Tag Archives: Bolton Wanderers

Great Goals: Johan Elmander – Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. BOLTON WANDERERS (November 2010)

Johan Elmander’s time in English football was mixed but he did enjoy a rich vein of form at Bolton Wanderers during the 2010-2011 season. The Swede scored this magnificent goal which was down to individual brilliance at Molineux against Wolverhampton Wanderers in November 2010.

Bolton were already 1-0 infront when Elmander produced this clever moment. Stuart Holden made a run into the penalty area and found the nomadic striker. His back was to-goal but with a silky backheel, he got away from two opposition defenders in Karl Henry and George Elokobi before finding the bottom corner of the net beyond the dive of Marcus Hahnemann.

It was one of 10 league goals he managed in the season and in a poll ran by The Guardian newspaper ahead of the 20,000th goal scored by Marc Albrighton in December 2011, it was voted the greatest-ever goal in Premier League history.

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Seasonal Stories: Bolton Wanderers (2001-2002)

Target achieved

Bolton Wanderers were tipped by many as favourites to make an instant return to the First Division ahead of the 2001-2002 Premier League campaign. Without a great deal of money to spend following promotion, Sam Allardyce had to rely on the bulk of his promotion-winning squad and they did him proud. Top of the table in August and a memorable win at Old Trafford over the reigning champions were among the early highlights.

A winter wobble gave way to a successful spring and a 16th-place finish which meant the Trotters avoided relegation for the first time in their Premier League existence.

Three wins from three

Having won promotion to the Premier League after defeating Preston North End in the play-off final in late May, Sam Allardyce was about to face a big challenge as a top-flight manager and with little summer investment. Bolton spent a meagre £650,000 in pre-season and that was on one player, Henrik Pedersen from Danish outfit Silkeborg.

Allardyce had to rely on the majority of his promotion-winning squad but they made a fabulous start on the opening day at Filbert Street, handing down a 5-0 thrashing to Leicester City. Kevin Nolan scored twice on his Premier League debut and Per Frandsen struck two fantastic free-kicks in a scoreline that left everyone surprised by the way Bolton had trounced a team who had comfortably finished in mid-table in the previous campaign.

Michael Ricketts had also scored in that victory and he made a brilliant individual start to his maiden season in the top-flight. Ricketts got the only goal of the game in Bolton’s first home match of the season against Middlesbrough three days later, then opened the scoring against Liverpool FC in a shock 2-1 victory over the side that held five trophies to their name at this stage of the season. A record crowd at The Reebok Stadium saw Sander Westerveld allow a weak Dean Holdsworth shot to defeat him in stoppage-time and ensure Bolton ended August top of the Premier League table.

Surprising the elite

September was a winless month but Bolton still remained in fourth place and picked up more vital points on their travels. The Premier League elite were struggling against ‘Big Sam’ and his battling squad. Liverpool FC had lost to them and after the first international break of the season, Leeds United couldn’t break Bolton down at Elland Road, drawing 0-0.

Later in the month, Ricketts came off the bench to snatch an equaliser in a 1-1 draw at Highbury with Arsenal. He later admitted he had been dropped by the manager for a poor performance in the previous match but seemed happy to play the rotational role. He would strike a more significant blow a month later on the reigning champions.

When Bolton travelled to Old Trafford to play Manchester United in mid-October, they had slipped to eighth in the table and were winless in six matches. They fell behind to Juan Sebastian Veron’s free-kick and needed a splendid double-save from Jussi Jaaskelainen to stop the Red Devils increasing their advantage. Then, Nolan scored a brilliant equaliser before Ricketts raced clear of Wes Brown in the last five minutes and silenced the home support with a stunning winning goal. Bolton had just stunned Manchester United and left with all three points. They were mixing it in decent company in the upper echelons of the Premier League table.

21st OCTOBER 2001 TABLE

POS TABLE P W D L F A GD PTS
1 Leeds United 9 5 4 0 12 3 +9 19
2 Arsenal 9 5 3 1 21 8 +13 18
3 Aston Villa 9 5 3 1 14 6 +8 18
4 Manchester United 9 5 2 2 26 16 +10 17
5 Liverpool FC 8 5 1 2 15 9 +6 16
6 BOLTON WANDERERS 10 4 3 3 12 11 +1 15

Momentum lost

The fine start Bolton made to the season seemed to have silenced the critics who had believed they had little hope of staying up at the start of the campaign. However, winter would leave a real freeze over The Reebok.

After the win at Old Trafford, Allardyce’s side lost all sense of momentum, only winning one of their next 15 matches which was a 2-1 success infront of the Sky Sports Super Sunday cameras away at struggling Ipswich Town in mid-November.

Bolton plummeted down the table and were beginning to concede goals at an alarming rate too. Chelsea beat them 5-1 at Stamford Bridge despite Nolan giving them a third-minute lead. Days later, Robbie Fowler scored his first Leeds United hat-trick as David O’Leary’s side cruised to a 3-0 victory on Boxing Day.

When they lost an end-to-end contest in early February on Tyneside to Newcastle United 3-2, the club had dropped into the bottom three for the first time in the season. Maybe the doubters were about to be proven right.

Allardyce knew he needed to add some proven experience to his squad and swooped into the European market to bring in defender Bruno N’Gotty from Marseille, tough-tackling midfielder Stig Tøfting from Hamburger SV and experienced forwards Youri Djorkaeff and Fredi Bobic. The latter pair would have a huge influence on Bolton’s fortunes in the spring months.

Fredi and Youri do the business

Bolton did record a 1-0 victory over West Ham United in mid-February but the genuine turning point came in late March when the Trotters travelled to The Valley to play Charlton Athletic. Djorkaeff scored his first goals for the club as Bolton recorded a 2-1 victory to climb out of the drop zone and it started a run of three victories in four games.

