Bolton Wanderers were well fancied for promotion by a number of fans and pundits before the season began and so you would think a 14th place finish would represent disappointment.
Somehow you don’t think that football’s ultimate ‘glass half full’ manager Dougie Freedman will see it like that – instead remaining steadfast in his belief that the club are a long-term project and patience is key.
The club are allowing a number of their more high profile stars to leave as their contracts expire.
Captain Zat Knight, Chris Eagles and Tyrone Mears are three first-team players who will not be seen at the newly-named Macron Stadium next season and they could yet be joined by USA international Stuart Holden.
Knight, in particular, is a big loss, given he has 191 appearances to his name since signing from Aston Villa in 2009 for around £4million.
However the 34-year-old 6ft 6in centre back, who has two England caps to his name, has been in and out of Freedman’s side this season despite being named captain in the summer.
While many will see the decision to move on players with a proven track record as a questionable one, this is another step for Freedman to build the Bolton squad he wants to work with.
Obviously the decision is rooted in the need for a sound fiscal policy at the club, given the well-documented club debt and the restrictions that Freedman continues to be hampered by financially.
Moving out some of the club’s highest earners, many who still command Premier League wages, is an absolute necessity for the club.
As well as the money however, Freedman will see this as a chance to form the kind of squad he wants to work with for the first time since he took charge in October 2012.
We often hear from the Scot that he wants to bring in ‘a certain type of player’.
Most fans would love ‘a certain type of player’ but somehow you can’t see the Yaya Toure, Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi ‘type of player’ rocking up at The Macron in August.
Of course this is not what Freedman means.
What he wants is a younger squad, a hungrier set of players, perhaps fewer high profile stars without the kind of egos that comes with those who have plied their trade at top clubs.
Freedman will surely look at the example set by rivals Burnley this season, who unthinkably have achieved promotion to the Premier League with a largely unfancied and inexpensive set of players.
Sean Dyche’s Clarets have been fired to the top flight by a core of British players, with very few household names fronting their Premier League charge.
Freedman will surely look to build a similar structure at Bolton, creating a squad packed with younger players who do not come with a reputation but instead have a point to prove or a career to enhance.
Expect next season’s squad to feature a number of the club’s youth team setup – a setup the manager has been keen to praise this season.
In the last few games of the season, Freedman has given first team appearances to Hayden White, Chris Lester, Oscar Threlkeld and Andy Kellett, suggesting he is prepared to place faith in the crop coming through at the club.
Transfer-wise, it would be no surprise to see Freedman look to the lower leagues to pick some of the top talent from Leagues One and Two.
Certainly there will be no big-money buys.
This is a golden opportunity for the former Crystal Palace boss, with big names from former regimes moving on, to construct Freedman’s Bolton.
Up until now he has been working with squads put together by the men who preceded him but now is the chance to go in to battle with his own army.
If he can do that, there will be nowhere left to hide.
There could be no excuses left for underwhelming performances – of which there have been many this season.
Freedman says he has targets in mind and you can be sure they will be ‘a certain type of player’.
If a ‘certain type of player’ arrives at Bolton this summer, Freedman will expect to be challenging at the least for the play-offs next season.
He must not miss this chance to transform the club and make the mark needed if he is to lead Bolton back in to the big time.
Main image courtesy of OfficialBWFC via YouTube, with thanks.