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Where to Wander after Lennon

Started on 21 August 2015 by squirmy420
Latest Reply on 20 October 2015 by squirmy420
Author's Note

I have recently been cast in a community production of Dead Man's Cellphone, so it will take me until next week to have an update ready. However, due to reading some of the better stories on this site expect a slight change in style. I will be doing a LOT more with characters around the club, both players and staff. Look forward to it.
Have to say, you are very versatile in terms of formations.
Squirmy, I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up with. Good luck in your production and I'll be reading along as always. I'm also curious to see what "your" Bolton Wanderers look like in my mind's eye. It'll be fun!
Vrrrt. Vrrrt.

Vrrrt. Vrrrt.

Vrrrt. Vrrrt.

Vrrrt. Vrrrt.

My eyes flashed open, my mind scrambling. What time is it? It was still dark in my room, and my hands searched blindly for the vibrating cell phone on the bed side table that was inevitably moving itself closer and closer to the edge. My brain kept up a steady rhythm of questions.

Is this an alarm? No, it’s preseason in England. Teams are still lining up their next star performers, making transfers. No way it’s an alarm this early in the morning.

If it isn’t an alarm… who’s calling, and why? It’s too early for it to be one of the lads from last night…

Flashes from last night’s memories careened through my mind and I suddenly realized how dry my mouth was. My left hand finally grasped the phone. It vibrated again. I slid my finger over the answer slider and raised the phone to my ear, taking in an unrecognized number on its way up.

“Hello?” I crocked. My voice was desert sand, or a cheese grater on rock.

“Hello. Is this David Taps?”

“Umm.” I shook my head… trying to shake the hangover before it happened. “Yea. Yea, this is David Taps.”

“Mr. Taps, my name is Ken Hodcroft. I’ve been reading your football blog for a year or so now… and I like what I’ve read. Would you mind coming by the Macron Stadium sometime this week? I have a job offer I’d like to discuss with you.”

“Uhhh…” My mouth had gone even drier. “I don’t know much. I mean… I write about football well. That’s about it.”

“Precisely, Mr. Taps. That’s what I’d like you to do. I’d like you to write for us. Bolton Wanderers are returning to the Premier League this year, and with our improved budget we’d like to hire our own inside reporter to provide news, match commentary, interviews, transfer rumors and anything else you fee would make a good story. The bottom line is, Mr. Taps, would you like to become an official correspondent for Bolton Wanderers Football Club? Get the inside scoop into the club? Be THE media, as far as the Trotters are concerned.”

“Yes?” Yes? Did I say yes? “I mean, yes. When should I meet you?”
Very glad to see you back and posting. And a very nice job of characterization here. Good use of phraseology to describe David's alcohol-induced vocal challenge too. Humorous but at the same time getting across a point you have to see with your mind's eye.
Thanks tenthree! I'm glad to be back. Life got pretty crazy for a bit, what with being a play and then getting a puppy it's been a long road coming back too. However, now that I am, expect updates more frequently. Glad to have you as a reader.

The meeting with Mr. Hodcroft, my new boss, went well. Obviously. Ken Hodcroft was a friendly sort of man. With a roundish, reddish face, with a smile seemingly permanently plastered to it. However, his eyes gave him away as they were sly, shrewd and calculating and I felt when he looked at me he saw pound signs, more than he saw me. He seemed to have his mind set on hiring me for what he called my “flair for the creative,” and having just gotten my degree in journalism last fall I was simply raring at the bit to write for cash, so it turned out to be a match made in footballing heaven.

It’d been about a week in waiting, but I was finally getting a return trip, to sit in on a preseason team meeting. I had yet to meet Stuart Holden or any of his squad, but had been doing my research on them. They were a young squad, and since the departure of Neil Lennon a squad very quickly maturing. Stuart Holden had done a magical thing last season guiding an ailing Trotters from strength to strength last season and into an automatic promotion spot. I was eager to meet him.

There was also quite a few of his squad I was excited to meet. The young, but impressive diminutive striker Zach Clough had made quite a name for himself as Holden’s go to for goals and creativity up front last season. He led the line of the Wanderers attack with a sense of verve and panache that was a great return of Holden’s faith as he faded out the more senior Craig Davies. I was also looking forward to meeting Josh Vela. Vela was a hard tackling, determined, young defensively minded central midfielder beginning to perfect an offensive edge under Holden’s reign last year. A major contributing factor to the lads playing time is his versatility across a number of midfield positions and defensive. Finally, there was Oscar Threlkeld, hailed on Holden’s joining as the key player in the squad he had since begun to fade slightly. I wonder if it’s not because of his being jaded, playing a lot of minutes because of the Wanderers lack of a real back up right back the young Englishman had begun to look lackluster towards the end of last season, and many are hoping a step up in league will mean a step up in form from Oscar.

