Matthew Crichton: Bolton currently sits 15th in League One, five points above the relegation zone - how would you access your season so far?
Ed: It’s been a mixed bag. We started the season far better than most would have expected.
We were able to ride on the wave of form that had propelled us to promotion last season and by the end of September, we were well in the mix with some of the promotion contenders.
Aside from the last two games, the last few months have been disappointing. We’ve not struggled to created chances in most games, though our inability to take them has resulted in our decline down the table.
If you’d said before the season started we’d finish mid table, most fans would have taken it. Though when you start so strongly, expectations are obviously raised.
MC: Ian Evatt has achieved back-to-back promotions in the last two seasons with Barrow and Bolton, is he a manager you can see being a Bolton long-term to build something?
E: For sure. Some of his quotes (one in particular that has followed us around like a bad smell for months) don’t help. Though he has faith in his abilities and has a strong will to succeed.
He clearly has the trust and respect of the squad and you can see the groundwork he’s putting in to make us successful in the years to come.
MC: After a run of five games without a win, Bolton has won their last two matches, is Sunderland playing Evatt’s team at the worst time?
E: I’d like to think so. They were two very decent wins. Ipswich are obviously a team blessed with quality players whilst Shrewsbury were unbeaten in five and hadn’t lost at home since September.
It’s a cliché but the first goal is going to be crucial. Neither of us have lost after scoring first, though you’ve managed that a fair few more times than we have!
MC: Bolton has recently sold both Antoni Sarcevic and Eoin Doyle, two highly experienced players, did both those departures both as shocks?
E: Sarcevic did in the manner of how it happened. There had been rumours of a falling out with Evatt after Sarcevic didn’t start against his former side, Plymouth.
For your captain to leave for a non-league side in the middle of a season was a little out of the blue. Though I believe he would have left at the end of the season, so who’s to begrudge him going for a long term contract on good money.
Our midfield additions this window (plus the likely arrival of Kyle Dempsey from Gillingham) have made us stronger in that position than we were in August.
Doyle’s made sense. He’s stated previously of his desire to return to Ireland whilst he was still good enough to make an impact. Dion Charles’ arrival meant he wouldn’t have been a definite starter anymore. Even though he would have been a very valuable player to have in the team, you can understand his reasoning behind leaving.
MC: In terms of incomings, your club has brought in the likes of Dion Charles, Aaron Morley, Jón Daði Böðvarsson, and Kieran Sadlier - how have those signings been received by supporters?
E: Charles, Morley & Marlon Fossey have hit the ground running already. The change in formation has enabled Fossey to give us a great attacking outlet from wing back.
Morley has brought a calming presence in midfield & Charles has absolutely ran himself into the ground up front.
He opened his account with an outstanding volley last weekend, the first of hopefully many more to come.
MC: Former Sunderland academy goalkeeper Joel Dixon has also been replaced by James Trafford on loan from Manchester City, was it a case of his firm dropping?
E: Dixon has been a fairly average ‘keeper for us. He has made some very decent saves in games, though never looked comfortable on the ball and his distribution has been criticised.
One howler away at Hartlepool in January seemed to spell the end of his tenure as our starting keeper, so it wasn’t a surprise to see Trafford arrive a week later.
Despite his age, Trafford seems to be more of the type of goalkeeper Evatt wants. We play out from the back, very possession based football. So to bring in a goalie from Man City’s academy who’s clearly been coached with that style of play in mind makes sense.
He’s looked solid so far. Two clean sheets from two games.
MC: Now that Bolton has been cleared of any further deductions and is heavily investing in transfers once again, are fans finally starting to feel relaxed about the club’s financial stability?
E: Heavily investing seems a stretch, though to even spend money at all is a sight to see. Prior to Charles’ arrival, we hadn’t made a cash signing since bringing in Josh Magennis from Charlton in the summer of 2018. Before that, it was Filip Twardzik in the 2015 January window.
It’s nice to be able to concentrate on matters on the pitch as opposed to off it.
Interesting to see this week though that the government now has an 8% stake in the club after we converted a Future Fund loan into shares.
MC: Which eleven players do you think Evatt will select and what style can Sunderland expect to face?
E: I don’t think it’ll be too dissimilar from the side that played at Shrewsbury last week.
(3-5-2) Trafford (GK), Jones, Santos, Johnston, Fossey, Morley, Lee, Williams, John, Charles, Bakayoko.
Bodvarsson or our top goalscorer, Dapo Afolayan, could well be in that starting XI in place of Lee or Bakayoko.
MC: Sunderland beat Bolton 1-0 earlier this season - what is your prediction for the final score?
E: I think it’ll be another tight game. The last time we played, we were perhaps guilty of missing a couple of very good chances that could have swung the game in our favour.
I’ll say 1-1. Charles and Stewart to get the goals.