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The Rise and Fall Chapter 6: Overspending and Underperforming

Tom's ongoing series turns to Bolton's record signing.

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Loyal readers will know that at chapter 4, this series reached a peak. Imagine Walt and Hank in the garage peak. We plateaued last time out with Nicolas Anelka. Now begins the slow decline to the footballing version of Better Call Saul, slow and agonising.

We've reached the period of overspending, and underperforming, an era ushered in by Gary Megson, and flourished under Owen Coyle.

June 2008. If the conspiracy theorists are to be believed, Eddie Davies has asked for his £7m back for Nicolas Anelka, which leaves us with £8m in the bank. Enter Gary Megson flashing Uncle Eddie's chequebook at Sweden hotshot Johan Elmander from French side Toulouse. Just two years previous, he'd been nominated for Ligue 1 Player of the Year (not our division for next season, but France's top flight).

In his 64 games for Toulouse, he'd scored 22 goals, one every 2.9 games. For Wanderers, he'd manage one in every five.

Still Wanderers' record signing at £8.2m, Elmander is largely regarded as a flop, largely due to his sizeable price tag. However, dismissing him as so would be an overly simplified judgement. Elmander would show flashes of brilliance inside longer periods of mediocrity.

He scored on his debut against Stoke City in a 3-1 win, scored one of the best solo goals Bolton Wanderers have ever scored in the Premier League against Wolverhampton Wanderers in a 3-2 win at Molyneux in November 2010 (a 2011 poll for The Guardian handed it the mantle of Greatest Ever Premier League Goal. Jay-Jay Okocha's strike vs West Ham must have slipped their minds).

In the same month, he ripped Newcastle United apart in a 5-1 victory at the Reebok, scoring a brace and receiving one almighty elbow to the face from Fabricio Colloccini. Before the most purple of patches at the start of the 2010/11 season.

Elmander was also no stranger to dry spells. From December 2008 to November 2009, Elmander went without a league goal for 11 months.

For me, Elmander's Bolton career ended on that day at Wembley in 2011. Deployed at the tip of a midfield diamond, Elmander, like many others, was anonymous on that day. Moved up front, after the substitution of Ivan Klasnić at half time, Elmander was equally ineffective.

Just a month later manager Owen Coyle announced that Elmander had signed a pre-contract agreement with Galatasaray. Rather than viewing players as an investment to produce a profit, the club hierarchy viewed their playing staff as motorcars, depreciating in value until they went for nothing.

Elmander was no goalscorer, and certainly no replacement for Anelka in the long term. He was a hard worker, a player prone to spells of brilliance, but more used to prolonged periods of average performances.

He symbolises the transfer policy of the time; high risk transfers for players beyond a certain age at significant cost and high wages, and a player that the club would eventually make a loss on. It was a nasty habit that the club would get used to.

Spectacularly mediocre since his transfer from Wanderers, Elmander may have come back to the attentions of Bolton fans when he joined Norwich on loan in 2013, scoring 1 league goal in 28 appearances, most of which were from the bench. And to think that somebody, somewhere thought he was once worth £8m. The problem for us is that that somebody was Gary Megson, and that somewhere was Bolton Wanderers.

Next time: Sean who?