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Year in review 2012: Bolton Wanderers – Heartache of Premier League relegation and struggles

By Sam Ruffe

As we wave goodbye to 2012 MM looks back on one of the disappointing seasons in recent Bolton Wanderers memory.

Dogged by injuries, illness and poor form the Trotters’ 11-year stint in the top-flight ended while a poor start to their Championship campaign saw Owen Coyle depart.

With new manager Dougie Freedman seemingly taking the club in the right direction, MM takes a month-by-month look back over 2012.

January

If Coyle’s New Year’s resolution was to win more games then he and his Trotters were certainly going about it in the right way.

The year started with a valiant away win against Everton as David N’Gog turned in a man of the match performance on his return to Merseyside.

A draw against Macclesfield in the F.A Cup was followed by a disappointing loss against defending Premier League champions Manchester United.

However the Whites finished the month emphatically with a replay win against Macclesfield, a league victory against Liverpool before success against Swansea City secured passage to the fifth round of the F.A Cup.

January also saw the exit of England defender Gary Cahill as the number five was sold to Chelsea for around £7million.

February

February is usually the month of love, but Bolton found little romance as they took just a single point in the Premier League.

A 0-0 draw against Arsenal was followed by a disappointing run of losses against Norwich City, Wigan Athletic and Chelsea respectively.

However Wanderers’ fans took heart as they brushed aside Millwall to progress to the quarter-finals of the F.A Cup for the second successive season.

On loan Japanese new-boy Ryo Miyaichi opened his account for the club before Frenchman N’Gog capped off a professional display from the Trotters.

March

March will forever stick in the memories of Bolton fans as a month of mixed emotions

A disappointing loss against future Premier League champions Manchester City was followed by a dramatic and much needed victory against Queens Park Rangers.

Following up their win against Mark Hughes’ men, Wanderers travelled to White Hart Lane to take on Tottenham Hotspur in the quarter-final of the F.A Cup.

However this was to be a match were football would take second stage.

In the 41st minute of the tie Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba collapsed after suffering from cardiac arrest.

The England under-21 international received lengthy medical treatment on the field before being taken to taken to London Chest Hospital.

It was later revealed that Muamba had been clinically dead for nearly 80 minutes, however the former Birmingham City man proved his toughness as he showed signs of recovery within days of the incident.

At the request of Muamba’s family Bolton made an emotional return to action against arch Lancashire rivals Blackburn Rovers.

An unlikely double from David Wheater secured all three points for Bolton on a day that will be remembered for the goodwill shown towards Muamba by both sets of fans.

The Whites ended March with a 3-1 loss in their F.A Cup replay against Tottenham before they notched up their third successive league victory with a win against Wolverhampton Wanderers.

April

Bolton’s three game win streak was ended in early April as they went down 3-0 to Fulham, with Clint Dempsey’s double a highlight for the Cottages.

A further loss too Newcastle United followed as late goals from Hatem Ben Arfa and Papiss Cisse were enough to secure all three points for the Magpies.

A home draw against Brendan Rodgers’ Swansea City stopped the rot before two goals in a minute earned Coyle’s men a welcomed victory against Aston Villa.

Following their triumph at Villa Park Wanderers’ stalwart Kevin Davies was instrumental as his tow goals secured a vital point away at Sunderland.

May

Looking to continue their three-game unbeaten run, Bolton began May with a tough trip away to Tottenham.

The home side ran away deserved winners as goals from Luka Modric, Rafael van der Vaart and Emmanuel Adebayor ended the Trotters’ streak.

Looking to bolster their chances of avoiding relegation, Bolton welcomed Roy Hodgson’s West Brom to the Reebok.

But any hopes of evading the drop took a serious dent as a last minute James Morrison equaliser made it honours even on the day.

The draw, coupled with QPR’s late winner against Stoke City, meant the Trotters needed a victory against Tony Pulis’s men in the final game to secure Premier League football for the next season.

Goals from Mark Davies and Kevin Davies had Bolton on track before Jonathan Walters added to his first half strike to draw the Potters level.

The draw sealed the White’s fate as their 11-year-stay in the English top-flight was ended – the length stay was their longest since 1964.

