Gary Megson has urged Bolton‘s players to catch up with the pack in the lower half of the Premier League, starting at Wolves on Saturday.
It has been a disappointing season so far for the Trotters, who find themselves 18th in the table after picking up only 12 points from their opening 13 games.
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Whilst sides tipped for drop like Birmingham and Burnley – currently 11th and 12th respectively – have made relatively comfortable starts to the campaign, Bolton have struggled and go into Saturday’s match at Wolves in dire need of a victory.
With their opponents two points worse off in 19th place, the clash at Molineux offers Bolton the chance to pull clear of Mick McCarthy’s side and potentially lift themselves out of the relegation zone.
Megson, however, has his sights set even higher and believes his team should be keeping pace with the over-achievers sitting more comfortably in mid-table.
“We can do ourselves a power of good (on Saturday), but it’s not just between ourselves and Wolves – we’ve got to get back into that pack,” Megson said.
“Birmingham are 11th with six more points than we have got.
“We have got to get back into there and try and get ourselves further up the table.”
After a run of three straight defeats in the league, Megson was delighted to see his players rediscover their grit in a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Fulham last week.
“We battled and scrapped,” Megson said.
“Sometimes, when you are in the position we were in before the Fulham game, there is that nagging doubt as to whether you can actually recreate that.
“You need to go down to Fulham, you know you are going to have to close down the ball, you know because of the patient way they play everybody will be comfortable on the ball and you have to be able to cope with that.
“In order to do that you have to work hard – you need to battle and you need to scrap.
“You also need to pass, cross, shoot, dribble, all those things. But you need to have a starting point.
“Down at Fulham ours had to be rolling our sleeves up and having a right good go, and we did.”
Having seen their team slide down the table, Bolton fans will have been relieved to see them stop the rot at Craven Cottage, although Megson insists he has never had to worry about his players’ commitment to the cause.
“There was never going to be any danger of us putting up a white flag,” Megson said.
“This club never has done and never will do – it wasn’t something that ever really came into the equation.”
“There is bound to be players with issues at times and sometimes it does have an impact on your team.
“But I would like to feel that we have the strength of character to cope with those things.
“Other clubs will have them as well, and we have to go about games in the manner that we did against Fulham.”