Bolton Wanderers were dealt a frustrating injury blow, with on-loan midfielder Liam Bridcutt being ruled out until Christmas with a fractured collarbone.
But Keith Hill could have a readymade replacement for Bridcutt, with Sonny Graham replacing the midfielder in the draw with Blackpool to put in a strong performance.
The Bolton boss revealed the plan behind Graham’s emergence into the first team and insists that he can put his trust in the youngster going forward.
“We used that (previous games) to see how close Sonny was to playing in the league, so when Liam got injured on Monday night I was already a step in front. It wasn’t a risk, it wasn’t a gamble, I can put my trust in Sonny.”
In our latest FLW Spotlight, we look into Graham’s performances in more detail from this season and debate whether he is an adequate replacement for Liam Bridcutt.
Graham hasn’t been a regular for Bolton so far this term, and having featured in just 471 minutes of action, he’ll be keen to take the next opportunity he has in the starting XI.
There’s no doubt in any Bolton supporters’ minds that Bridcutt will leave a sizeable void in the centre of midfield for the period of time he is sidelined for.
But Graham has shown that he could be the ideal candidate to fill that void left by the on-loan Nottingham Forest midfielder for the coming weeks.
The 17-year-old has attempted 143 passes in total, and with a pass accuracy of 73.4%, it certainly makes for good reading for the Trotters youngster.
He’s not known for the attacking side of the game, and that’s evident in some of these statistics that are displayed above.
Graham has won 23 defensive duels so far this season, which given that he’s only made a handful of appearances, it’s a good tally that he’ll be keen to add to as this year’s campaign progresses.
You also have to remember the majority of Graham’s appearances had come when Bolton were in a transition period as they looked to adjust to life in League One after their off-the-field troubles.
This is arguably one of the reasons as to why his defensive statistics are one of his stronger attributes that he has in his locker this term.
Graham has made 12 interceptions so far this season, as well as winning three aerial duels, so there is room for improvement in some parts of his game.
But it’s easy to forget that Graham is still of a young age, and he’s still got a lot to offer as his professional career progresses.
The clash against Rochdale is going to be a game that Bolton will be quietly confident of coming away with a positive result in, as Keith Hill’s side have shown improvement as the weeks have gone on.
Graham needs to grasp this opportunity with both hands, and he could well be a regular in the starting XI for years to come at the University of Bolton Stadium.