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International Wanderers: Mark Fish

Chris takes a look back at players from across the globe who have pitched up at the Reebok

Ben Radford /Allsport

International week sucks balls.

There is often little going on in the Bolton Wanderers world, so I thought I'd expand our horizons and in the first of a series (perhaps of one, if I get bored), I decided to look at ex-players from across the planet, all of whom decided that a little town club in Northern England would make a good home.

In this article, I took a look back at the career of one Mark Fish.

Mark Anthony Fish was born in Cape Town, South Africa, in March of 1974.

Fish began his playing career at Arcadia Shepherds, a Pretoria amateur club famous for producing players such as Fish, former Spurs defender Bongani Khumalo and ex-Coventry striker Roy Wegerle, who was born in Pretoria State. There he was known as a striker, before being converted to a more familiar centre-half position later in his career.

In 1991 he moved to Jomo Cosmos in Johannesburg, where he would play as a central defender on 55 occasions, scoring three goals. In 1994, Jomo Cosmos were relegated and Fish, then known across South Africa as one of the most promising defenders on the scene, was signed by Orlando Pirates by manager Mike Mikaab.

In three seasons at Orlando Pirates, Fish won the league championship as well as the Top Eight Cup in 1994, the 1995 African Champions League and the 1995 Super Bowl. In 1996 he was part of the South African national team, who the African Cup of Nations at the first attempt after South Africa's readmission to FIFA in 1992. The competition was hosted in South Africa, with Fish scoring in the Quarter Final against Tunisia before being named in the Team of the Tournament alongside Abedi Pele and Anthony Yeboah.

Fish's fame was beginning to spread across to Europe, and he soon received offers from Lazio and Manchester United. He decided to take the Italian offer and moved to Rome under the tutelage of legendary Czech manager Zdeněk Zeman. However, he would soon be on the move again.

A brief 15 appearances and one goal later, Mark Fish was signed by Bolton Wanderers manager Colin Todd for £2.5m and awarded the number 21 shirt. Todd was attempting to shore up a leaky defence as the club tried to maintain it's newly-won Premier League status in the first season at the Reebok Stadium.

Fish was a mainstay in Bolton's back four for much of their first season back in the Premiership, he received praise from both team mates and those whom he played against, most notably Manchester United forward Andy Cole. However, his performances could not inspire the rest of the squad, and Bolton Wanderers were relegated back to the First Division following a final-day defeat away to Chelsea.

To his credit, Fish remained at the club and played well, captaining the club to the Play Off Final the following season, where Bolton suffered a 2-0 defeat to Watford in May, 1999. Play Off heartache followed again the year after, as we were horrendously cheated out of a place in the Final by referee Barry Knight and Ipswich Town.

Colin Todd had been replaced by Sam Allardyce in the early stages of the 1999/2000 season, and this would prove to be the beginning of the end of Fish's Bolton Wanderers career. Following the Barry Knight scandal, he would leave the club alongside teammate Claus Jensen, for Premier League side Charlton Athletic, for a mere £700,000 as Bolton desperately cut costs. Fish was one of the highest earners in the squad, and the failure to secure Premier League income would see a raft of top players leave the club. Claus Jensen was sold for £4m whilst Eidur Gudjohnsen joined Chelsea for similar money.

In total, Fish had made 103 appearances for Bolton Wanderers, scoring three times.

He would go on to spend five years at Charlton Athletic, making 102 appearances and again scoring three goals.

In 2005 he began to fall out of favour at Charlton, by which time he was 31 years old.. Fish went on to have a single game loan spell (45 mins) at Ipswich Town in the 2005-06 season but suffered a severe cruciate ligament injury which led to Fish announcing his retirement.

Fish returned to football when he signed a six-month contract with his first club Jomo Cosmos in early 2007 but did not play an official game due to his low level of fitness.

Mark Fish is best remembered as being a crucial part of South Africa's victorious national soccer squad when they won the1996 African Cup of Nations.

He made his international debut for South Africa in a friendly against Mexico in October 1993 and received his last cap in a World Cup qualifier against Ghana in 2004. He would go on to make 62 appearances from the national team, some way behind record cap holder Aaron Mokoena, formerly of Blackburn Rovers.

Fish was named to the Team of the Tournament in both the 1996 and 1998 African Cup of Nations.

He remains active in South African television, often commentating on games and providing pitchside analysis, and can be found on twitter @markfish74