The 12 big contract decisions looming on horizon at Bolton Wanderers ahead of next season


Bolton Wanderers are a good position heading into this summer’s transfer window in terms of players’ contracts running out.

Only a handful of senior players whose deals expire at the end of the 2021/22 season following the club’s promotion out of League Two back to League One.

Wanderers have made a late season surge for the play-offs which at one time had the gap to the top six down to five points.

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But that gap has widened in recent weeks to 11 following the midweek action in the third tier of English football.

Wanderers have eight games left to go in their campaign and are now firm outsiders to reach the play-offs by the end of April, though it is not mathematically impossible.

As the campaign draws to its conclusion, there are a handful of contract decisions which need to be made in the summer with those who are out of contract, which includes the likes of Alex Baptiste, Liam Gordon and Andrew Tutte. Conversations will these players will be put on hold for as long as possible until the division Wanderers will be in next season is set in stone.

Though it is a relatively manageable picture for this summer, fast forward 12 months and there are a dozen senior players who are out of contract at the University of Bolton Stadium in the summer of 2023.

Some are signings from last summer, while there are also arrivals from the recent January transfer window, while others have been at the club since 2020 and the start of Ian Evatt’s time as manager, with some also pre-dating that.

Here, we take a look at each player in this bracket and their contributions in a Bolton shirt this season and how pressing a new contract is for each and which could be more likely than others at this moment in time.

Lloyd Isgrove

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Energetic winger has played 24 times this season and proved to be able to fill into the right-back berth when needed.

Has the energy and endurance to play in a wing-back role too in Bolton’s new system and is poised to return to action shortly after being out since late November with injury.

You have experienced League One and the Championship and could provide a useful squad member with a new deal, if one is offered.

Ricardo Almeida Santos

Bolton Wanderers’ Ricardo Santos.

Skipper has been a huge part of Wanderers’ success over the past two years and getting defender signed up to a new contract is arguably the biggest priority out of the players whose deals run out in 2023.

The club and player will sit down in the summer properly to discuss a new deal after conversations have begun and it will be a massive boost for Bolton if Santos can be tied down to a longer contract and interest from Championship sides can be successfully warded off.

Josh Sheehan

Had looked bright in the first half of the season in central midfield before a ruptured ACL in November ended his campaign prematurely.

Wales international had looked a great addition last summer when arriving on a free transfer from Newport County and fits well with Ian Evatt’s style of play.

Fresh terms at some point would seem a bright move, especially if Sheehan hits the ground running at the start of next campaign.

Elijah Kachunga

Attacker has had a stop start season owing to injuries, but has still managed four goals in 33 games this campaign.

Kachunga has recently returned from injury to provide another option in the final third.

Playing in his first season in League One, Kachunga has experience of both the Championship and Premier League, so a new contract could be an attractive option for both parties.

Kieran Lee

Bolton Wanderers’ Kieran Lee.

The 33-year-old is perhaps closer to the end of his career than the start, but has proved vitally important when he has played.

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The former Manchester United youngster is perhaps the best in the Wanderers squad in the number 10 role and has shone when given the chance as his game time is managed appropriately to keep him fresh.

Soon to return from a heel spur problem which has been treated, a new deal at some stage could prove to be a very good decision for a player who has sheephelming Championship experience from his Sheffield Wednesday career.

George Thomasson

Young midfielder who is very highly regarded by Evatt and had deal extended earlier this campaign too.

Has not been in the team as regularly as last season owing to the intense central midfield competition and opportunities have mostly come through deputizing for injured players and as substitute appearances.

Like others who have recently had deals extended earlier this season, there is perhaps no immediate rush for fresh terms at this stage.

MJ Williams

Influential midfielder had deals extended earlier this season so any talk of a fresh contract can perhaps wait for a time.

Very important player whose ability to break up play in front of the defense in particular is an aspect which is not done to the same level by others and extending his time at the club could be a smart move.

Jon Dadi Bodvarsson

Iceland international has only just arrived at Wanderers on an 18-month deal from Millwall in the January transfer window.

You’ve started well and scored three goals so far, improving with each performance after his lack of game time at the Lions in the first half of the season.

Having only just arrived, talk of an extended deal is perhaps premature and one to be taken at a later date next season.

Ronan Darcy

Youngster penned fresh earlier this season and has since been out on loan at Sogndal in Norway and is currently at Queen’s Park in Scotland to pick valuable experience of men’s first team football.

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Undoubtedly a player with talent, he has yet to string together a sustained run of games under Evatt and could have a big season next campaign to see if he can do and be regularly involved for Wanderers before a decision is made on another deal being offered.

Joel Dixon

Joel Dixon of Bolton Wanderers.

Started the season as the club’s number one, but has been on the sidelines ever since James Trafford arrived on loan from Manchester City.

Errors at times have proved costly for former Barrow stopper and Wanderers face some decisions in the summer on the goalkeeping front, with Trafford poised to head back from his loan spell to the Premier League champions, with whom he has another year on his deal.

The possibility of Trafford being back at Bolton next season has been raised and could limit Dixon’s game time if he returns or if another goalkeeper is brought in over the summer.

Will Aimson

Has looked solid and generally not put a foot wrong when given a chance in the heart of defence.

Former Plymouth Argyle central defender has plenty of experience in League One and is a solid option to have in the squad.

You have not played in the Championship yet, where Wanderers are aspiring to get to in the immediate future, but decision is arguably not pressing at this moment in time, but certainly a player whose time at Bolton could merit an extension.

Amadou Bakayoko

Like Kachunga, attacker has had a stop-start season owing to injury problems, but has demonstrated his abilities in front of goal with recent purple patch.

Offers Wanderers the ability to play more direct and explosive pace has proven problems for opposition teams, particularly off the bench.

Bakayoko boasts Championship experience too from his time at Coventry City last season and could be another one whose time at the club which merits extending.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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