Imagine an alternative universe.
We see a stadium, packed to the rafters, the pitch lit up in the dark of night.
Gary Cahill passes out from the back to Stuart Holden who has come deep to get the ball. He sees a marauding Marcos Alonso charging down the left and decides to send a pass across the field.
The ball is intercepted but is one back by yet another superb tackle from Fabrice Muamba. He again lays it off to Holden who spots a small Spaniard totally unmark.
He fires an inch perfect ball directly to the feet of said Spaniard. He controls the ball with ease and turns on a dime, revealing the name Thiago on the back of his shirt. He runs at the defence causing all manner of disarray. The full back comes across to help, leaving the man on the wing open.
Thiago whips a ball across to the equally small winger, none other than Juan Itrube. He runs on to the ball and attacks the space with vigour. He glances in to the box to assess his options to discover 3 players are available, an Englishman flanked by two more Spaniards.
Who should he choose?
The pacey Jese Rodriguez? The prolific Daniel Sturridge? Or the tricky Rodrigo?
He drills the ball low and hard across the face of goal finding its target, the outstretched boot of Sturridge, adding yet another goal to his seasons tally.
As pie in the sky as this seems, once upon a Scotsman, this scenario was not beyond the realms of possibility.
I first starting thinking about this when listening to the LOV podcast a couple of episodes ago. The ‘Podtwats' as I believe they're affectionately now know were discussing the best transfer sagas in recent Bolton history.
It dawned on me when all the suggestions were rolling in, how many now very big names Coyle came close to signing. How close could we have been to a scenario such as the one described?
First the obvious. At this point in time, Holden, Muamba, Alonso and Cahill are givens. We'll also say in this alternative universe the main difference is, we have more luck in both signing players and keeping them fit.
Stuart Holden - Could've been a top Premier League talent and would have made a fantastic playmaker in this team.
Fabrice Muamba - One of the best tacklers in the Premier League around the time and would have been an outstanding anchor for this team to attack in droves. I recall the stat in his final season that we had only lost 1 game in ten where Muamba played but lost all but one in 10 when he didn't (or something to that effect).
Gary Cahill - We all know how good he was/is. Now deputy England captain and at the centre of one of the best defences with Chelsea. Brought to Bolton Wanderers by Gary Megson, he soon developed into a real high quality defender.
So how likely were the hypotheticals?
Rodrigo Moreno - He was very close to signing. We originally had a package deal for him and Alonso, and had Di Maria not gone to Madrid early in that summer he'd have been ours. Reportedly we also went back for him the summer after we loaned him, and again were very close. Now a Spanish international and last valued at £21,500,000.
Daniel Sturridge - After his fantastic loan spell, Coyle confirmed he talked with then Chelsea manager AVB about getting him back for another season and that they were positive. Had we managed to get him back, in all likelihood when he was sold the following season, Bolton would have been a prime destination for the England striker.
Jese Rodriguez - Not remembered as much as the others, but Coyle according to the Bolton news had this loan deal done. Player had agreed and the terms were met. Having initially agreed to it, the Bolton News reports that they pulled the plug at the last minute as the Castilla team looked a little light on the ground. Still at Real.
Thiago - Another one that was signed, sealed and was just never delivered. Straight from the horse's mouth (the horse being Gartside here) Bolton had agreed a deal with Barcelona, similar to the deal they have just agreed with Everton for Gerard Deulofeu. We buy for a low price, they have a buy back clause for an extra couple of million. The plug was pulled at the very last minute. Gutting as the lad is now playing for Munich and was worth £17,000,000 a couple of years ago.
Lastly Juan Iturbe - The player was again rumoured to be coming on loan the entire summer. Probably the least likely to have been close of the bunch, but I have no doubt Coyle went for him. Now playing for Roma and was valued at £15,500,000 pounds.
Say all you want about Owen Coyle, he sure had an eye for a player. What a couple of seasons they could've been with just a bit more favour with lady luck.