Looking at Bolton Wanderers now and comparing them to the Trotters of old brings a small tear to the eye of neutral football fans.
Nostalgia is a very, very big thing for football fans. We all remember our first sticker books, the year our team got past the first round of the FA Cup, or when we got within touching distance of Europe but did not quite make it in the end. This is especially the case for those fans who have endured the slow and painful decline of their team from former greatness to the doldrums of lower league obscurity. We feel for you Notts County, Stockport County, Ipswich Town, Bradford City, Nottingham Forest, Sheffield United, Coventry City, Barnsley etc. etc.
But most of all, we have very fond memories of ‘back in the day’ Bolton Wanderers; when their stadium was called the Reebok, Sam Allardyce ruled the roost and the white kit was sported by some of the finest midlevel talents to ever grace the Premier League.
Nicolas Anelka returned to the English top flight for the third time when Allardyce signed him for £8million from Turkish side Fenerbahçe – a club record at the time (as per The Guardian).
Though he came with a somewhat startling level of baggage thanks to his nomadic and tumultuous journey through football, the aptly named Le Sulk was still thought of very highly by Big Sam. ‘I think it is the smallest gamble we [Bolton] have ever taken,’ he said (as per Telegraph), ‘Nic’s record speaks for itself’.
Despite making his debut on September 9, 2006, against Watford FC, it would not be until his eleventh league game when the gamble finally paid off and the Frenchman scored his first goal for the club. And who better to do it against than his former side Arsenal – not once, but twice. His 25-yard thunderbolt the pick of the bunch.
Anelka finished that season on 12 goals in all competitions, guiding Bolton to the lofty heights of the UEFA Cup for the second time in three years.
Things were not easy the following year without the guidance of Big Sam, but the Frenchman did not tire in front of goal. Anelka bagged 11 times in 22 games that year, including a historic win against Manchester United.
After just 18 special months at the club, the ‘big’ teams came knocking and Nicolas Anelka found himself on the end of a £15million deal to Chelsea in 2008 (as per Telegraph).
Four years after joining Chelsea, the forward was back on the road again as one of the first noticeable Premier League recruits to China – Shanghai Shenhua the suitors. A year later he was back playing top-level football for Juventus, but with just three appearances and no goals to his name, things did not quite go to plan.
His short and uneventful stint in Italy set up a move to…West Bromwich Albion (?) quite nicely.
It was immediately evident that he had someone lost his touch in recent years and after only scoring two goals in 12 games – one of which landing him in hot water because of a controversial quenelle celebration (as per The Guardian) – he was swiftly moved on.
Two stints at Mumbai City signalled the end of a long career in football with Anelka announcing his retirement in 2016.
The Frenchman has since spoken about his period at the Reebok in a way that that will only serve to boost his profile, claiming: “Bolton was the best moment of my career” (as per RMC Sport).
Bolton fans, what are some of your standout memories of Nicolas Anelka? Join the discussion by commenting below…Like what the TT have on offer? Sign up for more notifications!