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Curse of the number nine

Jack takes a look at Wanderers’ previous number nine players

Bolton Wanderers v Forest Green Rovers - Sky Bet League Two Photo by Chris Donnelly/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

In November 2015, Jamie Vardy scored eleven goals in eleven consecutive games, setting a new Premier League record and breaking Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s previous record which had stood since 2003. The first player in any of England’s top four leagues to match this record? Bolton’s new number 9, Eoin Doyle, whilst playing for League Two side Swindon last season.

The number 9 shirt is traditionally for the club’s top goal scorer, a shirt that has been cursed at Bolton for years.

Be in no doubt, the greatest number 9 and Bolton’s finest son is of course Sir Nat Lofthouse. In his 14 years at Bolton between 1944 and 1960, he scored a total of 285 goals for the Whites, a club record that still stands to this day. Lofthouse also represented his country making 33 caps for England and scoring 30 times. To this day, Lofthouse has one of the highest goals per-game ratio of any footballer to play for the Three Lions. He was famously nicknamed the “Lion of Vienna” during his England career when netting a brace vs Austria in 1952 and also represented England at the World Cup in 1954.

We have had many number nines come and go over the years at Bolton, some who we have loved and cheered, and others not so much. One thing is for certain we’ve never had one as good as Sir Nat, and we never will.

Since moving to the Reebok in 1997, there’s been very little success for a Bolton player wearing the number 9 shirt. In fact, the best goal scoring season of a number 9 since then is Nathan Blake who netted 20 way back in the 96/97 season, when Bolton finished top of the First Division.

Henrik Pedersen took the number 9 shirt for Bolton following his move from Danish club Silkeborg IF. Playing for Bolton between 2001-2007, he scored just 28 times in 144 games for the club; managing a goal just once every five games. However, Pedersen spent most of his Bolton career on the left wing and even filled in at left back when required.

Johan Elmander took the number 9 shirt in 08/09 season after completing his club record £8 million move to Bolton. In the three seasons he was at the Reebok, he netted just 18 times in 92 appearances. Most famously remembered for his goal vs Wolves in 2010, his greatest achievement that he left the Reebok with was winning the greatest ever Premier League goal as voted for by the Guardian in 2011, beating Dennis Bergkamp’s goal at Newcastle in 2002. However, a goal every five games is not what Wanderers signed up for in the wake of Nicolas Anelka’s departure from Chelsea.

Since Elmander, the curse of the number 9 has reached arguably worryingly new heights. From Tuncay to Jamie Proctor, goals have been few and far between for the cursed shirt. Besides of course Adam Le Fondre.

The tip of the iceberg was the Christian Doidge saga in 2019. The promising Welsh forward joined the Whites from Forest Green Rovers in the summer of 2018. However, things didn’t go to plan for Doidge and after struggling to find his feet at the Macron he scored just one goal for the club. Doidge was then forced to go back to Forest Green Rovers, the club we “bought” him from, as the Wanderers defaulted on their payment instalments. As Bolton entered it’s darkest chapter under Ken Anderson, the number 9 curse was alive and well.

New number 9 Eoin Doyle has a lot on his shoulders. Will he match the expectations of Wanderers fans desperate for an immediate return to League Two? We all know that he was the top goal scorer in League Two last year but it is going to take time for him to settle. Just like any striker going into a new team, he needs a goal before hitting his stride. After having previous spells in League One and Two, Doyle’s goal scoring record speaks for itself. .

Evatt’s recruitment this summer has been deliberate and Doyle was his first and most important recruit. Evatt stated “he will get 20+ this season.” Signing until 2023, we have three seasons of watching the Irishman, hoping he breaks the curse of the number 9 starting this Saturday away at Colchester.