Date: 2nd October 2006 at 1:49am
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Nicky Hunt is following in a long line of Boltonions who have turned out for the Wanderers. As with many local lads in recent years, he comes in for a greater share of criticism than he probably deserves. The names ‘Jimmy Phillips’ and ‘Julian Darby’ spring to mind. Last year, after injury, he lost his place to Joey O’Brien and didn’t get it back until the end of the season when the young Irish lad had run himself into the ground.

Tall, slightly stooped and with a face better suited to Tower FM rather than Sky, he’s an easy target both for home fans and the away mob. He’s never quite as bad as the big lad sitting next to you howling abuse at him for 90 minutes would like to think he is. He’s not as good as we’d all want him to be (but who is?) but he’s still a young player with a bright future ahead of him.

In his first full season, 2003-04, he played 35 times for the team, including the first game of the season away at Old Trafford where he came up against a young Cristiano Ronaldo who was making his debut for United that day. The next season, he played 33 times in the first team, contributing to our successful campaign that ended up with us playing in the UEFA Cup.

The lad’s always had his critics, even though Big Sam has said that he could go on to claim Gary Neville’s No2 shirt for England. Stories, most of them made up, told of his ‘billy big boots’ attitude. Others of weekend excesses. Last season, he came in for quite a bit of abuse when he played and the same kind of thing has happened this season. Many people would have broken under the pressure. It’s one thing to be roundly criticised by your own fans, it’s another thing when it’s your home town as well.

But our Nicky is made of stronger stuff. Against Portsmouth he was solid and organised. Against Liverpool, he was an integral part of the ‘Thin White Line’. The lad’s got spirit and determination. It would have been so easy to have hidden away.

Nicky Hunt is still a young man. He’s only just turned 23. Yes, he makes the occasional gaffe but who doesn’t? When you a defender, a mistake can lead directly to a goal. When you’re a forward or midfielder, you have a greater margin of error.

It’s time for Wanderers fans to give the lad a break. Anyone who has put up with the barracking that Nicky Hunt has and can still come out guns blazing deserves our respect.

Nicky? If you ever do that ego-centric thing of putting your name into Google and seeing what comes out, you might end up reading this. And if you do, listen to this piece of advice.

Keep going for it. Learn your trade. Listen to the advice. And one day, you might just become a local hero! Go for it, lad.


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