Bolton Wanderers manager Keith Hill says he trusts 17-year-old midfielder Sonny Graham to step into the centre of his side’s midfield, following the enforced absence of captain Liam Bridcutt through injury.
Graham has made seven first-team appearances for Bolton this season – several of which came before the influx of senior players on the final day of the summer transfer window – although he did also feature alongside several of those experienced players in the EFL Trophy draw with Rochdale – before coming off the bench to replace Bridcutt after he suffered a broken collarbone in his side’s goalless draw with Blackpool last Monday.
It seems that those two most recent performances have convinced Hill that Graham can be Bridcutt’s replacement on a regular basis, with the game against Rochdale apparently an experiment to see whether Graham could be called upon if needed, as the Wanderers boss told The Bolton News: “The plan from Portsmouth was to play Sonny with as many senior players as we could against Rochdale to see whether he could elevate his performance.
“That way I knew that if something happened to one of my midfield players, could be the next one in line? Or did I have to look at a different option?”
Explaining how he approached the situation, Hill continued: “I said to Sonny ‘here’s your chance to play alongside Ali Crawford and Jason Lowe, with Liam Bridcutt playing centre-half in case anything happened to Jack Hobbs, and I knew Liam could play there.
“We used that 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.”
Bolton – who remain rooted to the foot of the League One table following their 12 point deduction for entering administration at the end of last season – are next in action on when Saturday afternoon when, somewhat ironically, they are set to host Rochdale at The University of Bolton Stadium.
I think this was a smart approach for Hill to take.
Bolton haven’t really had much luck with injury so far this season, so putting Graham in for the EFL Trophy game against Rochdale did at least mean they were prepared for this eventuality.
Judging by Graham’s performance against Blackpool, it does seems as though Hill’s confidence in the teenager is well-founded, with the young midfielder never really looking out of place against the Seasiders.
That is something that you imagine will be a relief for Bolton, since it appears a though Bridcutt could be out for some time with that injury.