Tag Archives: Bolton Wanderers

Iconic Moments: Everton survive by the skin of their teeth (May 1998)

After 44 years of unbroken top-flight existence, Everton’s status was in severe jeopardy going into the final day of the 1997-1998 Premier League season. For the second time in five years, they went into a final round of fixtures in the bottom three and needing a better result than their relegation rivals to avoid the drop to the First Division. They had achieved it in 1994 against Wimbledon with Sheffield United the unfortunate side to experience the heartache of relegation.

In 1998, they were in a head-to-head battle with Bolton Wanderers. Everton were a point behind and had a more favourable fixture at home to Coventry City, whilst Bolton were travelling to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea. Things went Everton’s way in their match when Gareth Farrelly’s terrific early strike put them 1-0 ahead. Bolton fell behind to a goal from Gianluca Vialli in west London but there were to be exciting final twists.

Everton’s Nick Barmby saw a penalty saved by Magnus Hedman and when Dion Dublin equalised for Coventry with an arching header three minutes from time, Bolton knew the situation. A leveller at Chelsea would keep them up and even the Chelsea supporters were urging the Trotters to equalise. This was after Everton had suggested earlier in the week that Chelsea wouldn’t be motivated to win as they had a Cup Winners’ Cup final on the horizon days later against VfB Stuttgart.

In stoppage-time, the home supporters began booing their own players but in a counter-attack, Jody Morris finished off the contest and Bolton’s chances. Fans cheered Morris’ goal but less enthusiastically as any other Chelsea goal scored at Stamford Bridge all season. Chelsea’s 2-0 win meant a point would be enough for Everton and they held on for their draw by the skin of their teeth to achieve another manic final day escape from relegation, this time courtesy of only goal difference.


Great Goals: Kevin Nolan – BOLTON WANDERERS vs. Portsmouth (September 2005)

Kevin Nolan’s best season at Bolton Wanderers was arguably in the 2005-2006 season. He scored a flurry of great goals which saw him linked with a possible England call-up from Sven-Goran Eriksson; a cap he was destined never to receive.

Nolan showed off his acrobatic range with this overhead kick against Portsmouth in September 2005. It was a game low on quality and chances but Nolan did produce a worthy moment to settle the match between the two sides.

After 24 minutes, Henrik Pedersen looped a ball into the penalty area which was kept alive by his strike partner, Kevin Davies. Davies’ header reached Nolan but it was behind him so the midfielder improvised with an awesome overhead kick that left Portsmouth goalkeeper Jamie Ashdown motionless.

Bolton’s 1-0 victory took them to third place in the table and this was part of Nolan’s qualities in his game, especially during this purple patch of form during his spell at The Reebok Stadium.

Premier League Files: David Wheater

Premier League Career: Middlesbrough (2006-2009), Bolton Wanderers (2011-2012)

A product of the youth system at Middlesbrough, David Wheater hasn’t played Premier League football since experiencing relegation with Bolton Wanderers in 2012. He remains with the Trotters now, captaining the side in very difficult financial times for the club with relegation to League One recently just confirmed. However, he is a wise experienced head which is just what the club needs at this time.

Wheater’s youth days saw him part of the successful Middlesbrough team that won the 2004 FA Youth Cup; a year after losing the same event to Manchester United. Promoted to the Boro first-team at the age of just 17, he was given his Premier League debut by Steve McClaren in the 2005-2006 campaign. Loan spells did follow at Doncaster Rovers, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Darlington which produced mixed fortunes but Wheater was ready for a more regular role in 2007-2008, starting the club’s opening day defeat to Blackburn Rovers.

David’s form in 2007-2008 was so impressive; his manager Gareth Southgate was more than happy to sell the more experienced Jonathan Woodgate to Tottenham Hotspur in the 2008 January transfer window. He would score four goals in that campaign and won the North East Football Writers’ Association Young Player of the Year for his efforts.

