While Bolton fans will miss Big Sam, the players and the club have already moved on (hopefully) and should be fully focused on improving on their performances in the last two seasons.
Sammy Lee will have to earn back the respect Bolton teams had begrudgingly won under Big Sam, and as a result that might work in Bolton’s favor as other teams have more of a go at them, allowing Bolton to play their traditional game and pick teams off on the counter attack.
Anything less than a top-10 finish will be regarded as a failure, despite the lack of resources. Bolton currently have a squad (especially with the defensive and midfield reinforcements Lee has brought in) to qualify for Europe, and in Anelka they have a class player who can, and should, lead them from the front with lots of goals.
Manager Status: Sammy Lee is fresh but it’s a mark of the board’s trust in him that they’ve promoted him instead of bringing in a new face. I’d expect Sammy to be given a good chance to prove himself and it’s unlikely that he would be booted out this season, unless there is a major disaster.
Transfer Analysis: Bolton have been smart in their summer acquisitions, shoring up the defence and midfield in areas where they lacked last summer. A big-name signing could be out of Bolton’s budget, but it’s imperative that Bolton keep Anelka this summer, even though Lee has publicly said that he’d let him go if the right offer came along.
Players to watch: Nicolas Anelka, if he stays, and Kevin Nolan, who has to perform this season as is expected of him, especially with Big Sam gone. Jlloyd Samuel could be one to watch as well.
August Fixtures: Newcastle at home as the season opener is an ironic twist of fate, but August isn’t easy for Bolton as they follow up with away games to Fulham and Portsmouth and then a home game to Reading.
Expectations: A push for a European spot, as the team has a good balance and good attacking options as well.
Predictions: Mid-table (9th-15th), although Bolton could spring a surprise and land in the top 8 again.