Chris Eagles' name appeared among the list of players departing Bolton Wanderers this week, and it was almost an afterthought. That would have been hard to imagine two years ago, at the start of Bolton's post-relegation 1st season in the Championship. Eagles scored four goals in the first seven matches Owen Coyle's men played in the second tier of English football. The thought at that time was that the wing-pairing of Eagles and Chung-Yong Lee would keep Wanderers competitive until Stu Holden and Mark Davies returned from injury. Once that happened, the most talented midfield in the division would run roughshod over any and all opposition, leading Bolton to an easy promotion.
Of course, none of that ever passed. In fact, you would deb hard-pressed to find a single match where those four players appeared together on the pitch. But now is not the time to rehash what could have been. Now, I would like to take a look at what Chris Eagles brought to the Bolton side he joined in 2011, and what he takes away from the Bolton side of 2014.
Most analysts (not to mention supporters) have spent Eagles's career focusing on what he isn't. He isn't good enough for Manchester United. He isn't strong enough to play striker. He doesn't defend enough to play on the wing. He doesn't pass well enough to play in a number 10 role. He is a poor judge of when to take a shot. Not a lot of time is spent talking about what he is. He is good on the ball. He is fast. He is a decent finisher. He is willing to play anywhere. And he is willing to run all day.
I always thought Eagles was a useful player, but seldom put in a position to succeed. As a super sub, as a starter against sides with slow fullbacks, as a utility player who could fill multiple roles, Eagles would have been great. But that never happened. Managers were always seduced by his talent, then frustrated by his lack of production, then motivated by their own job security. He has just never found himself in the right situation. The closest he ever came was probably the promotion season with Burnley FC.
All things considered, Eagles was a solid overall contributor in his time at Bolton. He is no longer a good fit in Dougie Freedman's side, so it was time for him to move on. I wish him well. At age 28 he still has a lot of football left in him. He can fashion a nice second half of his career, or he can fade away and be out of football in three years. I hope it is the former.