BOLTON, ENGLAND - MARCH 05: Paul Robinson of Bolton Wanderers is challenged by Stewart Downing of Aston Villa during the Barclays Premier League match between Bolton Wanderers and Aston Villa at the Reebok Stadium on March 5, 2011 in Bolton, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Mark Yesilevskiy of SB Nation's Bolton Wanderers blog Lion of Vienna Suite was kind enough to answer some of questions I had for him ahead of tomorrow's huge clash with Aston Villa at Villa Park. Mark and Matilda do a tremendous job covering Bolton at their site and have kept it up through what's almost certainly been an incredibly difficult season, so be sure to read it often.
Last season Bolton spent a good chunk of time nipping at the heels of the European places and generally being a whole lot of fun. This season hasn't been so kind. In a nutshell, what's been the major difference? Has this season's difficulty come as a surprise, or was it something you could foresee?
Honestly, the biggest underlying factor is injuries and an injury to Stuart Holden in particular. Holden controlled almost the entire midfield for Bolton in both the attacking and defending halves of the field. He'd put in a good tackle, win the ball, hold onto it, and pass it into the box. It's a big reason why Johan Elmander scored so many goals last year and why he (and the rest of the team) dried up after Holden's injury. Add Chung-Yung Lee's injury to it and you're missing two of your strongest attacking forces. We kind of saw it coming once the injuries happened but before thatt, we thought it might be a good year for Bolton Wanderers.
One of the major concerns about Aston Villa being relegated is related to the club's financial standing; this is a team that's never been relegated from the Premier League and has in the past spent money as though they never will be, and though Randy Lerner has instituted some austerity measures there a sense that the club's fiscal situation isn't on the best footing. Is Bolton built in a similar way, or do you think they're better prepared financially to deal with a spell in the Championship?
Bolton are in debt. A lot of debt. Somewhere in the neighborhood of £90 million. Luckily we don't owe that money to the banks. A drop to the Championship would be devastating but Bolton have never really been a club to spend money like it's going out of style. Johan Elmander was the club's record signing in 2008 for a grand total of £8.2 million; not exactly in the stratosphere with that kind of spending.
Typically when a team has such a drop in performance as Bolton has been forced to deal with this season, the manager comes under fire. At least from my outside perspective, that doesn't seem to be the case here as Owen Coyle still appears to be widely backed by both the fans and his bosses. Is that perception accurate? How do you feel about Coyle?
Personally, I trust in Owen Coyle. Thanks to him, we have a young team with quality that will be around for years to come. His signings are mostly good with a few misses here and there. Around Christmas, there were definitely those in the media calling for Coyle to be fired with the betting high for him to be the next manager sacked. A lot of Bolton fans called for his head. We're behind him all the way.
Assuming Bolton can survive this season (and I for one think that they will) how is the future looking, both near and far term? Do you think they're primed for a bounce-back season in 2012-13? Any exciting young players coming through the ranks we ought to keep an eye on?
The future looks good for Bolton Wanderers. We don't anticipate a lot of money to spend in future transfer windows so we'll have to depend on the players that we already have. Bolton, like Villa, are an extremely young team though with a large number of players under 27 years old. After this season, we'll hopefully get rid of some dead-weight players like Zat Knight and Paul Robinson to name two. Keep an eye on Marvin Sordell who was signed in January for about £3 million. He is a capable forward who hasn't been given a Premier League chance yet but at 21 years old, he has lots of time. Joe Riley has made a few starts for Bolton at right back and he's also only 20 years old. Finally, 18-year-old midfielder Josh Vela who was handed his Premier League debut against Swansea, coming on as a stoppage time substitute.
Bolton and Villa have met twice this season, once in the Carling Cup at Villa Park with Bolton winning 2-0 and once at the Reebok that ended in 2-1 Villa win. What do you see happening in this one, and how important is this result to Bolton's Premier League standing?
This result is absolutely crucial to Bolton's survival as we have a few tough games coming up against Spurs, Sunderland, and Stoke. I'm hoping that Bolton take the full three points here because anything less would likely mean failure to stay up. I'll go 3-1 because we have only scored one goal in the last three games and the boys really need to find their shooting boots.