By Mark Heys
December 31 2007
Bolton Wanderers hope it will be a case of new year, new start when they take on bottom club Derby County at the Reebok Stadium on Wednesday evening in what will be the first of three successive home matches for the Trotters.
The last twelve months began with a heavy defeat at Liverpool and ended with a similar scoreline at Sunderland, three managers have sat in the Reebok hot seat since then and away form was poor overall.
Sam Allardyce left for pastures new after nearly eight years, Sammy Lee tried but failed to build on that legacy and now it's Gary Megson's turn to keep Bolton ticking.
Top ten finishes had become the norm for the Wanderers but since Allardyce's departure in April they have found themselves positioned at the wrong end of the league table.
It hasn't all been bad though, there has been another UEFA Cup campaign to look forward to and the club has gained creditable results against Manchester United and Bayern Munich.
The first game of the New Year sees struggling Derby make their first trip to Bolton in nearly six years and under former Wigan boss Paul Jewell there is a beleif that the Rams can at least make a good fight of it in the second half of the season despite many saying their fate is already sealed.
Both sides had little to shout about over the Christmas fixtures with Bolton going down to back to back defeats against Everton and Sunderland and Derby losing their home matches against Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers.
Wanderers have a good home record to maintain having remained undefeated since the League Cup tie against Manchester City at the end of October. Derby on the other hand go in search of only their second Premier League victory of the campaign and their first away from Pride Park.
Bolton hope to have full back Nicky Hunt available for selection after the former England U21 defender missed the game against Sunderland on Saturday afternoon.
Danny Guthrie and Ivan Campo where surprisingly dropped against the Black Cats and they too also hope to feature in the selection plans of Wanderers manager Gary Megson.
Heidar Helguson and Ricardo Vaz-Te have not played since the opening weeks of the season but both have made great strides in their bid to make a first team comeback.
Derby manager Jewell has a number of players either receiving treatment or having had treatment prior to the trip to the North West and these include defensive quartet Dean Leacock, Andy Todd, Marc Edworthy and Andy Griffin.
Goalkeeper Stephen Bywater has been out of action for the last couple of games with a shoulder problem so Welshman Lewis Price will once again be set to deputise.
Price's international team mate Robert Earnshaw has a groin problem as does David Jones and there is also concern about Stephen Pearson's dislocated shoulder.
One man who isn't injured but who won't play for the Rams is last season's top goalscorer Steve Howard as he is on the verge of completing a move back to the Championship with Leicester City.
LAST TIME WE MET:
29/09/2007 DERBY COUNTY 1 (Miller) BOLTON WANDERERS 1 (Anelka)
BOLTON: Jussi Jaaskelainen, Joey O'Brien (Daniel Braaten), Andy O'Brien, Abdoulaye Meite, Ricardo Gardner, Kevin Nolan, Ivan Campo, Gary Speed (Gavin McCann), Kevin Davies (Christian Wilhelmsson), Nicolas Anelka, El-Hadji Diouf
SUBS NOT USED: Stelios Giannakopoulos, Ali Al-Habsi (GK)
DERBY: Stephen Bywater, Tyrone Mears, Claude Davis, Dean Leacock, James McEveley, David Jones (Giles Barnes), Stephen Pearson, Matt Oakley, Eddie Lewis (Gary Teale)
SUBS NOT USED: Robert Earnshaw, Andy Griffin, Darren Moore
PLAYED FOR BOTH:
Jeff Chandler, Simon Coleman, Khalilou Fadiga, John Gregory, Trevor Hebbard, Dean Holdsworth, Russell Hoult, Blessing Kaku, Francis Lee, John McGovern, Andy Oakes, Kevin Poole, Paul Ritchie, Peter Shilton, Emerson Thome, Andy Todd
DID YOU KNOW?:
Bolton haven't beaten Derby at home or away in Premier League competition but they did however win a League Cup tie in October 1999.
Dean Holdsworth was the Assistant Manager at Derby at the start of the 2005-2006 season. He was appointed as right hand man to ex-Bolton captain Phil Brown and made a handful of appearances for the Rams first team.
Three of Derby's legendary players from the 1970's have managed Bolton with Bruce Rioch, Roy McFarland and Colin Todd all ex-Wanderers manager and in the case of McFarland and Todd they have also managed Derby.
Current Rams player Andy Todd was part of the Bolton side which lifted the Division One title in 1997.