While Bolton were meekly surrendering a two goal lead at home to Bournemouth on Saturday, an ex-Wanderer was having a better time of things. Looking sharper than he has for some time, Kevin Nolan bagged a well taken brace for his current club West Ham, away at Aston Villa, with a mixture of tenacity and smart positioning.
Nolan played a total of 345 times for Bolton scoring 50 goals, before leaving for Newcastle in January 2009. It was the right decision for the player. He had been sluggish for some time and needed a change. In addition, then manager Gary Megson insisted on playing him in a much deeper role, in which scoring chances were minimised. It was an idiotic ploy, for Nolan without goals is an ordinary midfielder.
The ex-Liverpool man wasn’t always deserving of his place in the line up, based on form, but was included because he provided leadership on the pitch, something that is clearly lacking in the present Wanderers team. He didn’t always get it right. In one game at Middlesbrough, Nolan was so busy shouting and pointing that Stewart Downing skipped past him and scored with his right foot, a rarity for such a left sided player.
But on another occasion, his worth was indisputable. On New Year’s Day 2005, Bolton played West Brom at the Reebok, having lost their previous six games. In Tsunami like conditions, and with time running out, the Whites were 1-0 down. Heads began to drop. One man drove the team on. That man was Kevin Nolan. The equaliser came late on, the losing streak was over, and Sam Allardyce’s men went on a ten game unbeaten run.
At the start of this season, the captaincy at the Reebok was given to the blissfully unaware Zat Knight, for reasons that cannot be understood by anyone normal. Then it was passed on to Jay Spearing, who has the body language of a badly beaten dwarf. Neither appointment has been beneficial.
There are many reasons for Bolton’s current underachievement, not least an insipid manager. But a good starting point on the road to recovery would be to find an individual with the pride, passion and determination to inspire his team mates to better things, once the white line has been crossed. Can Dougie Freedman find such a person to step up to the plate?
– Richard McCormick