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Pretenders to the Crown: The Era of the Greats

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Super Kevin Davies is the legend born out of our 11 year Premier League stay, his retirement seems like as good a excuse as any to look back at the other greats from that era!

Is Jussi Jaaskelainen the greatest of the greats?
Is Jussi Jaaskelainen the greatest of the greats?
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Oh we were spoilt weren't we! Kevin Davies may be the only player from that era who goes down as a true Bolton Wanderers legend. But he was far from the only true Bolton great to have plied his trade for the club during that time!

There are many others who fall under this category, and I will take a look at those who I believe are most worthy.

Jay Jay Okocha

So good they named him twice.

The most talented Nigerian player of his generation shocked the footballing world by joining struggling Bolton, and it was a match made in heaven! Not only was he the most talented Nigerian player of his generation but in my opinion he was the most individually talented of the so called mini-Galacticos brought in by Sam Allardyce.

This video shows off some of his best moments in a Bolton shirt and I would be surprised if there was anyone reading this who did not remember at least one of them fondly.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyOHbCBApus

I remember being at that match against Arsenal where he pulled off that trick from a short corner, useless linesman thought it had gone out but we all knew better. That match against Middlesbrough where he missed the free-kick, got ordered to retake it and popped it in the top corner is the first match I remember being at. That free-kick goal may well go down as the single most important thing he did for the club securing our top flight survival that season.

Even Derik Osede is a fan, saying how much he loved watching Jay Jay while he was growing up in an interview with The Bolton News. And how can a man with such wonderful hair be wrong?

Youri Djorkaeff

Few players will have joined Bolton more decorated than Youri Djorkaeff. In a stella career Djorkaeff won the UEFA Cup, World Cup and European Championships along with a number of individual accolades before joining a struggling Bolton side.

Djorkaeff was such a talent. His existence in the team alongside Jay Jay and the others really did challenge the idea that Bolton were just a long ball team. Yeah we played long ball to get the ball up the pitch. But when it is nodded down to players of such quality who would then move it around the box it does rather challenge the one dimensional label.

Along with Okocha Youri was without a doubt one of the most important players in securing Bolton in the top flight in the first few years up there. Esteban Cambiasso at Leicester City last season showed the effect that a classy ageing player can still have to this day for a struggling Premier League side!

Finally I remind you that Youri scored a brace in our 4-1 win which sank Leeds United all those years ago, what more need I say?

Ivan Campo

It is so nice with Ivan Campo to see how he still holds this club dear. Campo put himself forward for the Bolton managers’ job a few years ago when the vacancy was there. Maybe one of these days the classy Spaniard will return to Bolton in some capacity?

Campo was a simply unbelievable passer of the ball. The pass to set Anelka through for his second goal against Arsenal in the game he opened his goal scoring account for Bolton was sublime, but nothing more than we had come to expect from the Spaniard. His importance to the side was shown when Sammy Lee left him out of the team for a few matches before being forced to recall him as he was so much better than the other midfielders on offer.

Campo, Okocha and Djorkaeff, along with another former Bolton player, featured in the top ten free transfers in Premier League history in a Daily Telegraph article last season, and few in these parts would argue with that!

Jussi Jaaskelainen

The name which strikes fear into the hearts of all my follow dyslexic Bolton Wanderers fans no doubt!

Jussi was without a doubt at his prime one of the Premier Leagues best goalkeepers. This can be evidenced by his winning the goalkeeper of the year award during his time at the club. Considering the talented keepers which the top clubs had this was quite an achievement! He was also amongst the nominees for save of the 20 season with the spectacular double save against Manchester United, which for Jussi was just another day in the office!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czqI0CrYU0c

Few players were more important in our rise up the Premier League than Jussi and due to his years of service is the player who runs Davies closest in the legend department in my view. It is probably no coincidence that the year Jussi lost his place in the first team Bolton lost their Premier League status.

Gary Speed

Gary Speed was a Premier League legend and held a number of Premier League records. He held the appearance record at 535 and still appears near the top of the list. He had also scored in every Premier League season from its inception until he dropped down to the Championship, a record only bettered by Ryan Giggs who of course played a few more Premier League seasons after Speed retired.

Speed played for a number of Premier League teams before being sold to Bolton by Newcastle United. Many thought that Speed may have been passed his best, but he proved them wrong in Bolton colours. If I remember right Speeds arrival coincided with Bolton transforming themselves from Premier League strugglers into a force to be reckoned with. I for one do not think that that is a coincidence.

It was a tragedy when Speed took his life. If he had not then I think Wales would have already qualified for a major tournament ending their long wait. In doing so Speed would have cemented his legend in the dugout to supplement his legend on the pitch.

Stelios Giannakopoulos

My Chelsea supporting barber was excitedly recalling names from Bolton's glory days running through the roster of talent we had. Stelios was the one who stood out for him, and it was amazing how many of our players from those years he remembers with fondness.

Stelios was the first Bolton player to win a European Championships while playing for Bolton, representing Greece in the 2004 tournament. He was a constant source of creativity for Bolton, which was sourly missed when his play time became more restricted the season after Big Sam left.

He was another player who undoubtedly contributed massively to Bolton's march up the Premier League. I still remember him celebrating one of the goals in that remarkable 4-3 win against Blackburn Rovers.

Nicholas Anelka

Anelka was arguably the most eye catching signing of them all.

In comparison with the other players looked at in this article Anelka spent only a brief time at the Reebok. But it would seem wrong to ignore a player of such talent! From that wonder goal to open his account against Arsenal to the solitary goal in a 1-0 win against Manchester United at the Reebok Anelka was a reliable goal scorer. He is probably the last striker we had who could be described as such for Bolton (something Ivan Klasnic may have something to say about).

The then record signing still stands today as our record sale when he left for £15 million. That kind of move is testament to the talent he possessed while at Bolton, and his roster of former clubs would create envy amongst many of the game’s biggest names.

Rather like with Super Kevin Davies when I look back at this era in 50 years’ time and bore anyone who will listen with stories of great days at Bolton these names will be mentioned many times.

Is there anyone who I should have had on this list or maybe should have left out? Tell me in the comments below!