He made another 32 appearances in 2008-2009 but Middlesbrough were relegated at the end of the campaign. Nevertheless, he stayed with the aim of getting the Teesiders back to the top-flight at the first attempt. Sadly, it didn’t quite work out for him and for the club. That summer, injury meant he missed out on the 2009 Under-21 European Championship after playing a prominent role for England and manager Stuart Pearce in the qualification period. He was called up a couple of times into the senior squad during Fabio Capello’s reign but never managed to make it onto the pitch to win a maiden senior international cap.

Southgate made him captain at the start of the new club season with Middlesbrough despite being just 22 but he was sacked early into the 2009-2010 campaign and when his successor was named, Gordon Strachan, he elected to give the armband to the more experienced Gary O’Neil.

Wheater continued to concentrate on his football and this actually made him a tougher player. Bolton Wanderers were impressed with his shrewd displays in the Championship and in January 2011, a deal was concluded for David to return to the Premier League, joining Bolton for an undisclosed fee. His Bolton league debut came a month later, coming on as a first half substitute for Zat Knight in the 2-0 home win over Everton.

The 2011-2012 campaign was not a good one for Wheater as he received two red cards in the first half of Bolton’s testing campaign. His first dismissal came in a defeat at Arsenal in September for holding back Theo Walcott. This was in his first league start of the season. In November, a foul on Everton winger Diniyar Bilyaletdinov was adjudged to be dangerous by Michael Oliver, who gave him a straight red card. Consequently, Wheater missed the next four Premier League engagements.

His last Premier League appearance came later that season in Bolton’s 2-2 home draw with West Bromwich Albion. In what was the Trotters’ final home match of the season, they threw away a two-goal lead and ultimately, it proved very costly as they were relegated a week later. It had bigger repercussions for Wheater though. He ruptured an anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and was ruled out of action for nine months.

He returned in February 2013 and extended his contract at the end of the 2012-2013 season as the Lancashire side narrowly missed out on landing a play-off position in the Championship. At the end of the 2015-2016 season, Bolton were relegated to League One. Naturally, as he was on higher wages than most of his teammates, Wheater wasn’t offered a new deal and was subsequently released. However, he continued to train with Bolton that summer and after appearing as ‘a trialist’ in first-team pre-season friendlies, the club offered him a new deal with a significant pay cut, something Wheater was more than happy to accept.

He scored an impressive nine goals from centre-back as Bolton were promoted back to the Championship at the first attempt. He was voted as the club’s Player of the Season and was voted into the PFA League One Team of the Season alongside his defensive colleague, Mark Beevers. He signed a contract extension that summer and his only goal in 2017-2018 was a massive one for Phil Parkinson’s team. It was an equaliser in the final day 3-2 win over Nottingham Forest which kept Bolton in the second-tier at the expense of Barnsley and Burton Albion.

He was appointed skipper at the start of the 2018-2019 season, succeeding the departing Darren Pratley. It hasn’t been a joyous campaign for anyone at the club, with constant threats about administration and unpaid wages to players and staff. Wheater though has been one of Bolton’s more senior pros and done a good job in difficult circumstances.

Shock Results: Bolton Wanderers 2-1 Blackburn Rovers (August 1995)

Goalscorers: Fabian de Freitas 21, Matt Holmes 61, Alan Stubbs 80


Bolton Wanderers: Keith Branagan, Gudni Bergsson, Chris Fairclough, Scott Green, Alan Stubbs, Jason McAteer, Jimmy Phillips, Alan Thompson, Owen Coyle (David Lee 60), Fabian de Freitas, Mark Patterson

Blackburn Rovers: Tim Flowers, Henning Berg, Colin Hendry, Graeme Le Saux, Ian Pearce, David Batty, Matt Holmes, Stuart Ripley (Mark Atkins 84), Tim Sherwood, Alan Shearer, Chris Sutton (Mike Newell 78)

Referee: Keith Burge, Attendance: 20,253

The 1995-1996 Premier League season was Bolton Wanderers’ 117th season of existence and their first Premier League campaign following their exhilarating success over Reading in the First Division play-off final the previous May.

Roy McFarland’s team were seen by many as the pre-season relegation favourites and two defeats in the opening week to Wimbledon and Newcastle United, conceding six goals in the process did nothing to silence those tipsters.

