the talented Hall’s frustratingly long spells out of the team have made him somewhat of an enigma to fans.
ALAN HUTTON 7 Apps 9 Goals 0 (on loan from Aston Villa) Made a difference since coming in from exile at Villa. Clearly a class above Championship level but has a big career decision to make this summer.
LIAM TROTTER 6 Apps 10 (+6 subs) Goal 1 (on loan from Millwall) Freedman caused consternation by recruiting another midfielder in January and many have struggled to embrace the Millwall man. Improving, though.
MARC TIERNEY 5 Apps 9 Goals 0 Desperately unlucky. Broke his leg just as the club’s nosedive had started to level off. Hopefully regular football next term.
ANDRE MORITZ 6 Apps 7 (+19 subs) Goals 7 Freedman’s “gift” to Wanderers fans has seemed a touch on the luxurious side this season. Some great goals but so many fitness issues. Jury’s out.
CRAIG DAVIES 5.5 Apps 4 (+6 subs) Goals 0 Struggled for regular football before leaving for Preston on loan – but many fans still feel he could carve out a career at Wanderers.
Also played Liam Feeney (on loan from Millwall) apps 3 (+1 sub) goals 0.
Keith Andrews (loaned to Brighton) apps 1 (+1 sub) goals 0.
Tyrone Mears apps 3 goals 0.
Hayden White apps 1 (+1 sub) goals 0.
Oscar Threlkeld apps 2 goals 0.
Sanmi Odelusi (loaned to MK Dons) apps 2 (+6 subs) goals 2.
Andy Kellett apps 0 (+3 subs) goals 0.
Tom Youngs apps 0 (+2 subs) goals 0.
Chris Lester apps 0 (+1 sub) goals 0.