I've been away, I've been working. But now I'm back and I need to know if you're still there. I want to know if you still care. Of course you do.
So begins our journey through the rise and fall of our beloved Bolton Wanderers in just ten transfers. From the obvious to the obscure, we'll take a journey from the doldrums of the Championship to the Allianz Arena. First up is a phenomenon more mind blowing than Ricardo's Gardner's hair in the summer of 1998. Ladies and gentlemen, Michael Ricketts.
Michael Ricketts was your average Division 3/Division 2/League One striker, depending on your age. A local lad, he'd managed a modest 14 goals in 76 appearances for Walsall (averaging one goal in every 5.4 games). In July 2000, something strange happened. Bolton Wanderers spent £400,000 on Ricketts. It was to become an early example of one of Sam Allardyce's many gambles in the transfer market. Like many that would follow, this risk paid dividends immediately.
Ricketts scored 24 goals in his first season at the Reebok, the most important being the second goal at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium in Wanderers' 3-0 win over David Moyes' Preston North End. Allardyce, at even then a tidy sum, had unearthed a gem whose goals fired Wanderers back to the promised land.
Not content with one season of taking the headlines, Ricketts played a key role in a Bolton team that took the Premier League by storm, scoring a brace in a 5-0 victory at Filbert Street. If you're too young to remember, Leicester played there. And we played them off the park. Bolton were back, and by 5pm on the first day of the 2001/02 season, were top of the league. By February, he'd scored 15 goals, including that all important goal at Old Trafford. His blistering form earned him a call up to Sven Goran Eriksen's England squad for a friendly against the Netherlands.
To say it was a peak in Ricketts' career would be an understatement. He played for 45 minutes in what was his only England cap. He went the remainder of the season without scoring. Just shy of 12 months later, Steve McLaren signed Ricketts for Middlesbrough for £3.5m. One of his meagre three goals for Boro came at the Reebok in a 2-1 victory for the Wanderers. His cupped ears suggested one party was going places, the other would stagnate into football obscurity. He was right. Wanderers stayed up, Ricketts left for Leeds in 2004 (where he would score a grand total of 0 goals in 25 games) and was later named in England's all time worst XI.
Like some to follow, Ricketts came as an unknown, and for pittance at that, and played a key role in the footballing underdog story of the early 2000s. And like many others, Bolton was the pinnacle in his career.
Stay tuned for Chapter 2: Le God. Youri.