Bolton veteran Davies is up for promotion fight


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The Independent Football

Bolton Wanderers will begin their quest to make an immediate return to the Premier League with a derby at Burnley today.

Owen Coyle's side saw their 11-year stay in the top flight come to an end on the final day of a troubled season back in May. Bolton's campaign will be remembered as much for the remarkable recovery of midfielder Fabrice Muamba, after he suffered a heart attack during an FA Cup match at Tottenham Hotspur in March, as their on-field travails.

Muamba was this week forced to retire from the game on the advice of doctors and the club will look to the 24-year-old as a role model off the pitch to inspire promotion.

The veteran Kevin Davies admitted Bolton faced a battle to go back up at the first time of asking, but is looking forward to the challenge. "We've had both ends of the spectrum. My first four or five years here were great – cup finals, qualifying for Europe and things like that," the 35-year-old said yesterday.

"Then things turned around and we had two or three years' fighting relegation. So there has always been a battle and something to play for while I've been in this side.

"Obviously, this season we've got another battle on our hands trying to get back to where we want to be and it's another one that I'm personally looking forward to."

Near neighbours Blackburn Rovers also made the drop down following a torrid campaign of their own, during which the manager, Steve Kean, came under fire from supporters.

The pressure is set to remain firmly on the Scot for the new campaign after the club's global adviser, Shebby Singh, claimed Kean would be sacked if he lost three games in a row. Singh subsequently offered an apology, after also calling midfielder Morten Gamst Pedersen a "pensioner", although Kean has been left bemused ahead of their opener at Ipswich Town.

"I don't really think it was an apology," he said. "I think there was an apology that feelings might have been hurt and people might have been rubbed up the wrong way, but I don't really see a retraction in there."

The third of the relegated teams, Wolverhampton Wanderers, face a testing start in a lunchtime kick-off at Leeds United, with their new manager, Stale Solbakken, set to take charge in the league for the first time.

Blackpool will look to bounce back from their play-off final defeat to West Ham United when they travel to Millwall. The Seasiders suffered a shock first-round Capital One Cup exit to League One Morecambe in midweek, when manager Ian Holloway bemoaned their finishing.

Newly promoted Sheffield Wednesday will return to the second tier with a trip to Derby County while fellow new boys Charlton Athletic are also away to Birmingham City.

Yorkshire clubs Barnsley and Hull City are at home to Middlesbrough and Brighton & Hove Albion respectively while Peterborough United will make the short trip to Leicester City.

Nottingham Forest will play host to Bristol City while Watford make the trip across London to meet Crystal Palace.