As the French striker, Nicolas Anelka, turns 40 today, we take a look back at his brief but brilliant spell at Bolton.
Bolton Wanderers have struggled for goals all season long and have the worst attacking record in the Championship. The problem is Wanderers’ attacking options are less-than-ideal. This has been the case for the best part of the last ten years. However, it didn’t always used to be this way.
In Nicolas Anelka, Bolton had a proven goalscorer, and former Champions League winner, who could find the net on a regular basis, something the side has lacked ever since he left.
Anelka’s record speaks for itself. During his time at Bolton, Anelka managed an impressive ratio of a goal every three games. Oh what Bolton fans wouldn’t give to have someone like that now.
Anelka’s Bolton career
In 2006, Bolton boss Sam Allardyce secured one of the transfer coups of the season. His £8 million capture of Nicolas Anelka looked set to put Bolton on the Champions League-chasing path.
Despite a slow start to his time at Bolton, it was simply a matter of when Anelka would start scoring, rather than if.
The Frenchman’s first goal for the Trotters came in a League Cup tie against Walsall.
However, Anelka’s first league goal didn’t materialise until November 2006. But what a goal it was when it came.
Against Arsenal, one of Anelka’s former clubs, the striker rocketed an unstoppable shot past Jens Lehmann to double Bolton’s lead just before half time. In the second half of the same game, Anelka got on the receiving end of an inch-perfect pass from Ivan Campo and slotted another delightful finish past the Arsenal keeper.
⚽️🔥 It would be rude of us not to have a look at these two goals from Nicolas Anelka on his birthday.
— Bolton Wanderers FC (@OfficialBWFC) March 14, 2019
Following that, Anelka went on an impressive scoring run that helped Bolton to 5 wins on the bounce and saw the Trotters as high as third in the Premier League.
Sadly the Trotters fell away towards the end of the season and Big Sam left the club with three games still remaining. Bolton did manage to qualify for Europe but it wasn’t the Champions League place some were hoping for.
The following season, Anelka started in great scoring form, sadly the team as a whole under-performed.
Without Allardyce for the first time in eight years, Bolton struggled.
Despite averaging a goal every other game in the 2007/08 season, Anelka felt his talents were being wasted at the Reebok. Therefore, in January 2008, when Chelsea came calling, Anelka made the £15 million switch to Stamford Bridge.
Anelka’s career after Bolton
Much like his arrival at Bolton, Anelka took a while to get scoring at Chelsea. In his first six months, he managed to notch just two goals.
However, in the seasons following, Anelka showed his true potential, even earning the Premier League golden boot in 2008/09.
During his time at Chelsea Anelka won the FA Cup on two occasions and the Premier League once before moving on again to Shanghai Shenhua in January 2012.
Anelka didn’t stay in China for long and was brought in on loan by Italian giants Juventus in 2013.
After that deal ran out, the Frenchman moved back to the Premier League with West Brom but only scored twice in 12 appearances.
The following season, Anelka was on the move once again. In 2014, he joined Indian side Mumbai City where the striker subsequently ended his playing career.
Since his retirement, Anelka has turned his talents to coaching and is currently a youth offensive coach at French side Lille.
Despite only being at Bolton for a year and a half, he’s a player many fans remember fondly. It’s rare to find such a prolific scorer and that’s clearly evident in Bolton’s current attacking choices.
It’s a shame we didn’t get to enjoy Anelka’s talents for longer but then the Frenchman never spent very long at any club. In a 19 year playing career, Anelka represented 12 clubs.
While he wasn’t at Bolton for long, he sure did leave his mark at the Reebok and his talent was clear from his very first goal against Arsenal in 2006.
What Bolton wouldn’t do to have had Nicolas Anelka for longer than they did.