Bolton’s second match at their popular Burnden Park ground would welcome reigning champions Blackburn Rovers. There had been a major change at Rovers in pre-season. Kenny Dalglish had retired as first-team manager and moved into a Director of Football role. He was succeeded by his assistant, Ray Harford. It had been a tough start for Harford, whose side had already lost the Charity Shield to Everton and were beaten in the midweek round of fixtures by Sheffield Wednesday.

Both teams were unchanged from their midweek losses and buoyant by a fierce home support, it was the Premier League newcomers who looked the better side in the opening exchanges. As ever for a local derby, the tackling was competitive and genuine goalscoring opportunities were limited.

The Trotters broke the deadlock on 21 minutes thanks to some charitable defending from the champions. Henning Berg failed to sufficiently clear a Scott Green cross and when Alan Thompson headed the ball back into the danger area, Colin Hendry got in Tim Flowers’ way, nodding the ball out of the goalkeeper’s grasp. The Scotsman’s clearing header only found his compatriot Owen Coyle and Coyle guided the ball back to Fabian de Freitas, who didn’t make the cleanest contact but managed to stab the ball over the goal-line from almost underneath the crossbar.

Bolton’s opener was a real comedy of errors and there was some fortune about Blackburn’s leveller, which came just part the hour mark. After a period of pressure, midfielder Matt Holmes found a bit of space and his shot took a deflection off a defender and nestled in the bottom corner of Keith Branagan’s goal. It was Holmes’ first goal for Rovers since his summer arrival from West Ham United.

McFarland’s side refused to get down about conceding and came right back at their more illustrious opponents. Thompson whistled a shot just wide of the post after sloppy play from Graeme Le Saux and with 10 minutes left to play, they scored the decisive goal that ultimately won them the match. Mark Patterson’s curling free-kick was met by a marvellous header from Alan Stubbs. Stubbs timed his jump perfectly, beating Hendry to the ball and he guided his header wide of a stranded Flowers.

It was one of only two wins Roy McFarland managed as a Premier League boss. He left in early January and his assistant Colin Todd took over. He couldn’t prevent relegation but this was one of the brighter moments Bolton supporters can always enjoy from their first taste of Premier League action.

The Clubs: Bolton Wanderers

All-Time Premier League Record

Played Won Drew Lost Scored Conceded Goal Difference Points No of Seasons
494 149 128 217 575 745 -170 575 13


Most Premier League Appearances

Player Appearances Total
Jussi Jaaskelainen 379
Kevin Davies 316
Kevin Nolan 261
Ricardo Gardner 251
Ivan Campo 172
Bruno N’Gotty 147
Henrik Pedersen 143
Stelios Giannakopoulos 137
Per Frandsen 134
Gudni Bergsson 130


Most Premier League Goals

Player Goals Total
Kevin Davies 67
Kevin Nolan 39
Matt Taylor 23
Henrik Pedersen 22
Nicolas Anelka 21
El-Hadji Diouf 21
Youri Djorkaeff 20
Stelios Giannakopoulos 20
Ivan Klasnic 20
Michael Ricketts 19


Biggest Premier League Victories

Match Date Season
Leicester City 0-5 Bolton Wanderers 18th August 2001 2001-2002
Bolton Wanderers 5-0 Stoke City 6th November 2011 2011-2012
Bolton Wanderers 5-1 Newcastle United 20th November 2010 2010-2011
Everton 0-4 Bolton Wanderers 17th December 2005 2005-2006
Bolton Wanderers 4-0 West Ham United 9th December 2006 2006-2007
Bolton Wanderers 4-0 Wigan Athletic 13th March 2010 2009-2010
Queens Park Rangers 0-4 Bolton Wanderers 13th August 2011 2011-2012
Bolton Wanderers 5-2 Crystal Palace 2nd May 1998 1997-1998
Middlesbrough 1-4 Bolton Wanderers 17th February 1996 1995-1996
Bolton Wanderers 4-1 Ipswich Town 6th April 2002 2001-2002