On Easter Saturday, Bobic broke his duck at home to Aston Villa and Nolan rediscovered his goalscoring form to send Villa to a 3-2 defeat. A week later, Bobic was in sensational form at home to Ipswich. In a game that was a genuine relegation six-pointer, he scored a first half hat-trick and Djorkaeff chipped in with another strike as Allardyce’s side enjoyed a memorable first half. Ipswich were 4-0 down at the interval and their season never truly recovered. The final scoreline was 4-1 and it was a result that virtually secured Bolton’s place in the Premier League for another season.

The magical 40-point mark was achieved a week later with a 1-1 home draw against Tottenham Hotspur and although they lost their final three matches against a trio of London sides in Fulham, Arsenal and West Ham United, Bolton had achieved survival for the first time in their Premier League life – finishing four points above danger. It was a job well done from a team considered the favourite for the drop at the start of the season.

FINAL 2001-2002 TABLE – THE BOTTOM SIX

POS TABLE P W D L F A GD PTS
15 Everton 38 11 10 17 45 57 -12 43
16 BOLTON WANDERERS 38 9 13 16 44 62 -18 40
17 Sunderland 38 10 10 18 29 51 -22 40
18 Ipswich Town 38 9 9 20 41 64 -23 36
19 Derby County 38 8 6 24 33 63 -30 30
20 Leicester City 38 5 13 20 30 64 -34 28

Great Goals: Stelios Giannakopoulos – BOLTON WANDERERS vs. Norwich City (March 2005)

A cult figure during Bolton Wanderers’ European challenging days in the Premier League, Stelios Giannakopoulos remains one of the finest Greek players to have played in the English top-flight. This was the pick of his Premier League goals against bottom club Norwich City in March 2005.

Giannakopoulos starts his own effort by taking a corner. The Canaries defenders struggle to clear and the ball eventually falls back to the midfielder. On the edge of the area, he evaded a fairly timid challenge which gave him the space to unleash a smashing curling effort beyond the despairing dive of Robert Green in the Norwich goal.

Bolton won the match 1-0 and finished in the top six at the end of the season, aided by classy moments like this from Giannakopoulos.

Premier League Files: Kevin Nolan

Premier League Career: Bolton Wanderers (2001-2009), Newcastle United (2009), (2010-2011), West Ham United (2012-2015)

Kevin Nolan enjoyed a successful playing career in the Premier League. He has scored winning goals at Old Trafford, captained all three of the sides he played for in the top-flight and also has two Premier League hat-tricks to his name. Nolan represented England at Under-21 level but despite his name being often linked with a senior call-up, he never earned a cap for The Three Lions. In fact, he holds the unfortunate record of making the most Premier League appearances without winning international recognition from England.

Growing up in the Toxteth area of Liverpool where goalscoring legend Robbie Fowler was born, Nolan’s desire from an early age was to become a footballer. Although the teams he followed at a young age were his boyhood club Liverpool FC and Celtic, his favourite players were the Manchester United pair, Eric Cantona and Lee Sharpe. He signed for Bolton Wanderers at the age of 16.

In 2001, Nolan helped Sam Allardyce’s Trotters defeat Preston North End 3-0 in the First Division play-off final at The Millennium Stadium. He immediately became an integral part of the Bolton side returning to the Premier League after three seasons away. On the opening day of the 2001-2002 campaign, Nolan scored twice as Bolton made a fabulous start, winning 5-0 away at Leicester City. Two months later, he scored an equalising goal in the club’s surprising win at Old Trafford. He finished with eight goals as Bolton finished 16th to beat the Premier League drop for the first time.

The 2002-2003 campaign was personally a disappointment for Nolan as he only added one more goal to his tally. However, it was a priceless one. He capitalised on a mistake from David Beckham to score at Old Trafford for the second successive campaign. This time, it was the matchwinning strike to spearhead Bolton to a 1-0 victory. It was an important result too, as they only avoided relegation at the end of the season by two points. There was a marked improvement in both player and club form in 2003-2004. Bolton finished in a tremendous 8th place in the table and reached the League Cup final. Nolan scored a career-best 12 goals in all competitions as his influence continued to grow on Allardyce’s ever-improving side.

When Jay-Jay Okocha left The Reebok Stadium in 2006, Nolan’s impact was recognised even further when he was appointed as Okocha’s replacement in the team captaincy role. He made 323 league appearances for the club, scoring a host of crucial goals in Bolton’s maiden European adventures but by January 2009, fans were unhappy with his drop in performances. Without a goal and saddened by the criticism considering the service he’d given to Bolton, Kevin left to join Newcastle United in a £4 million move.

His move to Tyneside didn’t start well. A month after his arrival, he received a red card in a goalless draw with Everton for a horrendous two-footed challenge on Victor Anichebe which left the Nigerian out of action for several months with a serious knee injury. Newcastle were relegated at the end of the season and all of a sudden, Nolan was back in the Football League. However, he didn’t seek a transfer and took responsibility for the club’s drop into the second-tier. He was widely praised for his efforts in the 2009-2010 season. He scored 18 goals, including the first hat-trick of his club career in an away victory against Ipswich Town. His performances earned him the honour of the Championship Player of the Year and Newcastle earned promotion back to the top-flight as champions.

With Nicky Butt retiring in the summer of 2010, Nolan was given the captain’s armband on Newcastle’s return to the Premier League and scored twice in the club’s first home match back in the top-flight as Aston Villa were thrashed 6-0. Two months later, he enjoyed arguably the greatest day of his career, scoring a hat-trick in the Tyne & Wear Derby as Newcastle enjoyed a memorable 5-1 success over bitter rivals Sunderland.

