And so it begins...
Owen Coyle's first line-up is posted, and there is no doubt the manager has been hamstrung by injuries to Stuart Holden, Lee Chung-yong, Sam Ricketts, and Tyrone Mears. Tuncay will not be available as his work permit has not cleared. Now I don't know Coyle's plans, but for me, all 5 of those players would be starting if they were fit. So here is a look at what the gaffer has conjured up with our remaining squad players;
Jussi Jaaskelainen: The big Finn has been a hero at Bolton for 15 years, and one of the best bits of business in league history. I am a bit concerned that Jussi is slowing down a bit, and personally, I would have kept Ali Al-Habsi and tried to sell Jaaskelainen. He is still a very good keeper, but Al-Habsi is just as good, if not better, and much younger.
Gretar Steinnson: In and out of the starting XI, Gretar had a poor season in 2010-2011, but I don't think that reflects his true ability. Given the injuries to Tyrone Mears and Sam Ricketts, the Icelandic fullback should be one of the first names on the team-sheet for the next couple months. This will give him a big chance to play well (as he did back in 2008-2009) and establish himself as the first pick at right back for the season. He is certainly capable of it. Even though he is a little short on pace, Steinnson is very capable defensively, gets forward quite often, and puts in a good cross when given the opportunity.
Zat Knight: The giant centre-half has always had the potential to be one of the best, and under Owen Coyle he seems to have harnessed those abilities. He will be a dominating presence int he middle of the pitch for years to come.
Gary Cahill: Another top player who had a run of poor form last season that saw many in the stands at the Reebok turn on him. I still believe him to be a top class central defender, and whether he ultimately stays or goes this month, I think he will be eager to re-establish his reputation starting today.
Paul Robinson: An absolute waste of space, probably the worst player in the Premier League. For fuck's sake Coyle, start the Marcos Alonso era now!
Chris Eagles: Not sure what to expect, he is a player capable of the sublime, but he also disappears for long stretches of the match.
Fabrice Muamba: We all know exactly what we are getting with Fab, a destroyer, a physical specimen, a smart player who gets himself into excellent positions, then promptly gives the ball away or wildly smashes it into row Z. He is still very young, and he does have stretches where it looks like he is improving technically, but most of those performances feature Stuart Holden taking the ball off Fab as soon as he wins it.
Nigel Reo-Coker: Again, a player who has been brilliant and terrible over the years, sometimes in the same match. I personally think he was miscast at Villa as a holding midfielder. With Muamba kicking anything that moves in front of the back four, Reo-Coker should have plenty of chances to get forward and show his real talent.
Martin Petrov: Petrov underperformed last season, and found himself in and out of the team, but I am expecting a real bounce-back from him. There is no questioning the talent, I think he will really show it starting today.
Kevin Davies: He is past it. As soon as Tuncay is available he should go to the bench, but he won't.
Ivan Klasnic: A clinical finisher coming off a lost season because of injuries and personal problems. I like him, but he is at his best combining with a pacy striker who creates openings for him. Obviously this is not something Wanderers possess at the moment.
All that considered, we should win today. Even with all the injuries, we still have a better squad than QPR. But a season opener against a promoted team in their ground is a bad way to start the season. I am going for a nervy draw, and a lot of bitching and whinging on the message-boards afterwards.