My greatest ever Bolton Wanderers XI is rather pathetic. As a Whites supporter of tender years I tragically missed most of the legends that defined those glorious years. As a result, my personal best ever Bolton side is distinctively not as good as practically everyone else's on this here website.
So please don't laugh.
My first entry ins't a contentious one, thankfully. What is there to say about Jussi Jaaskelainen that already hasn't been relayed numerous times? He is a legend, an undisputed legend. A goalkeeper of ridiculous quality, who could often amaze and bewilder with saves that nearly defied the laws of physics. I often get stick from my mates for claiming that Jussi is one of the Premier League's greatest ever signings. but to sign a player who would go on to make 530 appearances and consistently be one of the Premier League's best goalkeepers, all for £100k is hard to argue with.
I know, I know. He wasn't very good. But listen, my range of options to choose from is scarily small. So much so that Steinsson's closest competitor is genuinely Nicky Hunt. But Gretar got the nod, not because of his defensive ability, in which he was lacking, but just because I bloody love the guy. He always played with vigour and passion, and off the pitch always had time for a photograph and was genuinely happy to do so. A moment that vividly sticks in my mind regarding Steinsson was in our last year in the Premie League, against Chelsea. For some reason, Didier Drogba had started on Matt Taylor, Steinsson wasted no time and charged in, getting Drogba to back off from his team mate. What a guy.
Here's another one that would be very hard to argue with, Gary Cahill is quite easily the best defender I ever have, and will ever, see in a White shirt. Though he may not be getting slightly found out at the highest level of football, he was clearly a class above during the entirety of his stay in Lancashire. He had absolutely everything in his locker. He could read the game, he was quick, strong in the air, good on the ball, excellent in the tackle, could score fantastic goals and was a genuine leader. I remember the vile cocktail of feelings I had when he departed: the utter heart break of losing easily our best player and one of my favourites for many years mixed with pride that our Gary would go on to win every trophy under the sun. Even captaining England.
I don't really know if I can include a player that spent a mere six months on loan at the club in my 'GREATEST EVER BWFC XI' but after considering the few options I do have, I've come to the conclusion that he was better than all of them. During our fabled play-off push in 2013, Dawson was the main instigator in our sudden up turn in form, the last time we were good on a regular basis. He came in and solidified the defence, giving the rest of the side a solid foundation to go and play off. Being good at both ends of the pitch helped too, as he netted four times in his 16 appearances. You laugh, but if I hadn't of written all that before considering him, I'd have put Tim Ream in here for the lols.
I missed the best days of Ricardo Gardner's career, by the time I was a regular at the Reebok Bibi spent more time in the treatment room than on the pitch, but I still saw enough to love him regardless. My most viivid memory of Gardner was during Gary Megson's first full season in charge. The ginger Mourinho insisted on refusing to start Gardner, even though every time he was on the pitch he worked wonders down the left hand side. Then in a game against Manchester City, when they'd just become mega rich, Bibi was introduced after fans had been chanting his name for a good period of time when the game was tight at 0-0. Gardner changed the game. He scored his first league goal in six years and then went onto set up Richard Dunne for an own goal that saw us win 2-0 and lift out of the bottom three. That's how I remember Bibi, electrifying and exciting, with the ability to bamboozle even the best of defenders. After that game against City, the Reebok echoed with chants of: "Who needs Robinho? We've got Ricardo!"
Back to a contentious one, I guess. He may have only played 30 games for us, but in those games he was the biggest part in the best period of football I've ever seen as a Wanderers supporter. That fabled season in which we got to Wembley. I continue to stand by the fact that during the first half of that season Stu Holden was the best midfielder in the Premier League. He had everything: energy, passing, tackling, he was the perfect box-to-box midfielder and wouldn't have looked out of place in any team's line up. He's also responsible for my favourite goal of all time, too. It's just a crying shame we got robber of him.
There's not much else to say other than Ivan Campo is my favourite ever Bolton player - and probably always will be. I just loved every single thing about him. His funny hair, his unconventional body shape, his class and above all his passion for Bolton Wanderers. It's a rare occurrence that a player from the biggest club in the world will come to a comparatively minuscule club and actually care so much for it and the supporters. He will never be forgotten at Bolton.
Former skipper Kevin Nolan came very close to pipping the late great Gary Speed to his position, but I gave the nod to Speedo instead. My reasoning behind this is that even though I really did love Nolan in his hey day, Speed really was just a model professional who was very good for Bolton Wanderers.He was ever reliable and whilst Nolan was a pointer and screamer, Speed simply led by example. He was always composed and good for a vital goal every now and then too. Simply put, he's a legend of the British game.
I feel like Diouf may get missed out of a lot of people's bets of teams as others may have been able to watch players who were just better than him, but he's a man that certainly deserves recognition as a Bolton legend. He's a player that, whilst growing up not really too tuned into football, always epitomised Bolton for me. He was a scum bag who everyone hated, which is exactly the type of team Bolton were. Once I started watching the Trotters it become clear why Diouf was loved by Wanderers supported, he was brilliant. He had skill and finishing ability to match many in the league. He was a total scum bag who everyone hated - and you're a liar if you say you wouldn't want one playing for your team.
I don't think I really need to explain why SKD is here. He's the captain. He's a legend. No more words are needed.
It was clear from his first kick of a ball in white shirt up to his last that Saint Nic Anelka was a class above the rest of his team mates and though his time at Bolton was fleeting, he is easily the best player I've seen turn out for the Whites. A player who had it all ability wise but never managed to find a place where he was truly adored by the supporters, apart from Bolton. Though he might not have won medals or glory in Lancashire, I have a suspicion he enjoyed his time at our little club the best. He was the man. The star. He was the best, and he flourished under that pressure, scoring some sublime goals.
Manager: Gary Megson
Yeah, I know. Whilst I technically could go with Big Sam as I did see the last six months of his Bolton reign, I feel like that would be a bit of a cop out, so I had to go with either Owen Coyle or eventual winner Gary Megson. Coyle came close due to that one season of wonderful football and signing Stu Holden, but relegation ruled him out. So Megson has won it instead. Now, I do, and always will, hate Megson to the core of my bones, but he was the manager that made some of my bets moments supporting Bolton happen. Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, Manchester United, Middlesbrough, all happened under his stewardship - so I guess that makes him the best manager I've had during my time.