Worst Premier League Defeats

Match Date Season
Bolton Wanderers 0-6 Manchester United 25th February 1996 1995-1996
Sheffield Wednesday 5-0 Bolton Wanderers 8th November 1997 1997-1998
Bolton Wanderers 0-5 Manchester United 25th February 1996 1995-1996
Manchester City 6-2 Bolton Wanderers 18th October 2003 2003-2004
Bolton Wanderers 1-5 Coventry City 31st January 1998 1997-1998
Chelsea 5-1 Bolton Wanderers 23rd December 2001 2001-2002
Chelsea 5-1 Bolton Wanderers 15th October 2005 2005-2006
Middlesbrough 5-1 Bolton Wanderers 20th January 2007 2006-2007
Aston Villa 5-1 Bolton Wanderers 7th November 2009 2009-2010
Bolton Wanderers 1-5 Chelsea 2nd October 2011 2011-2012



Manager No of Seasons managed Left the Club
Roy McFarland 1 7th January 1996
Colin Todd 2 22nd September 1999
Sam Allardyce 6 30th April 2007
Sammy Lee 1 17th October 2007
Gary Megson 3 30th December 2009
Owen Coyle 3 9th October 2012


Highest Home Attendances

Match Date Attendance Figure Season
Bolton Wanderers 2-2 Leicester City 28th December 2003 28,353 2003-2004
Bolton Wanderers 0-0 Fulham 6th February 2010 28,353 2009-2010
Bolton Wanderers 1-1 Arsenal 20th December 2003 28,003 2003-2004
Bolton Wanderers 1-0 Liverpool FC 29th August 2004 27,880 2004-2005
Bolton Wanderers 3-1 Tottenham Hotspur 1st February 2005 27,780 2004-2005
Bolton Wanderers 2-2 Manchester United 11th September 2004 27,766 2004-2005
Bolton Wanderers 1-2 Manchester United 1st April 2006 27,718 2005-2006
Bolton Wanderers 3-2 Everton 15th May 2005 27,701 2004-2005
Bolton Wanderers 1-2 Manchester United 7th January 2004 27,668 2003-2004
Bolton Wanderers 0-2 Chelsea 30th April 2005 27,653 2004-2005



Bolton Wanderers have played Premier League football in 13 seasons and at their peak, the Trotters enjoyed four successive finishes in the top eight under the guidance of Sam Allardyce, peaking with sixth position in 2004-2005. Bolton’s ability to get the best out of experienced players such as Jay-Jay Okocha, Youri Djorkaeff, Ivan Campo and Gary Speed served them well for several years. Relegation came in 2012 under Owen Coyle’s stewardship and with current severe financial problems; it is looking difficult to see Bolton returning to the top-flight in the short-term.



After an absence of 15 years, Bolton Wanderers returned to the top-flight in 1995-1996 and produced an early season surprise when they defeated reigning champions Blackburn Rovers 2-1. However, they remained at the foot of the table for much of the campaign and in early January, manager Roy McFarland was sacked. His assistant Colin Todd took over and although results did improve, the damage had already been done and Bolton went down on the final Saturday of the season, losing 1-0 to Southampton.



1997-1998 was the first season Bolton Wanderers moved into their new state-of-the-art home and there was controversy in their opening match at The Reebok Stadium. In a goalless draw with Everton, Bolton were denied a goal when Terry Phelan hooked the ball off the goal-line when the ball had clearly crossed the line. It would prove to be a decisive moment in their season. Colin Todd paid a club-record fee to bring Dean Holdsworth to the club in October for £3.5 million and they had a strong home record, winning seven times. However, they went into the final day still needing a positive result to survive.

Bolton went to Chelsea but despite a brave effort, lost 2-0 and were relegated on goal difference as Everton’s 1-1 draw with Coventry City was enough to keep the Toffees in the Premier League. Bolton fans felt robbed because of the controversy during the early-season encounter with Everton in the days where goal-line technology was just a pipedream.



After a four-year absence, Bolton returned to the Premier League with Sam Allardyce as manager and made an amazing start, winning their first three games which included a 2-1 victory over Liverpool FC. Michael Ricketts’ form won him an England international call-up in February and Ricketts also scored the winning goal at Old Trafford as Bolton stunned the champions in October. Form dipped in the winter and it was only the arrivals of Fredi Bobic and Youri Djorkaeff that kept Bolton away from danger. A masterful first half display against Ipswich Town which saw the home side go 4-0 infront before half-time was a crucial result. Bolton finished in 16th place and avoided relegation for the first time in their Premier League existence.



