Will Bolton Wanderers continue to rely on loan stars?

Dougie Freedman's top trio Neil Danns, Joe Mason and Lukas Jutkiewicz

Dougie Freedman's top trio Neil Danns, Joe Mason and Lukas Jutkiewicz

First published in Sport
Last updated
The Bolton News: Photograph of the Author by , chief football writer

WANDERERS have worked the loan market as well as anyone in the Championship in the last two seasons – but can Dougie Freedman continue going to the same well and expect success?

The Whites boss has produced many more hits than misses since he came to the club in October 2012.

The need to cut costs and carefully manage finances in the last couple of seasons has made the loan market an attractive prospect for the club, although it has not been without its problems.

Wanderers have had their fingers burned when successful spells for the likes of Kevin McNaughton or Craig Dawson at Bolton have raised their value and scuppered any chance of signing the player on a permanent basis.

In other cases it has worked in their favour. Deals to sign loans Liam Feeney, Neil Danns and Liam Trotter this summer have been completed after a thorough bedding in period.

With Freedman’s budget again looking on the tight side it could be that the Scot needs to look towards loaning players once again this season, although business on that front is likely to have to wait until closer to the August 31 deadline.

The manager has spoken publically about his reluctance to rely on loans but since arriving at Bolton, he has brought in 13 different players on a temporary basis.

Here, we look at the players in question and assess their success in a Wanderers shirt.

JACOB BUTTERFIELD

Why he was signed: Freedman needed more attacking options, bringing the versatile Butterfield for a two-month loan from Norwich City.

How he fared: Butterfield made four starts and four substitute appearances but lacked match sharpness after a long injury and went back to Norwich because he could not be guaranteed games. He was then loaned immediately to Crystal Palace and turned out the following week against Bolton.

He now plays for Middlesbrough.

Rating: 2/5

STEVE DE RIDDER

Why he was signed: Freedman wanted more pace and power out wide and snapped up the out-of-favour Southampton winger on a month’s loan.

How he fared: The Belgian flyer made a decent start – faring especially well in a 2-1 home win against Burnley – but Freedman changed to a narrower system and De Ridder was restricted to just three games for the club before returning to the Saints. He now plays for Utrecht in Holland.

Rating: 2/5

CRAIG DAWSON

Why he was signed: Wanderers were sinking fast at the start of 2013 and hovering just outside the relegation zone. Dawson was picked up to aid an ailing back four.

How he fared: Quite superbly. Dawson not only forged a fine partnership with Zat Knight, he also added an attacking threat from set pieces, scoring four goals in his 16 games and finishing on the losing side just three times. He returned to West Brom to fight for his place in the Premier League but has struggled to hold down a place.

Dawson recently submitted a transfer request but remains out of the Whites’ financial reach for now.

Rating: 5/5

DANNY BUTTERFIELD

Why he was signed: Freedman’s experienced former Crystal Palace team-mate came in from Southampton to add a bit of competition at the end of the season as Wanderers’ defensive reserves ran low.

How he fared: Butterfield hadn’t played many games for the Saints and it showed. Struggled against the pace of Lloyd Dyer in a 3-2 defeat at Leicester and against Sean Scannell in a 1-0 victory over Huddersfield Town. Now playing for Carlisle United in League One.

Rating: 1/5

ROB HALL

Why he was signed: More of a try before you buy for Wanderers – Hall would eventually sign from West Ham on a permanent deal for a fee decided by tribunal.

How he fared: Although he has since gone on to become one of the Whites most exciting young stars, his brief loan appearance on the final day of the season against Blackpool lasted less than 45 unhappy minutes.

Rating: 1/5

LIAM FEENEY

Why he was signed: Wanderers needed some energy after a dire start to the season and the unheralded Millwall winger needed games.

How he fared: After bursting on to the scene with a brief cameo against Yeovil, Feeney produced two electric performances against Blackpool and Birmingham before disappearing back to Millwall as quickly as he’d arrived. Freedman later revealed that the Lions wanted £250,000 to sign him right away – but the Whites boss bided his time and signed the winger on a free this summer. Rating: 3/5

NEIL DANNS

Why he was signed: Freedman needed a standard bearer in his midfield, so reached out for his former Crystal Palace team-mate Danns. His loan from Leicester City was eventually extended to a full season and made permanent this summer.

How he fared: One of last season’s success stories. Danns’ energy and enthusiasm helped Wanderers out of their funk at the start of the season. It was no surprise to see Freedman offer him a one-year deal.

Rating: 4/5

KEVIN MCNAUGHTON

Why he was signed: Right-back was a problem area at the start of the season, particularly when Alex Baptiste was moved to the left after Marc Tierney’s leg break. Enter the Granite-like Scot from Cardiff City.

How he fared: Added calm to the panic that seemed to be spreading at the start of last season and even popped up with a goal against Charlton – his first since May 2008. McNaughton played so well for Bolton that by the time he returned to Cardiff, he earned a first team spot and an extended contract.

Rating: 4/5

JOE MASON X2

Why he was signed: Freedman needed a link-man in November last year and saw the young Cardiff striker as the ideal candidate. After one false start, he eventually returned for a second loan spell in February.

How he fared: Seemed to struggle with the system first time around when often deployed on his own up front – but a revelation on his return, when he forged a partnership with Lukas Jutkiewicz that helped push Wanderers up the Championship table.

Rating 2/5 and 4/5

LUKAS JUTKIEWICZ

Why he was signed: A lack of physical presence up front was a problem for Wanderers but the Middlesbrough striker was unheralded on his arrival at the Reebok. Things soon changed.

How he fared: “The Juke” as he became known on the terraces proved a near-instant hit with the fans, giving the Whites a focus for their attack and adding seven goals in his 21 games from January onwards. Most fans would love to see him signed permanently in the summer – but will his success drive the price too high?

Rating: 5/5.

LIAM TROTTER

Why he was signed: Wanderers’ midfield stocks looked full on his arrival from Millwall but after Darren Pratley’s shoulder injury, Trotter found his niche.

How he fared: It’s fair to say Trotter didn’t endear himself to the Whites faithful on his arrival but after finding his feet, the 25-year-old looked more assured in a defensive midfield role, scoring a stunner against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsbrough.

His move has now been made permanent and Trotter will be eager to build on his momentum.

Rating: 3/5

ALAN HUTTON

Why he was signed: After McNaughton’s exit, the right-back slot continued to look a problem position. Hutton had been frozen out at Aston Villa and leapt at the chance of some regular games at Bolton.

How he fared: After a slow start the Scotland international found his groove and started to look a class act by the time a knee injury curtailed his season a couple of weeks early. With 12 months still remaining on his contract at Villa, his next move is anyone’s guess.

Rating 3/5

ANDY ROBINSON

Why he was signed: The Southampton Academy have a habit of producing gems and with little defensive midfield cover, Freedman wanted to try before he bought.

How he fared: Hard to tell. Only a couple of brief outings in the Under-21s and behind-closed-doors games but obviously well enough to convince Wanderers to sign the midfielder on a one-year deal.

Rating: n/a

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