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Wilderness wanderers Bolton will be tough challenge for Lennon

When he left Celtic at the end of last season, Neil Lennon said he wanted a new challenge. He’ll certainly get one at basement Championship club Bolton Wanderers, 13/10 second-favourites with Coral to be relegated, where frankly the only way is up.

Dougie Freedman departed the Trotters by mutual consent prior to the international break, having failed to revive the Lancashire outfit’s fortunes. Relegated from the Premier League in 2011/12 under Owen Coyle, Bolton’s decline since then has been stark.

Making a dozen senior signings, both permanently over the summer and using the loan window, could not revive their fortunes. Lennon, who succeeds Freedman, thus inherits a large squad.

Scraping for survival is an immediate priority, and to do that the Trotters must start scoring. Only Blackpool have netted fewer in the division so far this term. Jermaine Beckford offered precious little under Freedman, so fans’ hopes are pinned on perennial loan player Joe Mason and Max Clayton, the latest off Crewe Alexandra’s production line, in attack.

Lennon has a very midfield-heavy roster on his hands, comprised of injury-prone talents such as Stuart Holden and Chung-Yong Lee, and other steady pros that lack dynamism. When former Liverpool academy product and anchorman Jay Spearing is your leading assist maker, then creativity is clearly an issue.

Chris Eagles, a one-time Manchester United youngster, was Wanderers’ best bet in this area, but the club’s struggles mirrored his own towards the end of last term. He has since been released and remains a free agent. Lennon may opt to nurture 20-year-old winger Rob Hall, who came through the ranks at West Ham United, but he has been linked with leaving on loan.

Tightening up an experienced Championship defence, which contains the likes of Kevin McNaughton and Matt Mills, is also important. The back four is certainly not playing to its capabilities, and only fellow strugglers Fulham, who ironically thumped the Trotters 4-0 which was the final straw before Freedman’s exit, have conceded more.

Upon announcing his appointment, Bolton’s statement talked up “an infectious enthusiasm to take the club forward” from Lennon. He will need more than good intentions and desire to meet a serious challenge to be successful, because the Wanderers are doing exactly what their name suggests. That is reflected in lengthy promotion odds of 100/1.