We caught up with Chris Mann, a Bolton Wanderers season ticket holder and webmaster of Burnden Aces to ask his thoughts ahead of the seasons opener…
Q: A lot of talk, at least from our side, has been about the ticket prices Bolton Wanderers are charging for the game. With last season being a disappointing one and the struggles Bolton have been enduring, what are the thoughts of supporters on the pricing?
A: As a season ticket holder, for what is now a 16th year, I’ve never been one to take much notice of prices for individual matches, but have jumped on the bandwagon when it comes to complaining about the cost of away games.
Bolton have really surprised me this summer though, announcing prices that will ultimately lead to some extremely disappointing attendances throughout the season.
After the struggles, both on and off the field, of recent times, this was an opportunity to make a fresh start under our new ownership. Unfortunately, there is somebody within the club who thinks we’re still a Premier League outfit and approved the ridiculous prices.
We may get lucky on the odd occasion, such as Sheffield United selling more than 4,000 tickets, but the majority of visiting clubs will struggle to hit 1,000.
We’re led to believe season ticket sales have matched those of recent years, but match day sales will certainly drop and it won’t be too long before we’re playing in front of a gate under 10,000. Bolton desperately need to improve attendances and if the football on show isn’t up to scratch, which it hasn’t for a good five years, then reducing prices to more affordable levels HAS to happen.
Q: League One – What are your expectations? Are you expecting to bounce straight back?
A: It’s really difficult to gauge just how Wanderers will do this season. Sure, we may be one of the bigger names in the division, but that counts for nothing – yourselves being a prime example of that.
There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be aiming for the top, but the mentality and desire of the players is the big question mark hovering over the club. We won just five league games last season, which tells you everything you need to know. Bolton are also winless on the road since April 2015. Going off those two stats alone, it’s clear to see we have major problems.
In Mark Davies, Darren Pratley and David Wheater, we have players who were signed for the Premier League. All three should arguably still be there, but Davies has failed to live up to the hype of his early career and was often a passenger in the Championship, Pratley, our captain, just seems to have hit rock bottom in terms of confidence, while injuries have wrecked Wheater’s career. He was released in the summer, but has since returned on a vastly reduced wage.
Some will say we should be challenging for the title, but, in all honesty, I just want to see us win some games again. I don’t see it happening, but we need to avoid following Blackpool into League Two. We need to stop the rot and if it takes a year of solidifying and a mid-table finish, I’ll take that. Should that happen, we need to go up next season. No excuses.
Q: Both clubs have new managers, what are your thoughts on your appointment and what was your opinion on the previous speculation linking Chris Wilder with Bolton Wanderers?
A: Phil Parkinson was a solid appointment, albeit fairly unspectacular. His arrival was met with a mixed response, but we’re a League One side now and have to accept it.
Parkinson has worked at this level for the majority of his career and did an outstanding job at Bradford City over a number of years. The only reason he became available is because of new ownership at Valley Parade, so he comes in at perhaps the best stage of his career.
He’s a local bloke, from down the road in Chorley, so will be familiar with his surroundings. The one major issue comes from above though, and that is the backing from the board. Neil Lennon never stood a chance under the previous ownership, so here’s hoping a new regime will bring an upturn in results.
As for Wilder, I’ll admit I had to Google him when he was first linked. Coming off the back of the season just gone at Northampton Town, he’s proved his worth and is fully deserving of the opportunity. He’s got a move to a much bigger club and hopefully it’s one he’ll grab with both hands.
Q: Who should we look out for on Saturday and who is likely to be your star performer?
A: Referring to an earlier question, you should be looking out for Mark Davies. As stated previously, he should be a Premier League player. He should have owned the Championship but never did. Hopefully that won’t prove to be the case in League One, also.
Zach Clough would be the usual answer but he’s a major doubt after injuring his hamstring in pre-season. There are a few options to replace him, with Kaiyne Woolery perhaps an unknown to opposition supporters, but Bolton fans are looking forward to the return of Max Clayton, who just can’t seem to get his career going after a succession of serious injuries.
One man who is likely to be unpopular amongst both sets of fans, Gary Madine, could also feature.
Q: What is your prediction for Saturday?