So it was a surprise to see Nolan leave Newcastle in the summer of 2011 and return to the Championship, linking up with his former manager Allardyce at West Ham United on a five-year contract. With Matthew Upson moving on to Stoke City following the Hammers’ relegation from the top-flight, Nolan was immediately handed the captain’s armband and he led the team to an instant return to the Premier League. Promotion was secured via the play-offs.

Back in the Premier League for 2012-2013, Nolan scored in all of West Ham’s first three home games of the season, including a stoppage-time equaliser to rescue a 1-1 draw with Sunderland. In April, he scored the 100th goal of his career and he wrapped up his season in style with a final day treble in a 4-2 victory over already relegated Reading. That meant that for the fourth season running, he achieved double figures in terms of league goals. 2013-2014 was less rewarding and West Ham’s form wasn’t great either as they struggled to find any consistency. Two quick red cards in the winter months in away losses to Liverpool FC and Fulham suggested frustration was creeping into Nolan’s game. Allardyce’s response was to fine him two weeks wages and warn him that any further misconduct would see him removed of the captaincy. He still ended as the club’s top scorer but it wasn’t a happy season and his time at West Ham which started so well was ending on a downer.

His last game for the club came in August 2015 against AFC Bournemouth. With West Ham 2-0 down at half-time, he was replaced by Matt Jarvis and it was the last time he would figure in the Premier League. Five days later, he left the club via mutual consent, having played 157 times in all competitions for the Hammers. Nolan moved into management five months later, taking a player-manager role at Leyton Orient who were struggling in League Two. In January 2017, he took over at Notts County and led them to the League Two play-off final last season where they were pipped to promotion by Coventry City. After a wretched start to the 2018-2019 campaign, Nolan parted company with the oldest football club in England on 26th August, replaced by Australian Harry Kewell, who has since also being relieved of his duties.

Management has already shown bumps in the road but Kevin Nolan had a knack of being in the right place at the right time as a player. He was a leader in all of the dressing rooms he walked into, was never afraid of a challenge and a serial goalscorer for all of the teams he represented in the top-flight.

The Managers: Sam Allardyce

Premier League Clubs Managed: Bolton Wanderers (2001-2007), Newcastle United (2007-2008), Blackburn Rovers (2008-2010), West Ham United (2012-2015), Sunderland (2015-2016), Crystal Palace (2016-2017), Everton (2017-2018)

Sam Allardyce is one of the great survivors of the Premier League. He is often one of the first bosses that worried owners turn to when their club look to be flirting dangerously with the depths of a relegation battle. Everton chairman Bill Kenwright was the latest in this situation when the Toffees elected to call on his services in November 2017. Everton slipped into the bottom three when they lost 4-1 at Southampton under David Unsworth’s difficult reign as caretaker manager. They were in freefall and needed the expertise of Allardyce to get themselves out of a very sticky situation.

The Merseysiders didn’t have to worry. The football in terms of overall quality was not good but ‘Big Sam’ is one person who doesn’t care about style. The result is vitally more important over substance and that’s why Everton finished in eighth position despite some underwhelming displays. It was another case of mission complete for Allardyce. His reward was the sack 72 hours after the conclusion of the 2017-2018 season!

All this and a successful salvage mission at Crystal Palace has come after his ill-fated short spell as England manager in 2016 which seemed to have put him on the managerial scrapheap.

Over 500 appearances

During a 21-year playing career, Allardyce made 578 league and cup appearances. After spending his youth days at semi-professional level with Dudley Town, he joined Bolton Wanderers in 1969 and spent nine seasons as a player with the Trotters. During his time with them, Bolton were promoted to the First Division in 1978. It was the most productive spell of his playing days.

He spent much of the 1980s on the road, playing for no fewer than eight clubs. This included a brief period playing in the North American Soccer League with the Tampa Bay Rowdies and a second 14-game spell with Bolton Wanderers in the 1985-1986 season. A year later, he won promotion out of the Fourth Division with Preston North End, also earning a spot in the PFA Team of the Year.

Early coaching days

Allardyce was hired as a player-coach by Brian Talbot at West Bromwich Albion in February 1989. He spent the rest of the season managing and occasionally playing for the reserves before being promoted to first-team coaching duties. That role ended in January 1991 when he and Talbot were sacked following the Baggies shock FA Cup exit at the hands of non-league Woking.

So, ‘Big Sam’ went to Ireland and despite huge financial pressures, he managed to guide Limerick to promotion into the Irish Premier Division. After a year in Ireland, he returned to English shores, coaching at Preston North End. When manager Les Chapman was sacked 10 games into the campaign, Sam had a stint as caretaker manager but despite promise, he was overlooked for the job permanently by the Preston hierarchy. He left after 18 months at Deepdale, frustrated by being forced to work at youth team level after his taste of first-team management.

His first permanent managerial breakthrough came at Blackpool, who appointed him manager in July 1994. In two seasons at Bloomfield Road, he took them to 12th and 3rd place finishes in the Second Division. After narrowly missing out on promotion in 1996, losing in the play-off semi-finals to Bradford City, Allardyce was sacked by Chairman Owen Oyston. Five years after his departure, he said: “I was stunned but it didn’t put me off football management otherwise I would never have returned. Looking back, Blackpool probably did me a favour.”

In January 1997, he returned to management with Notts County, who were struggling in the lower reaches of Division Two. He arrived too late to save them from relegation but earned them instant promotion as Third Division champions in 1997-1998, becoming the first post-war side to earn promotion from any division in the month of March.

He remained at County until October 1999, resigning to return to Bolton Wanderers.

The spirit of Bolton

Allardyce did inherit a talented squad that had just missed out on promotion the previous season via the play-offs. Among the players at his disposal were Eidur Gudjohnsen, Dean Holdsworth, Claus Jensen and Mark Fish. Despite being in the bottom half when he took over, Bolton did reach the First Division play-offs but came up short at the semi-final hurdle, losing to Ipswich Town over two legs.

