NEIL Danns has been searching for a fair fight – and feels he might have found one at Wanderers.
It has been a case of “have boots, will travel” for the tireless midfielder for the last couple of seasons as his contract at Leicester City wound down to zero.
His nomadic existence took in loan spells at Bristol City and Huddersfield Town before an opportunity materialised to link up with his former Crystal Palace team-mate Dougie Freedman that would reinvigorate his career.
Six goals in a two-part loan last season saw Danns quickly embraced by the Wanderers’ faithful and after signing a one-year deal in the close season, the 31-year-old Liverpudlian is now delighted to be looking ahead to the new campaign knowing exactly where his future lies.
“It’s a massive thing for me getting out there on a pitch at this stage of pre-season, knowing when August comes around I’ve got as much chance as anyone else of being in the team,” he told The Bolton News after Thursday night’s 1-1 draw with Brondby.
“There have been times in the last few years at other clubs where I felt I was playing well but knew I wasn’t going to be included. It’s hard to take knowing that you can’t do anything about it.
“Here, I know if I do well, I’ve got as much chance as anyone else to play on the first day of the season. And I can’t tell you how good that feels.”
When Wanderers announced they would be opening their pre-season preparations against a side with Champions League ambitions, a few wondered whether Dougie Freedman had bitten off more than he could chew.
Even Danns admits it was a brave move – but after helping the Whites to a very creditable draw he feels the gamble paid off handsomely.
“A few of the lads were a bit worried before kick-off because they are playing in Europe next season and it’s our first run out,” he said. “We were wondering, what’s going to happen here?
“But I think the boys kept going, felt strong considering it was the first game, and we’re only going to get stronger.
“If you’d have asked us before the game would we have got the draw, a few of us might have doubted it, but we showed how much the hard work we’ve done so far is paying off.”
Danns was one of three Wanderers players to pick up yellow cards against Brondby, with Rob Hall earning a straight red for a bad challenge on Serbian defender Dario Drmic.
It wasn’t typical pre-season fayre but the added fizz contributed to the feeling of achievement after the final whistle.
“It was a bit fiery but that’s not bad when you are trying to find your fitness, it gives you an extra edge and competitiveness,” he said.
“We all shook hands in the end but we all wanted to win – it would have been a lot worse if we’d backed down and rolled over.
“We’ve got talented players through the squad and you know if you’re not going 100 per cent, someone is going to take your place. It’s easy to say but a good side needs that.
“People saw for themselves that we’ve got a bit of fight in this squad and that we’re quite prepared to work hard for each other.
“That is only going to improve as we get closer to the season.”