I’d learned a few things about the squad other than the promising youngsters as well. Captain Jay Spearing had been slowly phased out over the course of a few years after his year of prominence in a 45 appearance season for the Wanderers in 13/14 after his official purchase from Liverpool. The next season saw him loaned out to cross town rivals Blackburn where he made a solid 32 performances, but upon his return to the Macron stadium he was immediately given the Captains band back under Lennon who barely utilized him. Holden looked to have faith in the no nonsense midfielders ability to get back on form and had continued to play him in his new shape 4-3-3 that he had employed with the Trotters last season.

Mostly I was excited to meet the man himself, Stuart Holden, who had, upon his return to Macron in a suit rather than a kit, saw his old squad rise with ease and determination up the table for their old pitch-mate. Under his leadership the Wanderers had climbed from mid table to a second place finish reaching the Premier league for the first time in 4 years. He’d been given a pretty meagre budget for the league he was entering, and saw to spend it on more youth. Bringing in 4 players for a relatively cheap sum of money. I was hoping to meet every one of these new signings today as well.

I pulled my phone from my pocket, hitting the BBC app with a casual thumb. It loaded slowly. Something which annoyed me, the train supposedly had wifi, but I seemed to be eating into my data on these long train rides out of Manchester proper. The registered squad for the Wanderers finally popped up. It looked a strong squad, if it was still in the championship, in the premier league… I imagined they’d struggle.

Their three registered goal keepers were new signing, Wesley Foderingham, last season emergency signing, Elliot Parish, and veteran goal keeper; who was rumored to be on the outs at the Macron, Andy Lonergan. They were not a world class camp of keepers, but they were passable last season, with Wesley Foderingham joining they’d be passable at the Premier League level. But I had a feeling the Trotters would leak some goals, if only because of the quality of strikers who would be scoring them.

Registered as defenders, they had, David Wheater; the towering stalwart for the Wanderers last season, Oscar Threlkeld, Marc Tierney, new arrivals Harlee Dean and Jeremy Helan, Dorian Dervite and the under 21’s player Hayden White had made the senior squad lists recently for friendlies. It wasn’t a stunning list of defenders. The Wanderers would rely a lot on David Wheater and Dorian Dervite in the center of the pitch. Harlee Dean would be interesting to monitor as he pushed Dervite or Wheater for their spots. Competition is always a good thing, in my opinion, helps keep the players focused. Oscar Threlkeld looked to be set for another season of being a key player at right back with Hayden White being the only other real option. Jeremy Helan, the ex-City player, would likely be set to take the starting role of left back with Marc Tierney not getting any younger or better.

However unskilled they were in defense and midfield, the Wanderers made up for in registered midfielders. Starting with Josh Vela, then Captain Jay Spearing, Liam Trotter, Emmanuel Ledesma; someone I was very excited to meet after his stellar season last year under Holden, Tom, Rob Hall, Lloyd Isgrove, Diego Biseswar, Mark Davies, and Darren Prately. They had a very strong core of midfield players, led by the likes of Mark Davies, Josh Vela, Emmanuel Ledesma, and Jay Spearing they would do well against most of the lower half sides. They should, theoretically, be able to play the same style of football they did last year with a large number of creative and technically gifted midfielders to control the ball.

Last season, a consistent striker had been a problem until Holden arrived and got Clough back on form. Before that they were stuck with a slowly declining Craig Davies, Clough; out of form and out of confidence, and youngster Georg Iliev; who had yet to fully develop. However, with Iliev out on loan at Yeovil and Craig Davies a year older and slower, they needed some fresh guns up top. They delivered in this regard with what many consider a coop of a signing, bringing in the Championships top scorer Igor Vetokele from Charlton for a meager fee of 1.8 million pounds. Now, with Vetokele, Clough and Davies all registered as strikers the Wanderers still look weak up top, but if Holden continues to play a loan striker they may have enough to get by this season but they will need to be at their best this year to perform in the premier league.

I slid my phone back into my pocket. It was going to be an interesting season. I suppose I would begin to root for the Trotters before too long. With how some of these lads looked on paper, and with them being about the same age as myself, I could imagine me palling around with Zach Clough and Oscar Threlkeld at the pub already. The train came into the station while I was day dreaming. I stood, gathered my bags and my laptop and made my way for the street hailing down a taxi as I reached it.

“Where tae?” spat the driver in a thick Scottish brogue.

“Oh? Umm… The Macron Stadium. Please.

“Nae need tae say please, lad. Tis my job, ain’t it, eh.” He chortled off in a thick coughing, spitting laugh.

“Oh? Umm. I suppose it is, but I do like to be polite.”

His eyes flashed at me in the rear view, “Why the Macron, eh?”

“I work there?” I said, unconfidently, “Umm. My first job, really. I’m a backroom reporter hired by Mr. Hodcroft himself.”

Mr. Hodcroft himself.” He mocked back at me. “Must be a big an’ important job then lad.”

I was really hoping my first meeting with the American Stuart Holden went much better than this. “I… don’t know… really.”
Smooth stuff. I got a good "10,000 feet" overview of the team, which is what this sort of post if for, after all. Looking forward to your first day on the job!
squirmy420's avatar Group squirmy420
8 yearsEdited
”Mr. Taps?” Stuart Holden’s hand shake was very similar to his smile; strong, firm, but somehow genuine and tender.