There were no such mistakes in 2000-2001. After three years in the First Division wilderness, Bolton returned to the Premier League with a 3-0 play-off final victory over Preston North End. Now, ‘Big Sam’ had his chance in the big time.

It was a remarkable start. Bolton won their first three matches to top the table in August, including a 2-1 victory over Liverpool FC, who had won five trophies in the calendar year of 2001. In October, reigning champions Manchester United were added to the list of scalps and Bolton finished in 16th place and avoided relegation for the first time in their Premier League existence.

It was at this point when Allardyce was able to use his astuteness in the transfer market, bringing in big European names that seemed to be at the twilight of their careers. They included Bruno N’Gotty, Youri Djorkaeff, Ivan Campo and Jay-Jay Okocha. The 2002-2003 Premier League season was a real struggle but some inspirational displays from Okocha, most notably on the final day saw the Trotters just about avoid the drop at the expense of a much-more expensively assembled West Ham United squad.

That was Bolton’s last season of survival struggle. They enjoyed a real purple patch from 2003 to 2007. Allardyce took them to the 2004 League Cup final although they lost 2-1 in the showpiece event to Middlesbrough. They finished in the Premier League’s top 10 in four successive campaigns, including a stunning 6th place finish in 2004-2005 and fans at The Reebok Stadium enjoyed European football for the first time.

All this success led to Allardyce being shortlisted for the England job in the run-up to the 2006 World Cup finals. He was interviewed for the post but lost out to Middlesbrough manager Steve McClaren, who was Sven-Goran Eriksson’s assistant at the time. In 2007, Allardyce’s relationship with owner Phil Gartside became strained when he was refused more money to spend on players to make a bigger push for Champions League qualification. With two games left to play in 2006-2007, he resigned and was replaced by his assistant, Sammy Lee.

Victim of the Venky’s

Just two days after the season finished, Allardyce was confirmed as Newcastle United manager but it turned out to be an unhappy eight months on Tyneside. When he got the contract to manage the team, Freddie Shepherd was chairman but he was soon replaced at the helm by Mike Ashley.

Not the owner’s man, he was on a hiding to nothing and parted company in January 2008 after a disappointing run of results which included a Boxing Day defeat to relegation-threatened Wigan Athletic and collecting just one point from a possible six against hapless Derby County.

After 11 months on the sidelines, Sam returned to the dugout in December 2008 as the new manager of Blackburn Rovers. Blackburn were second-bottom and had lost five games on the bounce before his arrival. They went nine games unbeaten immediately on his arrival and guided them to safety in 15th position.

Despite being forced to sell Stephen Warnock and Roque Santa Cruz in the summer 2009 transfer window, Allardyce managed to balance the books and took Blackburn to a 10th place finish in 2009-2010 and a League Cup semi-final, where they lost 7-4 on aggregate to Aston Villa. Owner John Williams put the club up for sale in the summer of 2010 and four months into the 2010-2011 campaign, Blackburn became the first Premier League club to come under Indian ownership when the Venky’s took control.

Although Blackburn were sitting in a fairly secure 13th place in December 2010, he was sacked by the owners 24 hours after a late 2-1 defeat in the Lancashire Derby to his former club, Bolton Wanderers. His departure surprised many, including his great friend, Sir Alex Ferguson. One of Allardyce’s coaches, Steve Kean took over but Blackburn went down in May 2012 and haven’t been back in the Premier League since.

Revitalising West Ham

In June 2011, he was given the task of revitalising West Ham United, who had just been relegated from the Premier League. During the course of his first full season at Upton Park, 25 players left and 19 others arrived. It was mission accomplished as West Ham returned to the top-flight after just one season away, defeating Blackpool 2-1 in the play-off final.

Another 11 players arrived in the summer of 2012 including the likes of Matt Jarvis, Andy Carroll and James Collins. West Ham finished in a solid 10th place in 2012-2013 and at the end of the season; he extended his contract by a further two years.

The 2013-2014 season was much tougher and after back-to-back heavy defeats in cup ties in January 2014 at the hands of Nottingham Forest and Manchester City, ‘Big Sam’ received the dreaded vote of confidence from owners David Gold and David Sullivan, who vowed to stick by him despite growing fan pressure. Their loyalty was rewarded when Allardyce won the Manager of the Month award for February 2014 after steering the Hammers to four successive victories. They eventually finished in an uninspiring but safe 13th.

Teddy Sheringham was bought in as an attacking coach in 2014-2015 in an attempt to satisfy annoyed fans and try to give West Ham a more attacking feel to their play. It worked early on and the Londoners sat in fourth place on Christmas Day. However, they fell away dramatically in the second half of the campaign, fading to 12th place. Moments after the final whistle blew on West Ham’s campaign at St James’ Park, it was confirmed his contract would not be renewed by the board. The decision was amicable with Sam deciding to take a break from management.

That pause wouldn’t last long though…

Saving Sunderland…then the England call

In October 2015, he answered the call to help out Sunderland. The Black Cats were second-bottom and without a win from their first eight games. Dick Advocaat had resigned and it was up to Allardyce to keep the survival specialists afloat again in the Premier League.

Although there was an early Tyne & Wear Derby victory, results didn’t come in the early months and going into 2016, Sunderland were seven points off safety and second-bottom. He then made some astute signings in January, bringing in Jan Kirchhoff and Lamine Kone to shore up the backline and adding some creative spark with the addition of Wahbi Khazri.

On 16th April, Sunderland recorded a priceless 3-0 away win at Carrow Road against relegation rivals Norwich City which put survival in their hands. Back-to-back home  victories over Chelsea and Everton in the last eight days of the season secured another Great Escape for Sunderland.

