They Played For Both Sides: Nicky Hunt, Bolton Wanderers & Derby County

Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Ah the big one.

Nicholas Brett "Nicky" Hunt was born in Westhoughton, Bolton, in September 1983. After his release from the famed Manchester United youth academy where he was utilised as a forward (imagine that!), he signed for hometown club, Bolton Wanderers, making his first team debut against Sheffield United at the end of the 2000/01 season at the Reebok Stadium. He was brought on in that match to replace Scottish defender Colin Hendry. That season Bolton won promotion to the Barclays Premier League.

Hunt found futher first team opportunities hard to come by, indeed it was the 2003/04 season before he would make another league appearance for Bolton Wanderers, with just a solitary pair or FA Cup appearances under his belt in the meantime.

He would break through into the first team in 2003, making the right back slot his own and making 31 league appearances, 38 in total. The first game of the season saw Hunt famously come up against a certain Cristiano Ronaldo, who made his own Manchester United debut in a 4-0 win for the Red Devils. Hunt was torn apart by the flying Portuguese winger from his introduction in the 60th minute to the final whistle, as Ronaldo blasted onto the English football scene.

Nicky Hunt would score his one and only Bolton Wanderers goal that season, a sumptuous left footed strike in a 2-2 home draw with Liverpool, with the other goal coming from French legend Youri Djorkaeff. He would continue to improve over the coming seasons, culminating in ten England U21 caps, the first of which came against Holland in February 2004.

However, the departure of mentor Sam Allardyce to Newcastle United, and the breakdown of Hunt's relationship with subsequent managers including Lord Voldemort himself saw Hunt's time at Bolton draw to a close. He was loaned to Championship outfits Birmingham City and Derby County in 2008 and 2010 respectively, as he tried to relaunch his faltering career.

Hunt was finally released from his Bolton Wanderers contract in 2010, when he accepted Steve Coppell's offer of a two year deal, and moved on a free transfer. However, his time in Bristol was short-lived - a disastrous performance in a 0-3 opening day loss was one of just seven appearances made for the club, with Hunt having his contract terminated in January 2012.

The nomadic nature of his post-Bolton Wanderers career continued with a move to Preston North End in February 2012, and though whilst making 17 appearances, scoring once, Hunt did not have his PNE contract renewed and he again found himself without a club. He then moved to Rotherham United, where an injury-hit spell saw him make just nine appearances before again being released.

Hunt again suffered injuries as he moved again to Accrington Stanley, now managed by ex-England striker James Beattie. A serious concussion suffered on his debut left him needing hospital treatment. He made a full recovery and continued to be a key part of their defence.

Nicky Hunt suffered from the notorious Bolton boo-boys during his time at Wanderers, partially through the high expectations of the fans during the golden age under Allardyce, and partially due to Hunt's own limitations - something to which he has alluded to in interviews since. We are never particularly easy on local boys who make their way into our side, and I wonder whether Hunt suffered due to this lack of patience.

However, that he has managed to make a decent career for himself out of the game is of credit to him, and looking at the dross we have had in that position since his departure then I wonder if we may regret not appreciating what we had at the time.

Nicky Hunt, ladies and gentleman. He's a football genius, and he should play up front.

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