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Viewpoint: Bolton Wanderers 30/07/22
Written by scants_itfc_88 on Monday, 1st Aug 2022 20:04

So another season of high hopes and expectations has begun. We always say ‘something’ feels different as we go into a new season.

We did under Paul Lambert – the place felt fresh and new and there was a huge surge of optimism. We did under Paul Cook, with some quality additions for a club of current League One stature. We have again this year. However, this time you get the sense that it is actually different.

We will come to the game in a minute, but first let’s look at why that sense of feeling really is there. Starting with the gaffer. Kieran McKenna offers a completely fresh outlook on how football should be played at this level, something that we haven't seen at this club for a very long time.

Only MK Dons probably strive to play a similar game to us. The other top teams in the division, whilst offering quality of their own, won’t initiate the same dominance in games that you will see from the town this season.

It's not just style though. McKenna is mature in front of the press. He talks sense and you can see that this reflects on to the players. He doesn’t outright blame them for errors, as we have seen in recent years, nor does he offer them unnecessary praise when the performance isn’t there.

I haven’t yet disagreed with a post-match interview (apart from the penalty on Saturday, which I will talk about shortly). He analyses the game in the same way as the fans and often the improvements he suggests are apparent in the next game. Even when they’re not executed well you can see that it is something that has been worked on in the week.

The squad itself is frankly ridiculous for a League One club. Yes, we are not the only ones who possess this quality (I’m talking about Sheffield Wednesday and Derby), but it is still all new. Almost all of them have joined the club in the last two seasons. That shows huge ambition from the club and is something the fans have so desperately been calling for.

We can’t, however, talk about ‘gelling’ this year. The gel has settled for some time now, and it is time to show that the ability we have isn’t just on paper.

I will talk more about individual players and performances from game to game, but it would be rude for me not to talk specifically about the qualities Sam Morsy brings as captain. Not only is he one of the best players in the division in terms of physical attributes, but his passion and drive is apparent in everything he does.

He wants this club to be promoted. Not only him but many of the players are staking their careers on it to a point. We have plenty of players with Championship calibre and if they don’t get there with Ipswich, they may not be picked up at all, so it means something to them.

The problem we have had in the past is that whilst we had some solid Championship players in previous seasons in the Championship, there weren’t any (other than a few loanees) that were capable of playing Premier League football and so they were more than comfortable in the division they were in.

We have seen the likes of Morsy, Conor Chaplin, Dominic Ball, Leif Davis and Christian Walton choose to play at this level, when they are more than capable of shining in at least one division above. It is time for them to make that happen.

How do we feel about the game itself? I’m not going to spend much time talking about the one thing everyone is worried about, that we are not clinical enough. I think it was an evident issue in this game, especially in the second half.

But it is the first game of the season, nobody is in fifth gear yet and I think time will tell as to whether it is going to be a devastating problem again this year. Fans are fickle and it easy to jump on it as being an issue straight away as I have read in some comments, but there 45 games left to go, and we remain unbeaten so far this season!

I do think we are out of contention for a golden boot winner. Ladapo is a very good signing, there is no doubt, but he won’t get us more than 12 or 13 goals, in my opinion. However, that is not a problem if we spread the goals around. Chaplin, Kayden Jackson, Wes Burns, Marcus Harness, Morsy and possibly Tyreece John-Jules are all capable of hitting 10 or more goals. I am sure we will see Lee Evans, Greg Leigh and Sone Aluko chip in with a few as well.

Where we are very strong, and potentially the strongest in the division, is in defence. I just don’t see us conceding many goals. We may not see the exciting 4-0s or 2-2s we got accustomed to at certain points last season, but if we don’t concede then we only need one goal for the three points.

And that is OK if the football remains as exciting as the second half was throughout the season. It only becomes a problem if it is Mick McCarthy or Jose Mourinho style 1-0s but that is surely not going to happen under McKenna.

McKenna has set the spine of our team superbly well. George Edmundson, Luke Woolfenden and Janoi Donacien are a rock at the back. We will see some errors and some risks taken with the way we pass it out from the back, but for every one error they make we will see nine or ten excellent tackles or vital blocks.

Walton is, for me, the best goalkeeper outside of the Premier League and we are fortunate enough to have him. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that clean sheet run exceed the record of last season. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Town as conceding the fewest goals this season, although I would be very shocked if we scored the most.

Bolton are a top team in this division. I have seen some people saying they are mid-table at best and we should have won, but their form in the second half of last season was exceptional. They were second based on the second half table with only Wigan ending on better form over the last 23 games.

There is no doubt about it that they should be in contention for play-offs if not automatic this year (yes, there are several teams in this position). So all in all a draw is a good result, is it not?

Well, the one thing we have not done consistently is pick up points against top teams and that is what has cost us over a season. We will win most games against bottom-half teams, but we have to start turning draws and losses against the top teams into wins.

Being at home, we really should have picked up three points on Saturday and our second-half performance showed we were another level above a team who will likely be up there at the end of the season. We have to turn those performances into wins.

It was a slow start to the game. Bolton set up well and stopped us playing our game. It is very frustrating when it takes a goal to kick your team into gear but that is exactly what happened.

However, when we found our rhythm, we were very good. If we can play like that every week then 90 per cent of the teams in the division won’t be able to live with us. Bolton, who scored 74 goals last season, were limited to one shot on target and that was a penalty.

I mentioned it above, but McKenna called it soft, but it wasn’t. It was clumsy and the ref was correct to award the penalty. You will not see me agreeing with many League One refereeing decisions over the course of a season!