Then, the call came to manage his country, 10 years after his near-miss with the role. England was his biggest challenge. It was an appointment that lasted just 67 days and one match. Adam Lallana scored the only goal of a 1-0 victory in a World Cup 2018 qualification match against Slovakia. It left him with a 100% win ratio but not a record he wants to remember.

In September 2016, The Daily Telegraph began an investigation into bribery within the game, posting a series of allegations about several senior figures. One was a video where reporters posing as businessmen filmed Allardyce allegedly offering to give advice on how to get around on FA rules on player third-party ownership. With searing public pressure growing, he parted company with the FA via mutual consent just over two months after landing his dream role. It looked like his managerial career was in tatters.

Salvation with Palace

He was back though in the Premier League dugout just three months later when Crystal Palace turned to him after firing Alan Pardew. He guided them to survival on the penultimate weekend as they defeated Hull City 4-0, consigning them to relegation in the process. Again, his signings were smart with title-winner Jeff Schlupp, Patrick van Aanholt and Luka Milivojevic among the January arrivals. There were victories in the run-in too over Arsenal, eventual champions Chelsea and Liverpool FC.

He resigned in May 2017 and hinted that the job he’d completed at Selhurst Park would be his last club position. However, he was back for his seventh spell at a Premier League side in November, signing a two-year contract to become Everton manager. Victory in Unsworth’s final match as interim boss meant he took over with the club sitting 13th but just a couple of points clear of the relegation zone. He guided them to a seven-match unbeaten run, taking them away from danger.

Despite a horrific away record, Goodison Park became a tougher place for sides to come with just the two Manchester clubs winning on Merseyside after his arrival at the club. Everton finished in eighth place and he had been hoping to build or even match his best-ever top-flight finish with the Toffees in 2018-2019 before being dismissed on 16th May 2018.

If there’s a great survivor of the management game in today’s industry, look no further than Sam Allardyce. Don’t be surprised to see him back in the dugout at a club who need a saviour next season.

Premier League Files: Jay-Jay Okocha

Premier League Career: Bolton Wanderers (2002-2006)

Jay-Jay Okocha was one of the stars of the Premier League in the early 2000s. His flair, panache and skill made him a player who could often do amazing things on the football pitch. Widely regarded as the best Nigerian player of his generation, Okocha enjoyed a wonderful time on English shores for four seasons as a Bolton Wanderers player.

Okocha won 75 international caps for Nigeria and is one of the most iconic African players of all-time. He played at three World Cup finals, reaching the round-of-16 in both 1994 and 1998. He was also part of the Nigeria squad that stunned Argentina to win the gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta in the football competition. Football runs through Okocha’s DNA. In fact, his nephew is Alex Iwobi who currently plays in the Premier League for Arsenal and is now a Nigerian international himself.

He started his career in Germany and joined Eintracht Frankfurt in December 1991. Frankfurt might have not won any Bundesliga titles but were a thrilling team to watch and often finished in the higher positions in the table. Okocha played alongside Ghanaian hotshot Tony Yeboah, Norway’s Jørn Andersen and midfielder Maurizio Gaudino. Frankfurt finished third in 1993 and fifth in 1994 and Okocha won Goal of the Year too in 1993 for a mesmerising dribbling strike against Karlsruher SC.

In 1995, Okocha spectacularly fell out with coach Jupp Heynckes who also took a dislike to Yeboah and Gaudino. The latter pair moved on to pastures new in English football whilst Okocha stuck around until 1996 but Frankfurt’s first-ever relegation from the top-flight meant he would leave the Bundesliga behind and join Fenerbahce that summer.

He scored 30 times in 62 games across two seasons for the Turkish side and would become a Turkish citizen too before switching to Paris Saint-Germain in 1998, spending £14 million to acquire this gifted talent. By now, Okocha had a fearsome reputation as one of the best direct set-piece takers in world football. His time in PSG was more frustrating. They won the UEFA Intertoto Cup in 2001 but league success eluded Jay-Jay, who did at least pass on his experience and talent to a young Brazilian superstar by the name of Ronaldinho during his four-year stay in the French capital.

After the 2002 World Cup, Okocha moved to Bolton Wanderers on a free transfer. It was seen as a wonderful coup for a club that were always likely to be fighting a relegation battle. He sparkled at his new challenge, scoring seven times including the club’s Goal of the Season winner against relegation rivals West Ham United in April 2003. On the final day of the season, a trademark free-kick helped Bolton to victory over Middlesbrough that ensured their Premier League survival at West Ham’s expense. In the celebrations that followed, Okocha taught his manager Sam Allardyce some of his dancing moves which went down well with all the supporters at The Reebok Stadium.

Allardyce appointed Okocha as the club’s new captain in the summer of 2003 following the retirement of long-serving defender Gudni Bergsson. He led the club to their first cup final in nine years, scoring two breathtaking goals in the League Cup semi-final defeat of Aston Villa. Bolton faced Middlesbrough at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium but came up short on the day, losing 2-1. Amazingly, Okocha failed to score a single league goal in the campaign but that wasn’t for the worth of trying. He ended his drought on the opening weekend of 2004-2005, scoring twice in the 4-1 victory over Charlton Athletic. Another four goals followed as Bolton achieved their highest finish in the Premier League, ending sixth in the final standings.

His final season saw the Nigerian removed of the captaincy in November 2005. His head had been turned by a potential move to the Middle East and Allardyce elected to give the armband to Kevin Nolan. Okocha carried on playing but it was clear the spark had gone and he rejected a contract extension at the end of the season to go and play in Qatar. It was a slightly acrimonious departure and his relationship with Bolton supporters wasn’t helped six years later following their Premier League relegation when he said: “We laid a good foundation at Bolton but, unfortunately, for the fans, they have to deal with Bolton being a struggling team again.”

