WANDERERS’ first-team picture is slowly taking shape but there are still positions up for grabs two weeks before the big kick-off against Watford.

Dougie Freedman’s striker situation remains unclear, as does the battle in goal between Adam Bogdan and Andy Lonergan.

The Whites boss is in the market for one more wide man to add to his bustling midfield ranks where only skipper Jay Spearing really looks guaranteed a starting berth.

And can home-grown talent like Josh Vela, Joe Riley or Andy Kellett force their way in this time around?

Chief football writer Marc Iles looks at some of the questions hanging around the first team squad as the Championship season approaches.


Wanderers have taken a cautious approach to Adam Bogdan so far this summer, refusing to risk aggravating a back injury by playing him in the pre-season friendlies.

That has given Andy Lonergan a chance to shine, and as always the experienced stopper has let no-one down.

Both senior keepers have only a year remaining on their current contracts and the man who claims the number one slot at Vicarage Road will be in a commanding position to negotiate a new one.

For that reason alone, the goalkeeping battle is one of the more intriguing in Freedman’s squad.

Summer signing Ross Fitzsimons has also looked capable when called upon but he is unlikely to feature in the first-team reckoning unless either Bogdan or Lonergan move on.


Kevin McNaughton’s return on loan from Cardiff puts him at the front of the queue at right-back, although Joe Riley and Oscar Threlkeld have done little wrong in pre-season.

Riley’s return from long-term injury has been one of the summer’s success stories, but would the young defender be better served finding regular games away from the Macron Stadium on loan for now?

On the left, Marc Tierney’s injury means Dean Moxey is out there alone as a specialist. Threlkeld, Tim Ream or Andy Kellett are the other options, although the younger players are more likely to be used in the early rounds of the Capital One Cup.

The situation at centre-half looks to have become clearer in the last couple of pre-season friendlies as Matt Mills and Ream have developed the partnership that proved successful last term.

David Wheater remains sidelined with injury, which is a shame given the form he was in during April and May, and Dorian Dervite has not yet shown quite enough to suggest he will start from the off.

Cian Bolger’s improvement has also been evident in the friendlies – which suggests the young Irishman could be ready for another loan spell at a higher level than his last at Southend United.


Jay Spearing is almost guaranteed a starting spot at Watford but whether Freedman opts to partner him with another defensive type (4-2-3-1), or play two central midfielders further forward (4-1-4-1) is up for debate.

Medo Kamara would be the most obvious candidate for a pairing, although Liam Trotter looked much more comfortable in the deeper lying midfield position at the end of last season and he must stand a chance too.

Josh Vela is the wildcard. After spending time on loan at Notts County last season the home-grown youngster has returned hungry to secure more football at Bolton. Freedman has talked up his chances, so could this be the season he finally makes the breakthrough?


Freedman wants another left-sided winger to challenge Rob Hall for a starting spot but the signs are that we will see a lot more of the former West Ham academy graduate this season.

Georg Iliev has had a few outings on the wing in pre-season, and Andy Kellett also finished on a high back in May.

Mark Davies, when fit, is tailor-made for the number 10 spot, although Darren Pratley and Liam Trotter offer a more physical presence.

Neil Danns and Liam Feeney have impressed in recent games but Freedman also has Chung-Yong Lee to come back into the equation, the Korean being able to play in any of the three attacking positions.


This is where the real mystery begins. Last season’s top scorer Jermaine Beckford is yet to completely win over the Wanderers fans but with Freedman in the market for two new strikers, his position as first-choice front man is surely under threat.

Losing out in the race to sign Lukas Jutkiewicz was a big blow for Freedman’s preferred tactical system and Craig Davies is yet to show that he can fill the now-Burnley striker’s boots.

Youngsters like Conor Wilkinson and Zach Clough have injected a bit of life into stale friendlies at Rochdale and Macclesfield, but is it too early to throw them into the Championship mix?