Bolton enjoyed another promising start to the 2002-2003 season. They bounced back well from an opening day 4-1 loss to Fulham by defeating both Aston Villa and then, for a second successive season, success at Old Trafford with Kevin Nolan’s only strike of the season beating Manchester United. Only two wins in their next 21 games followed and another relegation scrap would follow. However, the form of Youri Djorkaeff, Per Frandsen and Jay-Jay Okocha was important in the run-in. They lost only two of their final 13 matches and survival was achieved at West Ham’s expense on the final day after beating Middlesbrough 2-1.



Fears of another relegation scramble looked like a distinct possibility after back-to-back 4-0 defeats on the road at Manchester United and Portsmouth. In fact, Bolton won just one of their first 10 matches but Kevin Nolan’s matchwinner at White Hart Lane in early November was the catalyst for a big improvement from Sam Allardyce’s side. They actually enjoyed a comfortable season, finishing in a tremendous eighth position with a run of five successive victories achieved towards the end of the season. Bolton also reached the League Cup final but lost the showpiece event 2-1 to Middlesbrough.



The arrivals of Fernando Hierro, Gary Speed and El-Hadji Diouf in pre-season added to the quality and experience that Sam Allardyce was forming. The Trotters won three of their first four matches and sat in fourth place after beating Newcastle United 2-1 at the end of October. However, they ended 2004 in 13th place after a dreadful December which brought six successive defeats. Bolton recovered brilliantly from this mid-season slump to beat Arsenal and Everton in the second half of the campaign and finished in a Premier League high of sixth, level on points with Liverpool FC and only behind the Reds on goal difference.



Sam Allardyce had a new assistant with Sammy Lee replacing Phil Brown after Brown decided to go and manage Derby County. Bolton were competing in the UEFA Cup and reached the round-of-32 before bowing out to Marseille. Domestically, the Trotters had another impressive season and looked set for another top six finish until a five-game losing sequence towards the campaign’s end saw them slide to eighth at the season’s end. Allardyce was interviewed for the England manager’s job but lost out on the role to Middlesbrough boss Steve McClaren.



Nicolas Anelka was a major new arrival in the summer and although it took until November for him to score, the Frenchman finished with 11 goals to be the club’s top scorer. Bolton again proved tough to beat and sat in third spot on New Years’ Day only below Manchester United and Chelsea in the table. They eventually finished seventh and secured European qualification again but lost their manager as Allardyce resigned three games before the end of the season. Sammy Lee succeeded him.



Bolton made a very slow start to 2007-2008 and after winning just one match in their first nine of the campaign; Sammy Lee was fired in mid-October. Gary Megson was the surprise replacement and it wasn’t a popular appointment either. Megson though managed to galvanise the team to a shock victory over Manchester United in November with Nicolas Anelka scoring the only goal. Anelka scored 10 times before leaving for Chelsea in the January transfer window. An unbeaten five-game sequence at the end of the season, including a final day draw at Stamford Bridge kept Bolton in the top-flight but down in 16th place and only safe by a solitary point from relegated Reading.



Anelka’s long-term replacement in the striking department was Johan Elmander who arrived for a club-record fee of £8.2 million from Toulouse. The Swede struggled though in his debut campaign and so did Bolton again, who eventually finished 13th and lost exactly half of their 38 games. Bolton’s best period came in November when they four out of their five matches including an impressive 4-1 away victory at Sunderland which spelt the end for Roy Keane as Black Cats boss.



The pressure was on Gary Megson early on when Bolton finished August pointless from all three matches played. Just four victories were recorded in the first half of the campaign and after throwing away a two-goal lead to draw with fellow strugglers Hull City during the festive period, Megson was sacked. It was a popular decision with many who had grown tired of his sterile tactics and lack of productive results. Bolton then pursued former player Owen Coyle and managed to persuade him to leave Burnley to take the vacancy at The Reebok. Coyle managed six further victories including a priceless success over his former club in January and completed his short-term mission of keeping Bolton in the Premier League. They eventually finished 14th.



