Today’s flashback is when Emile Heskey’s three minute act helped us banter to a win against Blackburn
Today`s magic moment can`t really be filed under the ‘great moments` banner. It has been picked because it was good game, but more down to the downright silliness of it for that it`ll be remembered. We`re talking about the time Emile Heskey made his Bolton debut and absolutely turned the game on its head.
It was Boxing Day 2014. A poor start to the season had cost Dougie Freedman his job and Neil Lennon had taken over in mid-October. While Lennon would go on to be spoken in the same breath as the likes of Megson, Coyle and Freedman, he actually had a brilliant start to life at Wanderers. From a relegation scrap, we were suddenly threatening to get into the top half. The austerity years were well and truly here though, and when Lennon decided reinforcements were needed, we went down the ‘veteran` route.
One name was familiar. Eidur Gudjohnsen had trained with us, and sealed a short-term contract. On Christmas Eve, Heskey followed suit. Two days later, he was on the bench as we hosted Blackburn in a local derby. With the festive season in full swing, and us doing well, there was one of the bigger of our Championship crowds, around 23,000 turning up.
It wasn`t the best first half, with concluded with Joshua King putting Rovers ahead. We were behind at the interval, with Lennon having yet to taste home defeat as Wanderers boss.
Rob Hall was brought off, and Heskey replaced him as the golden oldies combined up front. And just before the hour mark, things started to pay off. Gudjohnsen was given some space to come in off the left and picked out the pass across the box. There was Heskey, waiting at the far post, turning it in, it was far from a graceful finish, but Heskey, a signing that was laughed at, had come on and scored 14 minutes into life at Bolton.
Three minutes later, Heskey was one doing the laughing, and we were laughing with him. Heskey won a header at the far post which was knocked down to Darren Pratley and in matter of a few minutes, we`d gone from behind to in front, Heskey had a goal and an assist, and the internet`s banter scale had well and truly been broken.
Heskey had a goal ruled out, perhaps incorrectly for offside at Huddersfield a few days later, and that was the peak of his Bolton career over. He would score two more more goals, one at Charlton in late 2015, then at Brighton in February 2016. Effectively, a Heskey goal was just an annual occurrence. But his debut at least will go down as one of the most effective cameos you`d wish to see.