After a far more successful warm weather training camp than the one Pardew organised last year, Darren Moore’s squad has returned from Dubai to travel to the University of Bolton Stadium to take on struggling Bolton Wanderers on Monday evening.
After winning three of their first four league games, including a 2-1 opening day win at the Hawthorns, Phil Parkinson’s side have won just twice in the Championship since and sit second bottom three points from safety.
It has been a torrid few years for the Trotters since they were the subject of a winding up petition by HMRC in 2015 and were then relegated to the third tier. The subsequent takeover by Dean Holdsworth’s Sports Shield Group was not the panacea that the club’s followers hoped. While the appointment of Phil Parkinson was undoubtedly a success as he led the club to promotion at the first time of asking, there were continued off field disputes between Holdsworth and his business partner, Ken Anderson.
Anderson bought Holdsworth out of the club in March 2017 but, following promotion, the club remained under a transfer embargo. That was ultimately lifted in September 2017 and Parkinson managed to guide the Trotters to survival with a last day win over Nottingham Forest.
After their promising start to this season, Bolton were once again under threat of administration and a resultant points deduction, but former club president, Edwin Davies, came to the rescue with a £5m loan to Anderson just days before he died. However, the club’s financial state remains precarious and supporters have become increasingly frustrated with Anderson’s chairmanship. This has culminated in a planned walkout in the 58th minute of Monday’s televised game in protest. The significance of the minute being a reference to their last major trophy win, the FA Cup in 1958.
With such off-field distractions, it is hardly surprising that the Trotters’ form has suffered with their 2-1 win over Rotherham United on Boxing Day their only victory in the last 17 league games. They have picked up just seven points in that time with a new low coming at the KC Stadium on New Year’s Day as they were hammered 6-0, although they did manage to come from behind to beat Walsall in the FA Cup.
Darren Moore’s team will be hoping that Bolton’s poor form continues as they look to recover from a slight blip that has seen them fail to win any of their last three league games. The performance against Norwich last weekend warranted the three points, but the Canaries executed one of their famous late comebacks and the Baggies had to be content with a point. Given Wanderers’ current plight, anything less than three points for Albion on Monday evening would be disappointing.
Darren Moore had hoped to have a fully fit squad available for him last weekend, but late injuries to Scottish international duo James Morrison and, more importantly, Matt Phillips scuppered those hopes. As a result, Phillips didn’t travel to Dubai and may not be fit for the trip to Lancashire.
Holgate’s presence on the right flank helped to alleviate Phillips’ absence against Norwich, with Rekeem Harper offering some dynamism in the middle three alongside Barry and Brunt. If Phillips doesn’t make it, I’d expect to see the same three in the middle once again given that Livermore will be serving the third of his four match suspension.
In fact, I would not be surprised to see the same starting eleven as last week, although there is the chance Moore and Jones will have used the trip to Dubai to introduce some tweaks to Albion’s approach resulting in one or two changes. I’m sure the likes of Jon Leko and Kyle Edwards will hope to have impressed the coaching staff as they hope to be considered as a replacement for the departed Harvey Barnes.
Getting the right balance in the middle of the park remains a challenge, and with Livermore and, potentially, Phillips unavailable, the squad leaves a stark choice between veterans and youngsters for those middle three positions. Harper has certainly staked a claim in the past two games but both Barry and Brunt have also impressed in recent weeks, but there are concerns amongst Baggies fans, at least, as to whether any of those three can last ninety minutes at full intensity.
While a televised match is nothing unusual for the Baggies this season (this will be the 11th not counting the midweek red button screenings), it is only the second time that they will have played on a Monday evening this campaign. Monday fixtures have not been all that successful for Albion over the years and, while they beat Hull City 3-1 on 2nd January 2017 in an afternoon kick off, their last victory on a Monday evening was against Burnley in November 2016. Away from home, the Baggies haven’t won on a Monday since Steve Clarke’s side completed the league double over Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool at Anfield in February 2013.
Having said a couple of weeks ago in my preview to the Blackburn game that meetings with fellow founder members of the Football League were special occasions, Albion face another in their very next away game in the shape of Bolton Wanderers.
The history of the club goes back to 1874 with the formation of Christ Church FC with the name of Bolton Wanderers adopted three years later. Albion first met the Trotters at Stoney Lane in that first league season in November 1888, with the return fixture at Bolton’s Pikes Lane ground less than a fortnight later.
Both of those league fixtures were won by the visiting side with Bolton winning 5-1 in West Bromwich and the Baggies triumphing by the not so impressive scoreline of 2-1 in Lancashire with Tom Pearson and Billy Hendry scoring Albion’s goals.
That was a low scoring game in comparison with the other early meetings between the sides as they shared 39 goals in the first six meetings between the sides. Two of those were Bolton’s biggest ever wins over the Baggies, 7-0 in 1889 and 7-1 the following season, while Albion’s biggest win at Bolton was a few years later in 1894 when an Archie Bastock brace and another goal from “Jasper” Geddes gave them a 3-0 victory.
Bolton didn’t move to Burnden Park until 1895 and their biggest win over Albion at their most famous ground came in 1956 when the great Nat Lofthouse scored twice, with Dennis Stevens also grabbing a brace in a 4-0 win. That was in response to the Baggies’ best win on that ground which came the year before – a Ronnie Allen double plus goals from George Lee and Wilf Carter saw Vic Buckingham’s side register at 4-2 victory.
The Trotters move to the then-named Reebok Stadium in 1997 and, on Albion’s first visit in 1999, a familiar name was on the scoresheet for the hosts. I had been at Burnden Park for the Baggies’ last win on that ground in 1992 when Bob Taylor scored both goals in a 2-0 win. Taylor had moved to Bolton for a taste of Premier League football in January 1998, but it proved to be a brief stay and he was back in Division One facing his beloved Baggies the following February. He scored an equaliser just before half time to cancel out Fabien de Freitas’s opener and Neil Cox scored a winner for the hosts after the break.
Taylor was back at the Hawthorns a year later and came on as a sub for Lee Hughes in December 2000 when a goal from Jason Roberts was enough for the Baggies to register their only victory to date at Wanderers’ current stadium. Six months later, Albion were back in Bolton for the second leg of the Play-Off Semi-Final – Megson’s team had been 2-0 up in the first leg at the Hawthorns but let it slip late on and it was all square as they travelled to Lancashire for the return game. It was no contest on the night as Sam Allardyce’s Trotters ran out 3-0 winners.
Wanderers were promoted in the play-off final and a season later, Albion joined them in the Premier League. There has never much between the sides in the Premier League with eight of the twelve meetings drawn and each club registering two home wins.
At the time of writing (Saturday morning), Albion need a win to move back to within three points of Norwich with the Canaries having beaten Birmingham City on Friday evening, and Darren Moore’s men should have too much for the Trotters. Baggies to win.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
4 Aug 2018 – League Championship
West Brom 1 (Barnes)
Bolton Wanderers 2 (Magennis, Wildschut)
Last meeting at Bolton Wanderers
6 May 2012 – Premier League
Bolton Wanderers 2 (Petrov (pen), Jones (o.g.))
West Brom 2 (Brunt, Morrison)
19 Nov 2011 – Premier League
West Brom 2 (Thomas, Long)
Bolton Wanderers 1 (Klasnic)
Last win at Bolton Wanderers
30 Dec 2000 – League Division 1
Bolton Wanderers 0
West Brom 1 (Roberts)
Albion’s Record against Bolton Wanderers