clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

My Greatest Ever Bolton Wanderers XI: Tom M

New, comments

Will there be any academy graduates in the U21 expert's team?

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

I actually submitted an all-time XI for the 'Stand Up for the Wanderers' section of the matchday programme but I've made a change to that team. As with that one, I'm going to stick with players I've actually seen play, so unfortunately Nat Lofthouse doesn't make the cut. So here goes nothing...

Goalkeeper: Jussi Jaaskelainen

The big Finn was the natural choice for me here.

Although I was just about alive when Keith Branagan performed his heroics in the Play-Offs, I wasn't old enough to ever see him play so the only other candidates were Ali Al-Habsi and Adam Bogdan.

It had to be Jussi. In his pomp, he was easily one of the best three goalkeepers in the Premier League with his unwavering consistency and too many exceptional saves to count.

Al-Habsi and Bogdan both had excellent spells but neither maintained it over a long enough period so Jussi takes this one.

If his son is anywhere near his standard then we're set for the future and if you think he's a traitor for going to Wigan Athletic then you're mental.

If you wanna have a laugh, here's me talking about Jaaskelainen on Finnish TV

Right Back: Bruno N'Gotty

We've never really been blessed at Right Back, not in my lifetime at least. I think it says a lot when Nicky Hunt was the first choice during arguably the best spell in the club's history.

In the programme, I went for Tal Ben Haim at Right Back with N'Gotty taking his place at the heart of defence but I've had a change of heart as you'll see later.

The Frenchman defined 'unsung hero', he mixed being an absolute beast with his natural class which just shone through.

He went from being reluctant to join us (initially on loan) to falling in love with us, and even vowed to end his career with Bolton but to everyone's disappointment, he was released in 2006.

Centre Halves: Gudni Bergsson and Gary Cahill

What a partnership this would have been.

Gudni was a given, let's be honest. He's my favourite player of all time as well. He was an absolutely fantastic defender, leader and role model.

He vowed to retire a few seasons in a row but kept renewing his contract and seemed to be better with every passing season. He's also a clever bloke by all accounts as he's now a lawyer in his native Iceland.

A signed photograph of him takes pride of place, framed in my bedroom.

Gary Cahill's signing raised a few eyebrows at the time. £5m for an Aston Villa reserve player.

But he had everything, he soon showed on his debut that Gary 'Ginger Mourinho' Megson had found an absolute gem.

He was strong in the tackle, confident on the ball and also scored some absolute belters with "feet like a centre forward" as Owen Coyle once said.

He's gone on to win pretty much everything you can at domestic level and has now captained England to boot.

Left Back: Ricardo Gardner

Ricardo 'Bibi' Gardner actually made 347 appearances for Bolton over 12 years, despite having a few seasons absolutely ravaged by injury.

It's no coincidence that when he was fit, he played. Whether that was at Left Midfield (where he was most comfortable), Centre Midfield or indeed at Left Back.

My first memory of Gardner was his sensational goal against Preston North End in the Play-Off Final. I also distinctly seem to remember him producing an overhead kicked clearance off the line in a game once. Superb stuff.

Bibi also gave me my favourite Bolton Wanderers memory of all-time. Picture the scene, you haven't scored for five years, you're handed a start away to Bayern Munich and after just eight minutes, you take somewhat of a pot shot and it alludes none other than Oliver Khan. Scenes.

Notable mention also goes to Vincent Candela as the best natural Left Back I've seen, but he only played ten games. Mental.

Right Midfield: Stelios

Stylianos Giannakopolous, to give him his full title, is the only player on this team that I'm actually taller than. I'm quite a small bloke so yeah he was tiny.

He had the heart of a lion though. He was brought in back in 2003 to add some more flair to a side that already had a few rather talented players that we'll get onto later.

He always chipped in with important goals and he was a driving force behind the Greece team that incredibly won Euro 2004.

He also turned down a move to Liverpool to stay with us. Who can blame him.

Centre Midfielders: Ivan Campo and Jay Jay Okocha

So Jay Jay had to be here. I won't bore everyone with why. We've all seen the compilation videos etc. He was magical and along with my Left Midfielder was a catalyst for us becoming better to watch and helped jumpstart our ascent up the Premier League.

To play alongside the Nigerian wizard was down to two Spanish, former Real Madrid, Champions League winning Centre Halves. I plumped for Campo in the end as he made a much bigger impact in general.

Like Fernando Hierro, he was brought to the club as a Centre Half, and like Hierro, he was a bit rubbish there. A move into midfield brought out the quality that we all knew he possessed, he was also a bit of a wind-up merchant as well, going down softly and grabbing the ball, forcing the referee to give a free kick.

You couldn't hate him for it though, it just made him even more endearing and his undying love for the club is enough to make anyone smile. I'll never forgive Megson for how he handled his exit. He deserved so much more.

Hierro on the other hand, only played half a season and yes he was absolutely phenomenal, but he wasn't here long enough for consideration.

If we're talking about players who've achieved the most in their career though, he'd definitely be top of that list.

Left Midfield: Youri Djorkaeff

I was only ten years old when Djorkaeff left so I didn't get a chance to fully appreciate him but I could tell how good of a player he was. I mean, he was a World Cup winner.

He was a game-changer, he could produce something from nothing and he scored a sublime chip in my first ever away game against Blackburn Rovers.

He also scored quite a few acrobatic goals and was generally just very easy on the eye. I've shoehorned him in the team out of position but he had to be here.

If you think he was a traitor for going to Blackburn when he left, then see my comments about Jaaskelainen and Wigan. If you wanna be angry at him for something then be annoyed that he was an attacking midfielder who wore number 6.

Centre Forwards: Kevin Davies and Nicolas Anelka

A partnership of Gary Madine and Jermaine Beckford came close but obviously I had to pick these two.

Kevin Davies is synonymous with Bolton Wanderers and likewise with Okocha, I won't liberate on the point for too long because I wrote a huge piece on him when he left. (Ta-da!)

Nicolas Anelka on the other hand was an absolute genius. His movement was out of this world and his finishing was absolutely sublime. What we wouldn't give for a player of his ilk right now.

Unfortunately our time with Anelka was short-lived as he earned the move he thoroughly deserved, moving to Chelsea and getting us a £7m profit.

He was the Premier League top scorer the following season which says it all.

Manager: Sam Allardyce

It's no coincidence that every single player on this list played under Big Sam.

He made us a joy to watch, filling the team with former greats of the game.

It's a crying shame that Phil Gartside's ambition didn't match his and if only we'd taken a punt and given him some money, he might still be here and we might still be in the Premier League.