After one year in Qatar, he returned to the English game to conclude his career at Hull City, retiring at the end of the 2007-2008 campaign. He is currently Chairman of the Delta State Football Association and has also expressed previously a desire to become Nigerian Football Federation President in the past.

He was so good, he was named twice! Jay-Jay Okocha certainly didn’t do dull during his time in the Premier League with Bolton Wanderers.

Great Goals: Hatem Ben Arfa – NEWCASTLE UNITED vs. Bolton Wanderers (April 2012)

On Easter Monday in 2012, Newcastle United were at home to relegation-threatened Bolton Wanderers and were struggling to break down the Trotters resolute defence. The score was 0-0 and therefore, something special was required to break the deadlock. It came from midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa.

The Frenchman received the ball inside his own half and a beautiful spin saw him leave Sam Ricketts on the ground. He was now away and continued a mazy run right through the centre of the St James’ Park turf. Three Bolton players were beaten and then, he calmly placed the ball beyond the advancing Adam Bogdan.

At times, Ben Arfa was a frustrating enigma. Sometimes, he was brilliant, other times, he was non-existent. However, this was one special goal from a player who has always had the quality to deliver but not always fully demonstrated his abilities.

Memorable Matches: Middlesbrough 4-3 Bolton Wanderers (March 2006)

Goalscorers: Stelios Giannakopoulos 3, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink 8 PEN, 47, Mark Viduka 30, Jay-Jay Okocha 58, Radhi Jaidi 81, Stuart Parnaby 90

Teams:

Middlesbrough: Mark Schwarzer, Andrew Davies, Ugo Ehiogu, Stuart Parnaby, Emanuel Pogatetz, Franck Queudrue, George Boateng, James Morrison (Lee Cattermole 62), Fabio Rochemback (Stewart Downing 83), Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (Yakubu 73), Mark Viduka

Bolton Wanderers: Jussi Jaaskelainen, Tal Ben-Haim, Ricardo Gardner, Radhi Jaidi, Joey O’Brien, Gary Speed (Abdoulaye Faye 85), Kevin Nolan (Hidetoshi Nakata 72), Jay-Jay Okocha, Stelios Giannakopoulos, Kevin Davies, Henrik Pedersen (Jared Borgetti 53)

Referee: Howard Webb, Attendance: 25,971

On Mothers’ Day 2006, Middlesbrough faced Bolton Wanderers in what turned out to be another pulsating afternoon at The Riverside Stadium. Boro had already featured in exciting encounters with Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur and Wigan Athletic and the home crowd were going to be treated to seven goals, last-minute drama and plenty of errors from both teams.

It was reported that both Steve McClaren and Sam Allardyce were in the running to succeed Sven-Goran Eriksson as England manager after the 2006 World Cup finals, so there was a bit more incentive in this one for the two managers. Bolton were enjoying the better season domestically and took the lead after only three minutes. From a Jussi Jaaskelainen goal-kick, Middlesbrough had at least two opportunities to clear but didn’t and Stelios Giannakopoulos punished them to give the visitors the early lead.

Middlesbrough recovered quickly and by the half-hour mark, they were leading. First, Joey O’Brien was spotted by Howard Webb handling the ball from a free-kick and corrected awarded a penalty. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s spot-kick was not his finest but he just squeezed it underneath Jaaskelainen to find the equaliser. Then, Mark Viduka was played onside and latched onto Hasselbaink’s knockdown to earn Middlesbrough a half-time lead.

Both defences were looking ropey and the pattern continued into the second half. Middlesbrough went 3-1 ahead on 47 minutes. Hasselbaink latched onto a long pass and got to the ball before the onrushing Jaaskelainen. He dinked his effort over the Finnish goalkeeper to put clear daylight between the sides. It was also Middlesbrough’s 500th goal in the Premier League.

That should have finished Bolton off but they produced a stirring comeback. Five minutes after his arrival from the bench, Jared Borgetti was fouled by Ugo Ehiogu in the penalty area. Webb awarded his second penalty of the afternoon. Jay-Jay Okocha’s penalty was poor and Mark Schwarzer guessed right to deny him but only momentarily. The Nigerian was sharpest to the rebound to score and bring Allardyce’s side back into the match. Nine minutes from time, they levelled proceedings. Okocha’s cross found an unmarked Radhi Jaidi and the Tunisian centre-back made no mistake with his header to beat Schwarzer.

Despite it being 3-3, there was a sense that one side would snatch all three points and it was Middlesbrough who ended up on the right part of the scoreline. Substitute Yakubu put in a decisive ball into the danger area and defender Stuart Parnaby was in the right place to make the contact required. Jaaskelainen was beaten and so were Bolton Wanderers. McClaren also beat Allardyce to the England vacancy by the end of the season but Bolton did finish six places higher in the final table.

Premier League Rewind: 18th-19th August 2001

Results: Charlton Athletic 1-2 Everton, Derby County 2-1 Blackburn Rovers, Leeds United 2-0 Southampton, Leicester City 0-5 Bolton Wanderers, Liverpool FC 2-1 West Ham United, Middlesbrough 0-4 Arsenal, Sunderland 1-0 Ipswich Town, Tottenham Hotspur 0-0 Aston Villa, Chelsea 1-1 Newcastle United, Manchester United 3-2 Fulham

The opening weekend of the 2001-2002 Premier League season saw 28 goals in its first weekend with a new title sponsor. Barclaycard had taken over sponsorship rights over the summer from Carling.

Fulham were welcomed into the Premier League family and they had a daunting first fixture too against reigning Premier League champions Manchester United. Sir Alex Ferguson was looking to achieve four titles in a row in what at the time we thought was going to be his final campaign in the dugout at Old Trafford.

They were pushed all the way by the newcomers, with Louis Saha making an immediate impression. The Frenchman scored twice as Fulham led twice but their best efforts were cancelled out by United’s new £19 million striker. Ruud van Nistelrooy helped himself to a debut double and the home side came away with all three points in a nervy 3-2 victory.

