One reason to be optimistic about the season ahead:
Steve Wright: The talk has been good this summer with progress suggested on the financial side and the latest crop of young players being discussed as potentially playing a big part in the club’s future.
Nick Miller: You know, this squad isn't half bad. Ben Hamer's a good loan keeper and there can't be many better back-ups than De Vries, we've got a collection of very solid centre-backs providing Dougie plays them there (no more Michael Mancienne in midfield or at left-back please, Douglas), Benny Osborn and Henri Lansbury (if he stays) in midfield, and options out wide. Striker is obviously a concern but if we can muddle through until Assombalonga gets back...
Daniel Storey: We haven't got a manager in charge who will make me cry when he eventually crashes and burns.
David Marples: The squad has a nice blend of experience and youth. At some stage, those key injured players are going to come back and once they do, it’s a heck of a collection of players towards which most other Championships clubs would make flirtatious eyes.
The hesitant introduction of youth remains a cautious reason to be optimistic but there remains the nagging feeling that it has been under-utilised. Good work, Wright.
Bang on regarding De Vries, Miller. He bagged Player of the Year.
Freedman did make us cry but he did indeed crash and burn.
The squad was and remains, on paper, very decent but required a degree of consistency.
It seems everyone was pinning hopes on the return of those injured players.
One reason to bang your fists in fury on the ground:
SW: It’s probably all just talk.
NM: The nagging sense that everything I said before is complete bullshit. And that Freedman could be everything Bolton fans warned us about. And the way the club is run (some of the stories...oy vey). So, potentially, everything.
DS: We are still at the behest of a man who appears to have a dangerous allergy to communication, financial prudence and business sense. Plus he has an optimism that long jumps over the line of naivety and seems to manage to make a section of supporters sing his praises. Madness.
DM: It’s July and that pre season optimism is at its peak – it would be a shame to kill that buzz. But the continued reports of late payments and general expenditure is a concern.
While Freedman did indeed turn out to be most things that Bolton fans warned us about, the recurring theme is the ownership of the club and the man at the helm. More on him soon.
Most likely hero:
SW: Jamie Ward could be the most likely unlikely hero. He’s gone about pre-season in an impressive manner and looks keen to make an impression having joined from you know where.
NM: Benny. Always Benny. I love him so. I also reckon the fans will love Jamie Ward in time.
DS: Chris Cohen. The moment he steps back on the pitch (please, please let him do so) wearing the captain's armband will be my happiest moment of the season, unless there is some unfathomable on-field success.
DM: Besides little Benny Osborn, Antonio’s unstoppable gallops will continue to be heroic…if he’s still with us.
Jamie Ward rather flattered to deceive. Sure, he ran around, irritated and generally succeeded in being Jamie Wardish but a lack of goals, inconsistency and a patchy fitness record - alongside an infuriating tendency to blast the ball way over the bar from distance - ensures that despite his winner at Middlesbrough, he remains far from a hero.
Regarding Cohen and Osborn though...heroes.
Most likely villain:
SW: Tom Ince would seem to have all the credentials.
NM: Fawaz, alas. Villain isn't the right word for a man who essentially means well, but he doesn't seem to have the first idea of what he's doing.
DS: Am I being boring by saying Fawaz Al-Hasawi? Okay, I am. So I'll say Kelvin Wilson. A drain on resources and not that good a defender.
DM: Greg Halford and Matt Derbyshire when they notch a couple each and give it the large one in front of the Trent End at some stage in the opening home game against Rotherham.
Despite a very creditable showing from Ince, there was only really one winner here. Bonus points to Storey though for getting in there early regarding Wilson.
Will Dougie Freedman become the first manager to last a whole season under Fawaz?
SW: Who knows? I’m sure that Fawaz is totally committed to his manager at this moment in time but history shows that things change quickly in the mind of the owner. A poor start on the back of last season’s poor finish and he could be promoting "The World’s Richest Scout" before Christmas decorations hit the shops. It would be nice to think he could try it just this once though.
NM: No. I imagine he'll be binned in about February when we're 14th.
DS: No. No he won't.
DM: Unlikely. Derby away is early November and someone usually loses their job in the fall out from this fixture.
Kudos to Miller on this one: Freedman was indeed sacked when Forest lay in 14th position - just a month later than predicted.
You’re in charge for a day. You can do ONE thing you want. What would you do?
SW: If I was in charge permanently I would like to implement new structures, positioning key individuals to implement strategies on the football side and the administrative/business side and also look at creating an independent board including representatives from the club’s past and its fans. If I were only in charge for a day though, I’d fritter it away chatting to John McGovern.
NM: Give Chris Cohen a massage. Oh, you mean for the good of the club? I'd immediately cede control to someone who knows how to run a football club
DS: Get everyone who works at the club and has areas of expertise (marketing, maintenance, former players, current senior pros, coaches) together for three days, and listen to what they have to say. Only by working together can we finally move forward, and I think it's nearly 20 years since everyone at the club was pulling in the same direction.
DM: Spend all day trying to recreate Johnny Metgod’s free kick against West Ham, but failing miserably. After that, I’d hire a really good accountant with a really big calculator to formulate some kind of financial strategy.
None of the above has happened. Nothing has changed in terms of the direction, strategy or everyday running of the club. The club continues to lurch from one sticky situation to another. Admittedly, the club is now free from the restrictions of FFP but we wish we had more optimism abut the future in this regard.
On the upside, one of us did indeed fritter a day away chatting to John McGovern.
Where will the club finish?
SW: As it stands, with time still left to change things, I don’t think we’re good enough to challenge but I think we have enough that we shouldn’t be fighting at the bottom, so somewhere in mid-table.
DM: Somewhere between 8th and 15th. Oh ok then, 12th.