Bolton Wanderers enjoyed a mini renaissance in 2010-2011 and were strong all season at The Reebok Stadium. They won 10 times on home soil, with Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal among their victims. The 2-1 victory over the Gunners in April finished off Arsenal’s title challenge for another season. Coyle’s team were sixth just before Christmas and playing some superb football. Elmander enjoyed his best campaign in English football and scored a Goal of the Season contender in a 3-2 away victory at Wolverhampton Wanderers in November.

There was also a run to the FA Cup semi-finals which ended in a demoralising 5-0 defeat to Stoke City and that had a damaging effect on the run-in. The Trotters lost their last five games of the season and ended 14th for the second successive campaign, despite sitting in the top half for the majority of the season.



A 4-0 opening day victory away at Queens Park Rangers turned out to be a false dawn. Bolton went on to lose their next six matches, losing heavily to Manchester United and Chelsea on home soil too. There was a 5-0 triumph over Stoke in November to exact nice revenge on the Potters for April’s FA Cup semi-final hiding but Bolton went into 2012 bottom of the table.

In March, midfielder Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest in the first half of their FA Cup quarter-final against Tottenham Hotspur. Muamba would make a full recovery but had to retire from playing football professionally after the incident.

After conceding a two-goal lead to draw their final home match of the season against West Bromwich Albion, Bolton had to win at Stoke on the final day to have any chance of avoiding relegation. The 2-2 draw wasn’t enough and that meant they were relegated back to the Championship despite QPR’s final day defeat at Manchester City.

Premier League Files: David Ngog

Premier League Career: Liverpool FC (2008-2011), Bolton Wanderers (2011-2012), Swansea City (2014)

Still only 29, David Ngog has been much-travelled in recent times since his Premier League career ended in 2014. Ngog currently plays in Hungary for Budapest Honved having played in the French, Greek and Scottish top divisions since he left Swansea City in 2014. At Budapest, he wears one of the more unconventional squad numbers currently around in professional football – no.89.

Cousin of former Auxerre and Newcastle United defender Jean-Alain Boumsong, Ngog started his career in 2001 in the youth academy at French superpower, Paris Saint-Germain. He was promoted into the first-team ranks in 2006 and made 14 appearances across three years. In July 2008, he left the French capital and joined Liverpool FC as a backup striker. Rafa Benitez was delighted that his scouting network had discovered Ngog and he scored in just his second game for the club in a pre-season friendly against Rangers.

His first meaningful LFC goal arrived in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League in December 2008, sealing a 3-1 away victory against PSV Eindhoven. Ngog scored in home victories over Sunderland and Blackburn Rovers in 2008-2009 as he played a dutiful back-up role to Fernando Torres. He figured more prominently in the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 Premier League campaigns, making 49 appearances but he scored just seven times and failed to live up to his undoubted early potential that had seen Benitez sign him.

Ngog did score against some top sides, including the second goal in a 2-0 home win over Manchester United in October 2009 and Liverpool’s first goal of the 2010-2011 Premier League season in a 1-1 draw with Arsenal. However with Luis Suarez, Andy Carroll, Craig Bellamy and Dirk Kuyt all seen as better options by Kenny Dalglish, Ngog was sold on transfer deadline day in August 2011 for £4 million to Bolton Wanderers.

He made 33 appearances in 2011-2012 but scored just three times and Bolton were relegated from the top-flight. Fulham showed an interest that summer to keep him in the Premier League but a bid was rejected by Bolton and Ngog actually stayed with the Trotters in the Championship, scoring 11 times in the second-tier of English football before moving to Swansea City in 2014.

His time in south Wales wasn’t anything to write home about. Three appearances, no goals and his six-year spell in the English leagues ended in September 2014 when he signed a two-year contract with Stade Reims. Since then, he has played for Panionios, Ross County and Budapest Honved where he scored seven minutes into his league debut for his current club in August 2018.

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.

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.


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.


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.