What next for Bolton Wanderers stars?
WANDERERS released four players and announced their intention to discuss new deals with three more yesterday as Dougie Freedman’s summer business started to take shape.
More than £7.5million in transfer fees and much more in wages was chalked off in one fell swoop as Chris Eagles, Tyrone Mears, Jay Lynch and Zat Knight were told they would not get a new contract.
Stuart Holden, Andre Moritz and Arran Lee-Barrett will talk about staying on with Wanderers.
But what does the future hold for the stars who have departed, or those hoping to stay on?
What’s the situation? Moritz wants a two or three-year deal to lay down roots in the area but Wanderers will have to haggle.
Wanderers CV: The Brazilian playmaker has scored seven goals in 27 appearances this season despite injuries preventing him from getting a decent run in the side. Moritz signed last summer after a spell under Dougie Freedman at Crystal Palace.
Was it a surprise? In an ideal world, Freedman would like to keep Moritz. He adds an unpredictability and a degree of link-play between the midfield and attack that no other player in his squad can match. But the constant fitness problems have affected his form in the last couple of months – and his final appearance, at home to Barnsley, was far from satisfactory.
What next? If Wanderers are unable to offer Moritz what he wants, there will be offers for sure. The Brazilian turned down clubs in America and China to sign at the Reebok last July.
Financially, it remains to be seen whether Freedman will be able to make a long-term commitment to a player who has yet to fully realise his talent.
What’s the situation? The former England international has been released after five years with the club. He scored four goals in 191 appearances.
Wanderers CV: Signed for £4.5million by Gary Megson from Aston Villa in the summer of 2009, Knight has been a mainstay of the Wanderers back four under three successive managers.
Was it a surprise? Knight’s lack of chances in recent weeks hinted Dougie Freedman wanted to concentrate on the centre-halves that were contracted to the club next season. The manager can have few complaints with the attitude shown by the big defender, though, and it seemed at one point this season he was playing his way back towards a new deal.
Knight has endured some difficult moments, not least a mad five minutes against Middlesbrough on New Year’s Day that led to two Boro goals. But he recovered his form and his exit is definitely not as celebrated as it might have been.
What next? The big defender says he has “three or four years” left in him, and recent performances suggest he has something to give.
Knight has not lined up a move to the US, as some reports have suggested, but will assess his options after a short break this summer.
What’s the situation? The one-time golden boy, pictured, has been released after three years. He made 106 appearances and scored 19 goals.
Wanderers CV: Signed by Owen Coyle for £3million in a joint deal with Burnley team-mate Tyrone Mears. The highlight of his first season was a double strike in the 5-0 win over Stoke City but it was after relegation to the Championship that he really came into his own, top-scoring with 14 goals last season.
His third and final season proved to be a disastrous one, however, as an ankle injury sustained against Burnley on the opening day saw him struggle for fitness. He played just 18 games in total this term, the last of which was in mid-February.
Was it a surprise? Eagles’ relationship with manager Dougie Freedman seems to have deteriorated over the past few months. A mysterious “eye infection” was blamed for his absence over several weeks – but thinly-veiled comments from Freedman in the last few weeks hinted that he was not happy with the midfielder’s attitude.
What next? There is bound to be interest in a player who has an enviable record at Championship level, despite the disappointment of the last nine months at Bolton. Middlesbrough, Derby County and Charlton Athletic are a few of the sides who have watched the ex-Manchester United man, who seems destined to line-up against Dougie Freedman’s side at some point next season.
What’s the situation? Released after three years with the club and just 32 appearances.
Wanderers CV: All too brief. Broke his leg just a few weeks after signing for the club and played just one game in his first season.
He earned a regular spot after Wanderers were relegated under Owen Coyle but dropped out of favour before the end of the campaign as Sam Ricketts and Danny Butterfield took control of the right-back position.
This season has been nothing short of disastrous. Three appearances, his last in the dreadful 4-1 defeat at Blackburn Rovers, led to his complete exile from the squad.
Was it a surprise? Not at all. Mears had effectively been training alone and was nowhere to be seen at Euxton for the final six months of the season. It was a desperately unhappy time for the defender – but despite talks of a loan move elsewhere, there seemed a reluctance to move on.
What next? Mears needs a chance to prove his fitness but at 31 he will have to be realistic with his demands. Millwall and Blackpool have been keen on him in the past but he was reluctant to leave Wanderers on loan.
What’s the situation? Potentially a pay-as-a-you-play deal next season once the American midfielder has completed another round of rehab on his injured knee.
Wanderers CV: Enjoyed a meteoric rise to become one of the best midfielders in the Premier League after being plucked for nothing from Houston Dynamo by Owen Coyle before a serious injury at Old Trafford sent his career into limbo.
Four serious operations later, Holden has made nine appearances in the last three seasons – four of which were on loan at Sheffield Wednesday.
Was it a surprise? Dougie Freedman has spoken at length in recent weeks about giving Holden the best possible chance of a first-team return. He is due back in pre-season training at the end of June.
Wanderers are understandably cautious about the 28-year-old’s chances of a full recovery but there isn’t a person around the club who is not willing him on.
What next? For all his past achievements, the midfielder will be back to square one and having to prove himself again when and if he makes a playing return.
What’s the situation? A short-term deal is on the cards, possibly in the knowledge that both Adam Bogdan and Andy Lonergan are in the final year of their contract and could potentially attract offers this summer.
Wanderers CV: Joined as an emergency measure after Bogdan injured his knee back in October. Sat on the bench as cover for Lonergan but then dropped down to third choice once Bogdan got fit again in the New Year.
Was it a surprise? Given Lee-Barrett’s sterling work at development squad level, not really. Wanderers have a lack of experienced goalkeeping cover below Bogdan and Lonergan, especially with Jay Lynch also joining the departed list.
What next? Expect Lee-Barrett’s situation to become clearer once talks have been completed with the other two senior keepers. If Lonergan wants to stay and fight for the number one position, it could have an impact on the former Ipswich Town stopper.
What’s the situation? Lynch was highly-rated by successive Wanderers regimes but never managed to make the first-team breakthrough. He was released after four years as a professional.
Wanderers CV: Signed pro terms in 2010 and was a regular in the development squad. Never managed to push past senior keepers such as Jussi Jaaskelainen, Adam Bogdan and Andy Lonergan.
Was it a surprise? Injury problems this season prevented Lynch from making an impression on Dougie Freedman, which is a shame.
What next? Lynch needs to find regular football, just as Rob Lainton did last summer. He definitely has a future in the game.