Club Focus – Bolton Wanderers – Petrov uplifted by team spirit

Not all players that come into the Premier League from playing abroad find themselves playing as a team in their head – it is more about individual merits. But it seems after a rocky start at Manchester City Martin Petrov has found himself the right club – Bolton Wanderers – within the top tier.

The Bulgarian left Spanish club Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2007 for the Blues of Manchester, and although a big name overseas, he remained fairly unknown in England. He soon stamped his mark on the league by playing a huge role in the Blues’ 2-0 win over West Ham at Upton Park. Cutting inside from the left-flank as well as possessing a monster of a long shot, it was clear that he was for real.

His first goal came in September against Fulham at Craven Cottage, with the next coming only minutes later in the same game. The rest of his season was spent on the left as he acquired hero status at the club that had brought him to England. Of course, such has become common at the club over recent years, he was one of the many that came and then went following a change in the club’s financial fortunes.

Although a star player at a pre-Abu Dhabi takeover City, Petrov found himself swamped in millions of pounds worth of talent as he dropped down the pecking order. With boss Mark Hughes insistent with playing new target man Emmanuel Adebayor, the signings of wide-men Shaun Wright-Phillips and Craig Bellamy particularly hampered his chances of game time at Eastlands. Carlos Tevez’s arrival also spelt trouble for the Bulgarian as City started to play a 4-3-3 formation for one of the first times in recent years. With nine of his 20 appearances coming from the bench he played a minor part in a fairly timid season for the Blues. His contract expired, and a new chapter opened.

Life at Bolton has not been all that wonderful, but it is early days. From the viewpoint of a fan, the first three games will be spent getting used to the surroundings, which was handy as he was substituted on 37 minutes in only his third game in. A red for goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen saw Petrov descend into madness over the decision. But that is what life is like for the Owen Coyle-era – all for one, and one for all.

Last Saturday saw a terrific result for the Trotters after taking the lead twice on their way to a hard fought 2-2 draw with rivals Manchester United. Zat Knight put Bolton ahead at the Reebok Stadium before Luis Nani ran through the defence to level the scores. Petrov bagged his first goal for the club by finishing off a swift counter-attack to give the Wanderers the lead for the second time on 67 minutes, only for Michael Owen to spoil the party seven minutes later with a header.

Despite his relief in not only getting his first goal in the draw, but assisting Knight with his opener with a corner, Petrov was keen to share his delight with the rest his of the side in an interview on Monday with Wanderers’ official web site: “Personally, to score and get an assist against Manchester United makes me very happy,” Petrov beamed, adding: “But at the end of the day, it’s all for the team and that’s what we’ll all continue to do; work hard towards the team’s cause.

Saturday saw Coyle’s men maintain their impressive home record of two losses out of the 13 games played under the Scot. There were long spells of pressure by the home side throughout, and they were unlucky not to have got a third following Petrov’s strike. Johan Elmander had a number of opportunities to get on the score sheet, but several of his attempts failed to trouble Edwin van der Sar. But nevertheless, a point against the Manchester giants will not go unnoticed when they look back at the results at the end of the season.

The Trotters’ next game will be at The Hawthorns when they face-off against an in-form West Bromwich Albion. Fresh off a shock away win at Arsenal, the newly promoted side will fancy themselves for the tie. But the Wanderers are also coming off a great result, and Saturday’s fixture should shape up to be a bit more attractive than the title suggests.

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