Unlike Fulham, Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers did boast previous Premier League experience. They both returned to the top-flight on this weekend, with mixed fortunes. Blackburn lost 2-1 at Derby County, as Fabrizio Ravanelli scored a trademark free-kick on his return to English football.

On the other hand, Bolton had a day to savour at Filbert Street, crushing Leicester City 5-0. The outstanding Per Frandsen scored two free-kicks and Kevin Nolan also scored twice as the pressure cranked up on Leicester boss Peter Taylor.

There was a bad-tempered match on Teeside as Arsenal travelled to Middlesbrough. Steve McClaren’s first game as a Premier League boss ended in a 4-0 home defeat as Arsenal began their extraordinary run of scoring in every single league match in the season. Both Ugo Ehiogu and Ray Parlour were sent off with two late goals by Dennis Bergkamp making the scoreline look more flattering than how the actual game developed.

Liverpool FC had Michael Owen to thank once again. Owen continued where he left off from the previous season in his dream year which saw him finish as the European Footballer of the Year. He scored twice as the Reds defeated West Ham United 2-1 at Anfield. Lastly, Chelsea and Newcastle United shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge. This match was more notable as it was the first game in the UK that was made available via a pay-per-view subscription model. Premiership Plus would be around on the Sky platform for the next five seasons.

What else happened in August 2001?

  • Former royal butler Paul Burrell is charged with theft of items that belonged to Diana, Princess of Wales. The prosecution collapses three months later.
  • A plane crash in the Bahamas claims the life of American R&B performer Aaliyah and eight members of her record company. She was just 22-years-old.
  • Law goes into effect in Germany legalizing same-sex registered partnerships.
  • Whitney Houston signs the largest contract in music history with Arista Records, a six-album deal worth over $100 million.
  • Michael Schumacher wins the FIA Formula One World Championship with victory in the Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest. It is the German’s fourth world title.
  • The BBC introduces a fourth weekly episode of EastEnders, to be broadcast at 8pm every Friday night.

Memorable Matches: Bolton Wanderers 3-3 Derby County (December 1997)

Goalscorers: Alan Thompson 50 PEN, Stefano Eranio 55, Francesco Baiano 64, 69, Nathan Blake 73, Jamie Pollock 77

Teams:

Bolton Wanderers: Gavin Ward, Gudni Bergsson, Chris Fairclough, Jimmy Phillips, Andy Todd, Per Frandsen, Jamie Pollock, Scott Sellars (Michael Johansen 88), Alan Thompson, Peter Beardsley (Arnar Gunnlaugsson 88), Nathan Blake

Derby County: Mart Poom, Christian Dailly, Rob Kozluk (Darryl Powell 81), Gary Rowett, Igor Stimac, Chris Powell, Lee Carsley, Stefano Eranio, Francesco Baiano, Paulo Wanchope (Deon Burton 81), Dean Sturridge

Referee: Uriah Rennie, Attendance: 23,027

After 102 years of playing professional football at Burnden Park, Bolton Wanderers had moved into the new state-of-the-art Reebok Stadium in-time for the 1997-1998 campaign. This was their second season in the Premier League and again, it looked like being a campaign battling to avoid relegation. They faced Jim Smith’s Derby County in this pre-Christmas encounter which produced an entertaining second half for the Sky Sports Super Sunday cameras.

The first half was dominated by the home side but they couldn’t find a way through. Chris Fairclough hit the crossbar from a free-kick which was the closest either side came to breaking the deadlock. The goals arrived in a belting second half. Midfielder Per Frandsen won a penalty five minutes into the second half as he was fouled by Derby defender Igor Stimac. Uriah Rennie correctly pointed to the spot and Alan Thompson made no mistake to give the hosts a deserved lead. The goal sparked Derby into life and five minutes later, they were level. Francesco Baiano played in his fellow Italian Stefano Eranio, who finished well as the defenders gave him plenty of time to strike.

The visitors started to take control of the game. Dean Sturridge was denied a goal by some last-ditch goalkeeping from Gavin Ward but a second Rams’ goal was coming. Moments after being kept out by Ward, Sturridge’s searing pace took him away from Andy Todd. His cross was palmed out by Ward, but only into the path of the in-form Baiano who made no mistake with his finish. Five minutes later, the little Italian had doubled his tally. He played a lovely one-two with Sturridge and as Fairclough slipped in trying to cut the ball out, Baiano placed the ball beyond Ward’s advances. At this stage of the season, Baiano was already on 11 Premier League goals and he was looking like one of the signings of the summer.

Bolton showed great resilience in coming back though from a 3-1 deficit. Nathan Blake’s header from Thompson’s cross gave them hope on 73 minutes. Four minutes later, Frandsen made a surging run into the box. His neat back heel allowed Jamie Pollock to take control of possession. The midfielder fired his shot into the bottom corner to level the scores. Both sides pushed for a winner but in the end, the points were shared.

The point took Bolton upto 15th but they would suffer anguish on the final day and experienced relegation at Stamford Bridge. Despite a horrendous away record, Derby finished an excellent ninth in just their second Premier League season.

Memorable Matches: Bolton Wanderers 0-2 Chelsea (April 2005)

Goalscorer: Frank Lampard 60, 76

Teams:

Bolton Wanderers: Jussi Jaaskelainen, Tal Ben-Haim, Vincent Candela (Radhi Jaidi 77), Fernando Hierro, Bruno N’Gotty, Ricardo Gardner, Stelios Giannakopoulos (Henrik Pedersen 63), Gary Speed, Jay-Jay Okocha (Kevin Nolan 63), Kevin Davies, El-Hadji Diouf

Chelsea: Petr Cech, Geremi, Ricardo Carvalho, John Terry, William Gallas, Claude Makelele (Alexei Smertin 90), Jiri Jarosik, Tiago, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba (Robert Huth 65), Eidur Gudjohnsen (Joe Cole 85)

Referee: Steve Dunn, Attendance: 27,653

April 30th 2005 will be a date that Chelsea supporters will never forget. It was the day when their 50-year wait for being crowned champions of England would end. Only a defeat at Bolton’s Reebok Stadium would delay their crowning as the kings of English football.

