JAMES Trafford once said he wanted to be number one for both Manchester City and England and seems a young man with all the confidence and ambition you would want in a goalkeeper.

Cast from a perfect modern keeper’s mould, and already tipped as one of the country’s top young stoppers, he seems to have everything going for him.

Why then, as the 19-year-old prepares to see the season out as a Bolton Wanderers player, has there been such a muted response from supporters who had been looking for something different?

It is a fair number of years since someone had a firm grasp of the goalkeeper’s spot at Bolton.

Post-Premier League and Jussi Jaaskelainen, perhaps only Ben Alnwick ever simultaneously got the backing of both manager and fanbase at the same time.

Some – Andy Lonergan, Remi Matthews, Mark Howard, Adam Bogdan, Ben Amos – had their moment. Last season, veteran Matt Gilks got unanimous approval as he ousted Billy Crellin to trigger a transformation for Ian Evatt’s side in the season half of the season. A few months on, a poor performance on the opening day against MK Dons saw him tossed unceremoniously out of favour.

The current incumbent, Joel Dixon, went about his business with minimum fuss until recently. A less demonstrative character than Gilks, he has been leaned upon heavily in Evatt’s mission to play football from the back.

No keeper in the whole division has played more passes than Dixon (918), rendering his 64 saves somewhat of an afterthought.

Certainly, when his recent error in possession led to a late winner for Hartlepool, depriving Bolton of their only realistic chance of silverware this season in the Papa John’s Trophy, there were few fans pointing out his late save to deny Cian Hayes in the previous round had helped to get them that far.

The life of a goalkeeper can truly be a lonely one indeed.

Dixon came in for more criticism in Tuesday night’s 2-0 defeat against Wycombe, as some felt he could have done more to stop Brandon Hanlan’s opener, and that his kicking had put the team under pressure before Jack Grimmer’s superb second.

Again, mention of his save to deny Hanlan one-on-one in the first half was thin on the ground.

The flak received by Dixon is symptomatic of a frustrated support who have seen their side slip down the league after a promising start. But more pressure was placed on his shoulders when Evatt opted to rejig the goalkeeping department, announcing he would be looking to sign a rival this month as Matt Gilks stepped back into a coaching role.

Highly rated youngster Luke Hutchinson was brought back from Atherton Colls to plug the gap in the short-term. But then the guessing game began.

Evidently, many Bolton fans felt a more experienced rival was needed than Trafford, who had spent the first half of this season on loan at Accrington Stanley, making 11 appearances.

One of the factors shaping the mood was Crellin’s disastrous spell on loan from Fleetwood last season.

Another keeper with international pedigree at youth level, reportedly chased by Premier League sides at the time, Crellin looked a reasonable acquisition in the summer of 2020 but quickly looked ill-at-ease with the way Evatt wanted to play.

There were errors. There were controversial comments. And by November, Bolton had to drag Gilks out of semi-retirement to drag them out of the mire. Without question, there is concern that the same thing could happen again with a player who has fewer than a dozen professional league games on his CV.

But that supposes that Bolton have learned nothing from the Crellin debacle.

There are various conflicting accounts over who exactly recommended the Fleetwood youngster at the time – Evatt was in charge, Gilks had played alongside him the previous season, Tobias Phoenix was in charge, to use his own phrase, of ‘all things football.’ This time around the process is clear. Evatt and technical performance director, Chris Markham, have drawn up the list of January targets. The risk on recruiting a relatively unproven option is entirely theirs.

Markham will have done his homework. His background in the England youth system will mean Trafford is no hit-and-hope arrival. Likewise, Evatt, scarred by the Crellin loan in his first campaign, will have left nothing he could control to chance.

The question to be asked now is: What happens to Dixon now he has a hand-picked rival in the squad?

Does the former Barrow man accept the challenge and raise his game, or will Bolton fans get a first-hand glimpse of City loanee Trafford sooner than they might have expected?

Whatever the backstory, it seems only right that whoever lines up in goal against Ipswich gets the fans’ full support as they try to change Bolton’s luck for the better.