WELCOME to pre-season, a footballing Twilight Zone where results are realistically as important as the brand of mop used to clean the dressing room and players compete to see how many minutes they can cram under their belt like the final game in the Crystal Maze.

Ah, the friendly. A time of trialists and wholesale substitutions, drinks breaks and die-hard fans basking in the sun.

Not a point will be on offer, nor will a score-line be remembered once the real action gets underway in August and yet many supporters cannot get enough of these tempting entrees in the summer months.

Wanderers have seven games between this weekend and the first whistle of the Championship season at West Brom, totalling 1,058 miles of travel using Bolton Town centre as a starting point.

That total would have been more had plans to play a game in Denmark not unravelled back in May. Instead, the club organised a training camp in Scotland to coincide with a friendly against Alan Stubbs’ St Mirren, to take place this Saturday.

Fans’ appetite for the friendlies may not be as ferocious this year with England progressing to the knockout stages. At time of writing they could kick-off a quarter-final against Sweden or Switzerland minutes after Phil Parkinson’s team attempt to blow away the cobwebs at Love Street.

Nothing says pre-season like a good non-league club hosting a professional outfit, particularly if they are nice and local. Atherton Colls have hosted some cracking friendlies – and will have been relieved when Gareth Southgate rang the changes against Belgium, ensuring any potential England semi-final does not clash with the match at the Kensite Stadium on July 10 (kick-off 7.45pm). Not that we expect the Three Lions to get that far, you understand.

On July 14 will be a trip to The Shay, something Wanderers have not contemplated since a team containing Gareth Farrelly, Nicky Hunt, Jonathan Walters and Ndiwa Lord-Kangana were sent packing with a 2-1 defeat in 2003 before a summer tour of Malta, where they would first make acquaintance with an out-of-contract striker by the name of Kevin Davies.

Morecambe are next up on July 17, though sadly the chef responsible for their award-winning pies has now moved on the pastures new. That will not prevent me from sampling the new ones, however, purely in the name of comparative research.

Next up on July 21 is Girona, though sadly the match will not take place in the medieval town in Catalonia, Spain, but rather up the road from the British Commercial Vehicle Museum in Leyland.

The reason, of course, is that The Killers and Little Mix have taken up residency of the Macron Stadium this summer, rendering the annual home match against a mildy-famous foreign team impossible.

Leyland can hold 2,300 supporters according to Wikipedia, and with some decent players on the Girona books – including ex-Stoke City defender Marc Muniesa and Uruguay’s World Cup striker Cristian Stuani – it might find such limits tested.

Guiseley host Wanderers on July 24, two days before they welcome Leeds United to Nethermoor. Quite whether squad rotation is a luxury available to management team Russ O’Neil and Marcus Bignot, we will wait and see, but one player Bolton won’t have to face is John Rooney, Wayne’s brother, as he has just signed for Barrow.

Travelling fans heading for that part of Yorkshire on a Tuesday night deserve a special treat, and may want to sample the famous Wetherby Whaler chip shop, situated a short walk from the ground.

By the time Wanderers head to Peterborough United on July 28, Parkinson will hope to have avoided injuries and have plenty of precious minutes in his players’ legs.

There is little predictable about English weather – but we can probably expect better than greeted Dougie Freedman’s team in 2012, when a 5-4 battle was fought out on a pitch more suited to water polo.

As the saying goes, if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Pre-season friendlies are seldom glamorous but they are still a very necessary evil.

... And, yes, I know St Mirren now play at the Paisley 2021 Stadium. 


St Mirren v Bolton Wanderers - Saturday, July 7 (kick-off 12.30pm)

Atherton Collieries v Bolton Wanderers - Tuesday, July 10 (kick-off 7.45pm)

Halifax Town v Bolton Wanderers - Saturday, July 14 (kick-off 3pm)

Morecambe v Bolton Wanderers - Tuesday, July 17, (kick-off 7.45pm)

Bolton Wanderers v Girona (Lancashire FA) – Saturday, July 21, (kick-off 3pm)

Guiseley AFC v Bolton Wanderers - Tuesday, July 24, (kick-off 7.45pm)

Peterborough United v Bolton Wanderers - Saturday, July 28 (kick-off 3pm)