There were high hopes for Conor Bradley when he joined Bolton on loan, but few expected the Liverpool defender to shine as brightly as he did.
Bradley was already a Northern Ireland international with five first-team appearances at Liverpool, but the step to a full-time role in League One was still a big one.
The teenager swapped Anfield for the former Reebok in June, and went on to feature 53 times for the Wanderers, scoring seven goals and assisting six.
With Bolton, he won the Papa John’s Trophy and reached the playoff semi-finals.
Now, he will return to Liverpool for pre-season among Jurgen Klopp‘s senior squad, with a decision to be made over whether he stays or heads out on loan again.
So how did Bradley perform this season and what can we expect for the future?
Bradley has clearly been a hit at Bolton – but just how good has he been?
Bradley’s loan at Wanderers couldn’t have gone much better.
He has been an important member of Ian Evatt’s squad since the first game of the season and is near the top of the Bolton squad in terms of minutes on the pitch.
Despite his youth, Bradley has maintained a level of consistency during his first full season in men’s football.
He isn’t intimidated by the big games and seems to thrive under pressure, helping the Whites finish in the top six and win the Papa John’s Trophy.
What have been his strengths and weaknesses?
Bradley is dangerous going forward and has scored seven times in all competitions this season from the wing-back role.
His dribbling is also an effective weapon and defenders have struggled to contain him over the past season.
It is hard to pinpoint any weaknesses from the youngster’s time at Wanderers but one small nitpick would be that his eagerness sometimes gets the better of him.
He has picked up some needless bookings and served a two-match ban in February, but that aspect of his game will improve with experience.
Anything else you can tell us from your experience covering Bradley at Bolton?
Bradley has also made a positive impression off the pitch.
Evatt has praised his strong work ethic and says he is always keen to take in information and improve his game.
He quickly became a popular figure among supporters and was serenaded with chants of “Conor Bradley, we want you to stay” at the club’s end-of-season awards, where he picked up a trio of prizes.
We know Bolton wanted him if they went up, but where could you see him next season now?
If he does go out on loan next season, I could see Bradley playing for at least a top-half Championship club.
He has proven over the past season that he can handle the physicality of the EFL and would benefit from the step up in divisions.
Could you see Bradley being a long-term option for Liverpool?
Breaking into the first-team picture at Liverpool is obviously a big ask given the quality of Trent Alexander-Arnold among others.
But Bradley has lots of potential and if he keeps working hard and developing, I wouldn’t be too surprised if he eventually gets a few opportunities in Jurgen Klopp‘s squad.
• Thanks again to Dan Barnes for his insight on Bradley’s time at Bolton. Follow Dan on Twitter @DanBarnesJourno.