Chelsea had been outstanding all season. Coming into this match, Jose Mourinho’s side had only lost once all campaign in the league and had sprinted clear from their nearest pursuers, reigning champions Arsenal and Manchester United. Bolton weren’t going to roll over though. They were looking good for a top-six finish and with it, the prize of European football next season. They’d also come back from 2-0 down to grab a point at Stamford Bridge in November.

The first half was a cagey affair with few clear-cut goalscoring opportunities. It seemed like the nerves had hit the Chelsea players and it was the home side who missed the best chance of a goalless first 45 minutes. Kevin Davies headed straight into Petr Cech’s midriff when he was given a free header in the penalty area.

Fittingly, it was one of Chelsea’s stars of the season who produced the seminal moment. Frank Lampard broke into the penalty area and fired Chelsea into the lead just before the hour mark with another emphatic finish. Bolton thought Jiri Jarosik had fouled Fernando Hierro in the build-up to the goal but their protests fell on deaf ears. The title loomed large for the west Londoners.

There were still some scares though. Gary Speed’s long throw-in saw Geremi almost score a spectacular own goal. The Cameroonian, playing in an unfamiliar full-back role leapt to reach Speed’s throw-in but rather than clear the ball, he forced Cech into an impressive reflex save.

With 15 minutes remaining, the game was still in the balance. Chelsea needed another goal to be sure of their success and it was Lampard who sealed the coronation. A Bolton attack broke down from their corner and Claude Makelele played a delicious pass into the feet of Lampard. With Wanderers defenders stranded up pitch, Lampard bared down on-goal. He had Ricardo Carvalho alongside him but he was never going to pass to the Portuguese defender. Lampard rounded Jussi Jaaskelainen, sent the ball into the empty net and the celebrations could properly begin. Chelsea were champions and they were going to tell the world about it.

The Blues became only the fourth side in the Premier League era after Manchester United, Blackburn Rovers and Arsenal to win the title and this came in just Roman Abramovich’s second season of owning the club. In 2004-2005, Mourinho was definitely the “Special One.” Chelsea would win the League Cup too and finished with a record-high points tally in Premier League history. They collected the trophy a week later after a breathtaking campaign by the Londoners.

Shock Results: Manchester United 1-2 Bolton Wanderers (October 2001)

Goalscorers: Juan Sebastian Veron 25, Kevin Nolan 35, Michael Ricketts 84

Teams:

Manchester United: Fabien Barthez, Phil Neville, David May (Gary Neville 78), Wes Brown, Mikael Silvestre, Nicky Butt, Juan Sebastian Veron, Paul Scholes (Ryan Giggs 66), Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke (Luke Chadwick 67)

Bolton Wanderers: Jussi Jaaskelainen, Simon Charlton, Gudni Bergsson, Bruno N’Gotty, Mike Whitlow, Bo Hansen (Anthony Barness 82), Paul Warhurst (Jermaine Johnson 54), Kevin Nolan, Per Frandsen, Ricardo Gardner, Michael Ricketts

Referee: Graham Barber, Attendance: 67,559

This was the 100th meeting between Manchester United and Bolton Wanderers. After this surprising victory in October 2001, Sam Allardyce said: “There is no better feeling, apart from watching my children being born – it is my best result as a manager.”

Bolton had made a strong start to their Premier League return and had already beaten Liverpool FC and held Arsenal at Highbury. However, they had just lost 4-0 at home to Newcastle United seven days earlier.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s side weren’t at their free-flowing best and had been beaten in the UEFA Champions League in midweek by Deportivo La Coruna. Nevertheless, they were expected to brush the Trotters’ side aside with relative ease infront of their biggest crowd of the season.

Ferguson did make eight changes following the defeat to the Spanish side in midweek and as expected, they did a lot of the pressing in the opening exchanges with Bolton sitting and containing their more fancied opponents. Allardyce’s tactic was working until the 25th minute.

Juan Sebastian Veron drove a free-kick into the back of the Bolton net from 30 yards out. However, 11 minutes later, the visitors’ silenced the Old Trafford faithful with an equaliser that suggested they were playing with utmost confidence. Bruno N’Gotty floated a long ball towards the back post. It was met by Michael Ricketts, who nodded the ball down into the path of Kevin Nolan. Nolan hit the deftest of volleys and it flew into the back of the net. Fabien Barthez had absolutely no chance.

The Red Devils were sprung into life by this shock equaliser and Jussi Jaaskelainen had to be sharp to make a remarkable double save to deny Paul Scholes and Andy Cole in very quick succession. Jaaskelainen’s acrobatics here would see him earn a nomination for the Premier League Save of the Decade at the 10 Seasons’ Awards. He was beaten by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer shortly afterwards but the Norwegian was denied by an offside flag.

Many would have felt Bolton would try and hold on for a fantastic point but they sensed a real upset and having matched the men from Old Trafford throughout the second half, they seized their opportunity six minutes from the end. Ricketts shook off the attentions of Wes Brown, broke clear and smashed the ball past Barthez to set Allardyce’s side up for only their second win at the Theatre of Dreams in 40 years.

Bolton would stay up in 16th place on their return to the Premier League. Six home defeats for Manchester United during the season would see Ferguson’s side restricted to a third-place finish, nine points adrift of eventual champions Arsenal.