“Yes sir. It’s an honor to meet you, Mr. Holden.”

“An honor? Me?” He burst into a light hearted, full bodied laugh. “I don’t know about that. I’m just a football manager, after all.”

“I’ve read a lot about your career, as a player and a lot about last year. What you did with the Trotters last season, Mr. Holden-“

“Call me Stuart, David. Please, my father is Mr. Holden.”

I was taken a back, “Sorry, Mr.- I mean Stuart.”

“Don’t stress it, David. It’s your first day. Speaking of, are you finding everything alright? Found your office, yet?”

“Office? I have an office?”

“Follow me, Ken, Mr. Hodcroft, wanted to make sure you were fully comfortable. Do you have any questions?”

We set off at a quick pace, going through numerous halls of what seemed a labyrinth in Macron’s underbelly. I sipped my coffee I’d gotten on my way in the door from a kiosk on the road side, Holden was quite, except for when I would ask the occasional question. Eventually we came to an elevator, and Holden entered with the same friendly smile as he raised an eyebrow, “Ready?”

“Ready for what?”

“The best view in town."
The elevator opened high in the stadium, and what a view it was. The entire pitch lay before us, pristine, and a crew of grounds men worked the turf. Watering, testing the grass, things of scientific and footballing nature I’m sure I’d never fully understand. Stuart was beaming next to me. “Every time those doors open, I can hear the Premier League crowd roaring for us. We’re the one and only Wanderers! I can’t wait for the season to kick off.”

“My office… is up here?”

Stuart nodded to a glass door, on which was already painted, David Taps, Bolton Wanderers FC Media Correspondent. A sense of pride filled me. I’d lived on this earth 24 years and this was the first thing that I could honestly say was mine. I let Stuart show me in, and took in the office. It was a glass box about 12 feet wide and maybe 9 feet deep, with a view of the pitch, a tv monitor, a real wood desk and a book case that looked very empty. He let me deposit a few things, before asking, “Are you ready for the real reason you’re here?”

I smiled as wide as a church door, “Time to meet the team?”

“No. You just get to sit in the back and take notes.” He shot me another winning smile, “It’s called a team meeting. Of course it’s time to meet the team.”

We walked back to the elevator, went inside and Stuart hit a button labeled L. We stood in silence, I was too excited to talk and Stuart must have been working through his speeches, his points of having a team meeting. I could barely contain myself, almost rocking from foot to foot until eventually the elevator slowed to a halt.

“Time for the show,” Holden swept through the elevator door and across the hall into what looked to be a room precisely for squad assembly and addressing. He gestured to the back of the room with a curt nod as we entered so I moved to the back of the room where I found a seat, and sat. The room was empty besides Stuart and myself, he pulled a small binder from the podium at the front of the room and began to make notes with a pen.

Over the course of the next ten minutes the squad showed up, in various states of recovery. It looked like they’d been running hard, most were either still sweaty or toweling off after a quick shower. Holden waited patiently and quietly at the front of the room until a coach poked his head in the door and I let out a startled gasp as I recognized Steven Gerrard. “Anelka says all the lads are out of the locker room, Stu. You’re good to go.”

“Thanks, Steven.” Stuart smiled, shuffled his notes into a semblance of organization and began.

“Right boys! We’re back up! I know we’ve had a good preseason. Zach and Diego have fostered a playing relationship fast on the attack and Jeremy has done a great job on the left hand side this preseason, but that doesn’t guarantee them a starting spot against Chelsea in our season opener next week. No one is guaranteed a spot. You earn it in training, and you keep it by your play on the pitch. You lads from last season know it’s the truth, and you new comers, you will learn it or you won’t play. It’s a simple thing.”

“I know we have a very tough month the first month of the season. We’ve got three league fixtures, two against obvious top four contenders. We have a very tough opener vs Chelsea. With Simeone having just come in, I don’t expect us to win. They will have been drilled on defense and they know what’s expected of them. However, that said, I would be delighted if we could focus on our game, keep it tight at the back and if we found the net that would be icing on the cake.”

“Playing time will not be hard to come by this year, there are a lot of games to come this season and I expect everyone in this room will have a role to play in order to insure that Bolton Wanderers stay up. That will be our first objective. Stay up. Win the games we can, and fight for everything. We will be the Wanderers, but will also be warriors this season. I will ask you to fight. I will ask you more than you would ask of yourself. I may ask you to bleed, or hurt for the success of this squad. If you’re willing to do that, we’ll do more than stay up this year. If you’re willing to be a warrior for the badge we wear proudly, we’ll finish higher than you expect. We’ll scalp some of the “bigger” clubs. They may under estimate us, and that is a luxury we cannot afford. Everyone will be tough, there will be no easy games, but because of that each victory will feel all the sweeter. Are you boys ready for one hell of a season?!”

The roar filled the room, it echoed down the halls and out; I like to imagine, onto the pitch were it coursed through the empty Macron stadium like the ghost of a thousand dead fans calling, singing, “We’re the one and only Wanderers!”

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