At the end of the 2011-12 season the club confirmed the departure of seven first-team players, with longstanding members Ricardo Gardner and Jussi Jääskeläinen both parting with the club.

July

In preparation for their first season in the second tier for over a decade Wanderers looked to bolster their squad with a number of signings.

Republic of Ireland international Keith Andrews was acquired from West Brom, with further additions Joe McKee, Matt Mills and Andy Lonergan also coming in.

Bolton returned to the field of play starting with a tour of Scotland, with the team visiting Ayr UnitedHamilton Academical and Falkirk.

However the Whites would finish their Scottish jaunt without a victory as draws against Ayr and Falkirk sandwiched Hamilton’s 2-0 victory at New Douglas Park.

August

August saw The Trotters finished off their pre-season with a deserved draw against Barcelona B, wins against Morecambe and Tranmere Rovers and a one-sided loss to Portsmouth.

For the first game of the nPower Championship Bolton made the trip to Turf Moor for an encounter with Coyle’s former side Burnley.

The home side took all three points as Martin Paterson and Charlie Austin struck on either side of half-time.

However Bolton bounced back well from their opening day defeat as they overcame Derby County before drawing with Nottingham Forest.

August also saw further re-enforcements arrive as Benik Afobe signed on a season long loan from Arsenal before Jay Spearing was acquired on loan from Liverpool.

September

Bolton began September with a 3-1 loss to Hull City, Chris Eagles opened the scoring with a 35-yard free-kick before former Bolton player Abdoulaye Faye combined with Stephen Quinn to give the home side victory.

The Trotters recovered well from their loss by beating Watford at home before going down 2-1 away to Birmingham just three days later.

An inspired effort by Mark Davies secured his sides first way points of the season as his strike secured a 2-1 victory against Sheffield Wednesday.

But Wanderers were unable to build on the memorable result as they were narrowly edged by Crystal Palace, with Glenn Murray’s penalty separating the sides.

October

October began with a 2-2 draw against Leeds United with a double from Kevin Davies being cancelled out by Luciano Becchio’s penalty and Sam Byram’s strike.

Bolton’s next fixture saw them travel to Millwall were they were narrowly edged by a last-minute Darius Henderson goal.

The loss meant the Whites sat in a lowly eighteenth place going into the international break and just three days later, on October 9, Coyle was relieved of his duties.

Academy Director Jimmy Phillips and head of Academy Coaching and Development, and former club manager, Sammy Lee were placed in temporary charge.

They found success in the first game in charge as the beat Bristol City 3-2 before they oversaw a 2-2 draw away to Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Shortly after the fixture with Wolves Bolton announced that Crystal Palace manager Freedman would take the helm at the Reebok.

Freedman was official unveiled on October 25 but watched from the stands as his new side were beaten away against Middlesbrough.

November

The Scot took charge for the first time on November 3 as the Trotters welcomed league leaders Cardiff City to the Reebok.

Second half goals from substitutes Martin Petrov and N’Gog secured a 2-1 victory – ensuring the new manager got off to the best possible start.

Freedman oversaw a string of draws against Leicester City, Blackpool, Barnsley and Brighton and Hove Albion, however Bolton remained in eighteenth place.

The final game of November saw the Whites travel to Ewood Park to face off against Blackburn Rovers.

A sixth goal of the season from Kevin Davies coupled with Lee Chung-Yong’s third secured a 2-1 victory – the win and also preserved Bolton’s un-beaten run throughout November.

December

So far December has seen a continuation of Bolton’s inconsistent form, with a 2-1 loss to Ipswich ending Freedman’s unbeaten run.

A trip to Huddersfield’s John Smith Stadium saw the Whites denied all three points by James Vaughan’s late equaliser after Mark Davies and Eagles gave Bolton the lead.

But Wanderers overcame their disappointment by securing a 2-0 victory against Charlton Athletic at the Reebok.

Super-sub N’Gog grabbed both the goals as Freedman returned to winning ways – a result that leaves them sitting 13th in the Championship table.

Bolton will now head in to the busy Christmas period and a high and will be hoping the positive start they have made under Freedman may continue.

Image courtesy of BBC Sport, via YouTube, with thanks

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