I think he was just taking the edge off criticism for his new player, who did not have a great debut. However, I would argue he shouldn’t have started the game. He has had very little time with the team and it showed.

Leigh has been excellent in pre-season (I must admit when we signed him, I did wonder why we were looking to Morecambe for a defender) and deserved his place in the team. We were droves better down the left in the second half once he came on. To be fair to Davis though, he looks a quality signing at this level and I am sure with a couple of weeks settling in, he will be a great player for town.

Freddie Ladapo looked lively and isn’t afraid to have a shot, which is something we haven’t always seen in the past. Morsy was excellent once he got going, which took about 20 minutes, and John-Jules looked exciting when he came on.

Everybody else had a good first game without being exceptional. Nothing unusual for an opening game of the season.

One way to look at this game was two points dropped and missed chances, the other is a good point on the board (let’s not forget they beat us 7-2 over two games last year) that we can build from.

The Highs

There were two huge positives in for me from this opening game. Firstly, hats off to the fans. I wasn’t at the game, I don’t get to attend many so will be sharing my views from the angle of listening to the games (and attending some) but the atmosphere was electric. To have a bigger opening crowd than any championship game shows what an exceptional level of support this club has.

Secondly, we scored from a corner. Clearly worked from the training ground it was a quality and intelligent piece of play from Chaplin and Evans. The pass was on point and the finish was calm and well-executed. It would have been just as easy to blast that into row Z. Let’s hope that is the first of many set-piece goals this season. Another example of McKenna correcting on the training ground, the things he can spot. Never will he not find a way to improve in my opinion.

The lows

Yes, there is the Morsy miss, which should have sealed the game at the end, but the lower point for me as a listener had to be iFollow. I don’t want to criticise the new commentary team too much, but it was slow and there were lots of gaps of silence. It wasn’t the easiest to visualise what was going on. The crowd noise was great, but the commentary was not loud enough and it made it hard to know what was happening at certain points in the game. I know not everybody is a fan, but I will miss Brenner Woolley this season. Maybe it is something that just needs a bit of getting used to.

The technology itself was also a let-down – this would have been outside of anyone at Ipswich Town’s control, but it cut out at several points in the game.

In summary

A season entered with much optimism, still has a lot left in it. It was a good start, without being a great one. A point on the board and a very solid second half performance to build on. Play like that next Saturday and I can’t see Forest Green having a chance at all.

Uppa Town

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BlueHope22 added 23:45 - Aug 1
Very good enjoyable read look forward to reading more over the season.

slade1 added 10:50 - Aug 2
I cant disagree with anything you say there scants. A good read

suttonexile added 12:59 - Aug 2
Excellent article. Would just like to echo the criticisms of the EFL radio commentary. It is very unsatisfactory and does not reflect well on all the other great improvements being made at the club. Can anyone explain why at the end of last season the highly professional coverage provided by Radio Suffolk was abandoned? Presumably it is a cheaper option for the providers of the EFL app. to supply their own lower quality commentators. Also did I once read that the football club itself intends to take over all the EFL coverage? If so can I suggest that one way or another they engage Brenner and Mick for their outstanding commentary. This is an important matter to those of us who are lifelong fans but who are not local and can’t get to many matches. COYB

scants_itfc_88 added 14:01 - Aug 2
Well said suttonexile. I am hoping it was just because it was the first game and it will improve but certainly wasnt up to standard

mathiemagic added 14:41 - Aug 2
Good article Scants. Ditto about the audio commentary on Ifollow but its been lousy for years now. Always seems perfect if you click on the other teams commentary for some reason? - Have no idea who the new ITFC Commentator is and sort of got the impression it was Carlos Edwards as his wing man but bring back Brenner and Mills. I know Micky isn't the most charismatic of commentators but by heck he knows his football and always thought he would be a fantastic assistant to the new management team. 1-1 against Bolton is not a bad result but Morsey should really have won it at the end but we move on. I am just concerned about the lack of finishing again. Only game one though so onwards and upwards hopefully. Nice feeling to see us score from a corner though !! - Uppa Town

ElephantintheRoom added 17:56 - Aug 2
Hmm - this is the third division and Town have contrived to get nowhere near a play-off challenge three years in a row which is pathetic really, given the advantages they have frittered away.

One thing you seem to forget is that McKenna was here last season - as was Ashton. The suicidal way the club dismembered a team on the edge of the play offs before Cook demoralised it was entirely down to Ashton’s misguided arrogance.

You’d do well to remember McKenna essentially made no improvement to Town’s mid-table stature - if anything he made them slightly worse by neutering the attack as two very ordinary clubs scampered to promotion and a very poor Sunderland team scooped the play-off lottery.

I’d also argue that the one area Town really have to improve - and really cannot fail to improve is against the promoted clubs. This year’s crop are perhaps a weaker bunch - so maybe Town might even beat one or two of them.

Finally and perhaps most importantly McKenna seems to have worked out there are two sides to a football pitch - and he seems willing to try using the left hand side of the pitch. Indeed the somewhat expensive and inexperienced Davis is something of a major gamble that shows how McKenna thinks this season can be different

You seem to appreciate that half a dozen new players is a bit of a problem in that the team will be somewhat chaotic for a few games as they find their feet - or get discarded.

And one point against Bolton cannot be seen as a point dropped when Town couldn’t compete with Bolton last season. It’s progress of sorts.
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