Bolton Wanderers – The Wilderness Players

Bolton’s draw in the FA cup against Sunderland was unusual in that it provided a chance to see Marvin Sordell.  The Team GB striker was signed for £3 million by Owen Coyle a year ago and has rarely worn the white shirt since then.

Information about Sordell’s repeated omission hasn’t been forthcoming from the Reebok until today, but manager Dougie Freedman has at last commented.

There was an earth tremor when Jardel landed.

There was an earth tremor when Jardel landed.

“It has been quite a move for him and he’s not quite settled.  There have been small issues off the field with his tweeting, let’s not hide, and we’re trying to deal with it,” he told the Bolton News.

Not that long ago, the Wanderers were known for their attention to detail in getting foreign stars to settle at the club.  Now they can’t cope with someone from Watford who has an I-Phone.

In the early part of Sam Allardyce’s tenure a number of players arrived, featured little and then left to no fanfare whatsoever, but that’s what you get for shopping in the bargain basement.  Julio Cesar, Akin Bulent,  Djibril Diawarra,  Ibrahim Ba,  Javi Moreno and Akinora Nishizawa are amongst the names that trip uneasily off the tongue.

However, those players were either free transfers or loans and Allardyce was quick to get rid once it became clear that they weren’t up to the mark.  By contrast, the individuals below (bar one) were costly either in terms of transfer/loan fees or wages, or sometimes both.  These are Bolton’s wilderness players.

Gregg Wylde – Signed on a three year deal from Rangers who couldn’t afford to pay him (or anyone else for that matter) Wylde agreed to move in March 2012.  FIFA couldn’t be bothered to authorise the deal before the end of the season, but this likely didn’t matter.  Wylde has not so far managed a single competitive appearance for Bolton and is currently on loan at Bury.

Tuncay – The Turkish international has had high points in his career.  None of them happened at the Reebok.   He arrived on a year long loan from Bundesliga outfit Wolfsburg and spent most of it sat on the subs bench.

Built like a brick Shittu

Built like a brick Shittu

Ebi Smolarek – “I don’t know what I’m doing here,” said Smolarek to camera by way of introduction on Soccer AM’s Cross Bar Challenge.  Gary Megson, who signed him on loan for a year didn’t either.   The Polish international was quick and knew where the goal was.  He was however, a little lightweight.  That meant he was ill-equipped for a battle to get the ball that resulted from Bolton’s rotten passing.  Smolarek started one game for the Whites and came on as a substitute twelve times.

Riga – Mustapha Riga kept Ebi Smolarek company on the subs bench and provided a useful name for the East Lower scoreboard mob to chant.  Other than that, his time at the Reebok was without note.   Playing for the reserves, the Dutchman usually produced one moment of draw dropping skill per game and then took little part in the rest of proceedings.   It was perhaps this lack of willingness that limited him to three first team starts.  Riga was on a reported £20,000 a week in his season and a half stint at the Reebok, which at least compensated for his time at previous club Levante who had difficulty paying anyone due to a parlous financial state.

Danny Shittu –  Gary Megson paid £2.2 million for the unfortunately named Nigerian.  The crowd didn’t chant “You’re Shittu and you know you are,” but they should have done.   Eleven starts and two years later, the big man was released from his contract and joined Millwall.  Value for money?  Nope.

More on Shittu in a later article, one which includes some wacky behaviour by Megson with regard to the player.

Tuncay gets treatment for bench sores

Tuncay gets treatment for bench sores

Blerim Dzemaili – Sam Allardyce signed the Swiss international on a pre-contract in early 2007.  A captain of Zurich FC at the age of twenty, there were great hopes for him.   Things went awry before he’d played a single game for Bolton, a ruptured cruciate ligament injury putting him out for an extended period.

Dzemaili returned to action for the reserves late the same year where he spent the match shrugging and being bullied by sixteen year olds.  Further appearances were no more impressive.

To be fair Dzemaili  wasn’t fully fit at this time.  He was in good physical shape at the start of the 2008 campaign where he gave his all in sweltering conditions in a friendly at non-league Chorley.  Gary Megson then shipped him out to Torino on a year’s loan, which turned into a permanent arrangement as his contract wound down.

There have subsequently been moves to Parma and then Napoli with multi-million pound fees quoted.  These figures should be treated with caution.  Dzemaili has an imaginative and vocal agent who has previously claimed that his client was wanted by both Aston Villa and Liverpool.

There are no pictures of Oscar Perez in a Bolton shirt.

There are no pictures of Oscar Perez in a Bolton shirt.

Zoltan Harsanyi – Another Allardyce signing who initially arrived on loan.   Sammy Lee saw enough potential to give him a three year deal. The Slovakia under-21 international had good movement and positioning and wasn’t bad at finding the net.  With the right coaching he might have become a useful player off the bench.

Unfortunately, Gary Megson left the reserve team to Alan Cork, a man who is to football management what Luis Suarez is to race relations.   Harsanyi was played on the wing where the best aspects of his game could be used least.  He left at the end of his contract without making a single first team appearance.

Mario Jardel – There was understandable excitement at Jardel’s arrival.  A Brazilian international with a career record of more than a goal a game, it was hoped that he’d add bite to the forward line.  However a knee injury and a serious pasty addiction (the only biting he did) had left him a tubby remnant of the player he’d once been.
Since leaving the Whites Jardel has joined and failed at thirteen clubs, which is even more than Michael Ricketts, with pastry manufacturers in a number of cities reporting sharp but temporary increases in revenue.

Last and Definitely Least

Oscar Perez – The most puzzling acquisition in Bolton’s recent history.   Perez was signed in January 2006 from the Spanish lower leagues by Sam Allardyce.  The midfielder was something of a relegation specialist.  Real Oviedo dropped two divisions in consecutive years whilst he was there and Cordoba descended to the equivalent of League One.  He was like a low rent Tyrone Mears.

Perez made no first team appearances in England and was usually seen at reserve games carrying the kit bags and water bottles.   Some claim that this was Allarydyce’s little joke to demonstrate the calibre of players that would be signed if transfer funds weren’t forthcoming.  It’s as good an explanation as any.

– Richard McCormick


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