MY preparations for the first press day at Wanderers went as follows…

The morning and early afternoon was spent churning out copy to fill pages, the latter half of the day securing exactly what we can expect the following morning as Ian Evatt’s squad have their first full day of training ahead of the League One campaign.

Of course, we had to wait for the press team to arrive: Pete Oliver, Luke Gallagher and Marcus Harrison having jumped aboard a flight decidedly less eventful than my own the day before.

And once they were in situ, it was decided that we would tackle things head on from the following morning (Tuesday).

As you read this column I am making the short journey towards the Portuguese town of Lagos, thanking the gods of Newsquest travel that I did not end up texting Jay Jay Okocha to sleep on his couch.

This much I know already: Evatt’s squad are fit and available for training, Dion Charles and Amadou Bakayoko are in the group despite their international duties, while James Trafford has been given the week off – presumably at Manchester City’s behest.

Conor Bradley is almost certain to be a Bolton Wanderers player, albeit on loan. I have spoken to people on both sides of the equation and things are looking good. I am also waiting for a scout report from an old mate who has watched Bradley in action this last few years. Watch this space, as a former Burnden Park man once said.

It looks likely that he will link up with the squad after they fly back to England as the deal, for whatever reason, has been delayed. But such is life.

In the meantime, it has been a case of getting to know the area, and the steady acceptance that no matter where you go in the world, Wanderers are everywhere.

It always amazes me just how far the fanbase spreads, and to what lengths people go in order to get a glimpse of their heroes. Once again, here in Portugal, I have exchanged messages with a few local-based supporters who have deduce where the team are staying and are eager to have a look.

And sometimes, without warning, something hits you randomly between the eyes.

Sitting with a dear friend of mine, one who had been holidaying in the Algarve way before I decided to show, I had to double-take as a familiar face walked past the bar we were in.

The Bolton News:

Tony ‘Zico’ Kelly is one of the good guys. Those who have read my thoughts about the work he did for the club will know I was a little disappointed with the way his exit was handled at Wanderers but I’m happy to report he is well and enjoying a break in his favourite part of the world.

I can also reveal that an excursion to a local pub quiz ended with a relatively decent result, four points off the eventual winners.

‘Quiz-tiano Ronaldo’ were never going to win the bottle of wine on offer, being that our squad consisted of two people, one of whom thought a triceratops had five horns.

But I’ll also accept my part in the defeat, incorrectly calling that one of the faces in the picture round was Meryl Streep, and not Glenn Close.

Before I head up to the training camp, as promised, I’ll drop another pre-season tale in from years gone by. This one come from a time when relationships between myself and the club was a little more strained.


Going for gold


IT was 2012. The Olympics was everywhere.

While Danny Boyle put the finishing touches to the opening ceremony and The Queen brushed up on her skydiving, I was up in Scotland with Wanderers, and firmly in the doghouse.

It is remarkable how often a journalist – and particularly a local one – will be chastised for being ‘negative’ at a football club when results just happen to be going poorly.

It has never happened to me in the middle of a winning run. Strange, huh?

Wanderers had been relegated from the Premier League after 11 years, had made staff redundant, released players like Bibi Gardner and Jussi Jaaskelainen for nothing, and so of course the tone of the town’s paper reflected a rather disappointed mood among its readers.

This didn’t sit well with Bolton’s late chairman, Phil Gartside, who informed me via an apologetic club’s head of communications, Mark Alderton, that we would not be welcome at the team’s training base that summer and also unable to speak with staff or players unless it was a mandatory post-match interview.

Did it stop us going up to Scotland? Did it ‘eck.

I tracked up to Ayr, then to Hamilton and finally Falkirk, all the time basing myself in Glasgow, where it just so happened, I had company.

Over the course of the week, Huddersfield Town then Everton stayed at my hotel. And they were surprisingly obliging.

Necessity being the mother of invention, I managed to blag a few interviews, including one with Danny Ward – who had left Bolton only a few years earlier.

Wanderers didn’t win a game in Scotland. Just saying.