Behind Enemy Lines: Bolton Wanderers

MILLWALL travel to fellow Championship strugglers Bolton Wanderers on Saturday afternoon looking to respond after three successive league defeats that have left the Lions just one point above the relegation zone.

The reverse fixture at The Den ended 1-1, Jake Cooper equalising with eight minutes left. Millwall won 2-0 at Bolton last season during the club’s 17-match unbeaten league run.

Bolton’s issues have been well-documented this week, and at one stage it looked like the game might not go ahead. The club have serious financial problems and fans are hoping a takeover is completed soon.

Alex Grace spoke to Trotters fan Chris Jarvis this week.

Twitter: @gemchris1977

Why do you support Bolton?

I started supporting Bolton in 1988 mainly thanks to my uncle. My parents were both Bolton fans but had stopped going, so I went to games with my uncle.

My first game was Chester at home in 1988 in Division Three as it was then, and we lost either 1-0 or 2-1.

What has been your favourite season following the Trotters?

My favourite season has to be when we won Division One in 1996-97 season with 98 points and scored 100 goals. What an attacking team that was with Nathan Blake and John McGinlay banging them in.

My worst season has to be when we got relegated to League One in 2016. We didn’t even know if there would be a club at one stage that season due to a HMRC winding-up order and Eddie Davies stopped putting money in. We just couldn’t get away from the financial issues and sadly it took its toll.

What has it been like being a Bolton fan during what has been an uncertain period for the club?

It’s been tough, let me tell you! One minute we are getting taken over, the next it’s fallen through. Winding-up orders all over the place, players and staff not being paid and seemingly an owner who has decided that because we don’t like him, he wouldn’t pay the salaries.

On top of that our game was put in doubt through the council not willing to issue a safety certificate but that has since been ratified.

It does look like a takeover is now happening so hopefully we can have stability and move forward.

What are your thoughts on Phil Parkinson?

Phil Parkinson the man has been absolutely fantastic during his stay at the club, having to deal with an embargo and all of the off-field nonsense. In all of that he has conducted himself with dignity.

Phil Parkinson the manager on the other hand is a different story. He managed to get us up at the first attempt from League One which was fantastic and then came that memorable last-minute goal from Aaron Wilbraham last season which kept us up.

This season, however, he has baffled fans with his exclusion of playmaker Erhun Otzumer, seemingly blaming him for our defeat to Hull in January, and his style of football is nothing short of boring and the fans want him out.

But with no money he is going nowhere until we get new owners.

Do you think you can avoid relegation?

The honest answer is ‘no’ due to our off-field issues and style of play. We don’t score goals and concede too many, and that’s not a good combination.

Which Bolton players will Millwall have to watch out for on Saturday afternoon?

The two stand-out players for us are Sammy Ameobi and Luca Connell.

Ameobi on his day has the quality to win a match on his own. As for Connell, he is only 17 but is head and shoulders above anything we have, so much so he attracted a £1m bid from Brighton in January.

If those two are on their game, they could be a handful.

Likewise, which Millwall players are you worried about facing?

Ben Marshall has always had a good game against us. I seem to remember last season, he scored one and made one in your 2-0 victory.

And Lee Gregory seems like a striker who could benefit from our charitable defence.

What are your thoughts on Millwall manager Neil Harris?

I like Neil Harris, a guy who bleeds Millwall and seems to get the best out of his players and to go on the cup run you have is fantastic.

He has made The Den a place to fear again.

If you could sign one of his players who would it be?

Ben Marshall would be the player I would sign. Great winger and scores goals, something we lack.

What is your predicted Trotters starting XI and formation?

My predicted formation is 4-2-3-1:

Matthews; Olkowski, Beevers, Hobbs, Taylor; O’Neil, Connelly; Ameobi, Connell, Buckley; Donaldson.

Will you be at the game on Saturday afternoon?

Yes, I will be in the North Stand opposite your fans with my family.

Finally, what’s your score prediction?

If a takeover is done I think we win comfortably 3-1. But if it isn’t then Millwall win 2-0.

Graphic: @ShedCreative