Planning ahead: Is there no substitute for experience for Bolton Wanderers?

Cameron Jerome had uitgebreide ervaring op Premier League- en Championship-niveau <i>(Image: Camerasport)</i>” bad-src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTY0MA–/ 4195f17f9c3400e8f5″ src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTY0MA–/ 95f17f9c3400e8f5″/><button class=

Cameron Jerome had extensive experience at Premier League and Championship level (Image: Camerasport)

EXPERIENCE won the day in League One last season, but will it be something Wanderers covet in their recruitment search this summer?

Promoted clubs Portsmouth, Derby County and Oxford United followed very different routes to success, but their respective sides all had something in common.

The three clubs all had significant know-how at League One level, with each group having amassed a significant number of third-tier appearances. And in Derby’s case, they also had the division’s oldest starting line-up, averaging 28 years.

But to what extent does experience matter, and is it a matter of age, or the number of matches and the level at which they have been played, which is the crucial factor?

There can be no doubt at Bolton Wanderers that the releases of strikers Cameron Jerome and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson mean the side will continue without two of its most traveled representatives.

At the end of last season, the two accounted for just over 20 percent of the total number of league matches played by the entire team. And if you also include Welsh defender Declan John, who is on loan at Salford City and will also be a free agent, that total rises to 24.4 percent.

Of the remaining players and with 349 league appearances to his name, Kyle Dempsey is currently well ahead of his next most experienced teammates Ricardo Santos (267), Josh Sheehan (250) and Gethin Jones (221).

Taking out Jerome, Bodvarsson and John also removes a whopping 78.8 percent of the 951 appearances at Premier League or Championship level, leaving a squad that has played very little football at a higher level.

Of the remaining players, Dan Nlundulu played thirteen top-flight games for Southampton, in addition to a single ninety minutes played by Joel Coleman at Huddersfield Town.

The Bolton News: Last season's League One top six and the breakdown of league experience within each squad

The Bolton News: Last season’s League One top six and the breakdown of league experience within each squad

The top six from last season’s League One and the composition of the league experience within each team (Image: NQNW)

There are 188 Championship appearances across the squad, the majority of which belong to Victor Adeboyejo (58) from his time at Barnsley.

Nathan Baxter (28), Josh Dacres-Cogley (23), Kyle Dempsey (21), Randell Williams (20), Gethin Jones (17), Carlos Mendes-Gomes (9), Joel Coleman (8) and Will Forrester (4 ) make up the rest.

The relative lack of matches above League One level has, by Wanderers’ own admission, been by design. Sporting director Chris Markham spoke last month about the plan to sign ‘hungry’ players who they believe can take the club further than those who may have already played higher up.

“We have been given a lot of time and stability by the board, who have supported us very well,” he told BBC Five Live.

“That has allowed us to evolve and move the team forward in a measured way every year, without the need for major overhauls. But one of the keys we’ve always looked for is that hunger. We don’t have many players on our team right now who have an experienced championship resume and that’s deliberate in a way because we want people to be hungry and have something to prove.

“We wanted players who wanted to show people that they could play in the Championship, whether that was from lower leagues or because they had had a short spell and dropped out, young players who were loaned out, it’s a real art.”

The Bolton News: Oxford United's side had the most appearances at League One level, with ex-Bolton midfielder James Henry making 324 appearancesThe Bolton News: Oxford United's side had the most appearances at League One level, with ex-Bolton midfielder James Henry making 324 appearances

The Bolton News: Oxford United’s side had the most appearances at League One level, with ex-Bolton midfielder James Henry making 324 appearances

The Oxford United team played the most games at League One level, with ex-Bolton midfielder James Henry accounting for 324 games (Image: NQNW)

Looking at the clubs in the top six of last season’s rankings, the experience ratio in the top two divisions is relatively similar. Aided by a larger playing budget, Derby’s older side also had more Championship experience than their rivals and had also played more football overall. Paul Warne used 28 players who played 6,443 matches.

By comparison, Ian Evatt’s players played 4,201 games, or 53 percent fewer. And the jump is even more evident among the younger sides of Barnsley (2,420) and Peterborough (2,143).

Pompey (4,330) and Oxford (4,426) also had more experienced squads than Bolton overall, but especially at League One level, where the clubs have been active for seven to eight seasons each. One can only hope it doesn’t take that long for Wanderers to find their exit route from this division.

The departures of Jerome and Bodvarsson also leave the squad without a player over the age of 30 – something that hasn’t happened since the crazy summer of 2019, when Phil Parkinson assembled a squad to start the campaign at Wycombe.

As it stands now, Josh Sheehan is the oldest player in next season’s squad at 29 years old.

The average age of Bolton’s line-up last season was 26.3, which placed them seventh in the division. Derby County had the highest average in League One at 28 years, while Peterborough United had the lowest at 22.9 years.

The Wanderers team has remained approximately at the same average age in recent seasons: 25.5 years in 2022/23 and 26.1 years in 2021/22. Evatt’s oldest side were the ones who achieved promotion in his first year in charge and were League Two’s third highest team at the time at 27.4 years.

From Eoin Doyle and Alex Baptiste to Matt Gilks ​​and Cameron Jerome, Evatt has regularly kept an older head in the squad to help younger players through. However, the core of his squad has now become more experienced and at the age of 22, centre-back Will Forrester was the youngest member of the first team last time out.

Indeed, the question of experience could also be applied to the other end of the age scale. Although George Thomason joined the club in his teens and younger players such as Aaron Morley and Eoin Toal have become regulars after being imported from elsewhere, this is the second season in a row that Wanderers have not given a single league appearance to a homegrown product, or to anyone. graduated through the B-Team.

It’s now up to Evatt and his recruiting staff to see which side of the equation the available investments end up on.

Will the Bolton boss look to bring in a 30-something to fill the kind of advisory role that Jerome did in the dressing room, or will he now lean on the likes of Santos, Jones and Dempsey, who now know the lie of the land in League One , and focus on bringing in younger signings who could develop into assets, a la Peterborough and Barnsley?

Finances will come into play and since the play-off final there have been suggestions that Wanderers should consider selling one of their top stars to give Evatt enough space to freshen up his squad.

While the club knew it had to plan for both success and failure on the promotion front, the potential for lasting damage after the play-off final could now mean a different psychology in the dressing room.

As Markham hinted, the club is not prone to complete overhauls or knee-jerk reactions. The approach to recruitment is more planned, structured and thoughtful than it has been for some time.

But will the events of May 18 at Wembley change these best-laid plans? And will the remaining players have the hunger that the sporting director saw in them a few weeks ago?

Or could we see a different approach from Wanderers in the transfer market this summer, and a move towards the tried and tested?

Leave a Comment