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Shrewsbury 15:00 Bolton

Trotters to Nic it

Last Updated: 02/11/07 2:17pm

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Anelka: key man for Bolton

Anelka: key man for Bolton

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West Ham v Bolton
3pm, Sunday, Sky Sports 1

"Maybe Carlton Cole is at last going to prove to us just why Claudio Ranieri once said he was one of the best players he had worked with."
Matt Le Tissier Quotes of the week

This might just be the best time for Bolton to be playing West Ham.

The injuries the Hammers are suffering right now are terrible and to lose Mark Noble, Anton Ferdinand and Hayden Mullins in a Carling Cup tie in midweek was a hell of a blow.

It is not just squad players they are missing, it is first-choice, key men that are going down.

With something like a dozen players injured altogether, quite what side Alan Curbishley will send out, we will have to wait and see, but their problems are a rare piece of good news to have reached the Reebok this season.

And they need it. A watched a bit of Bolton on Wednesday night and from what I could see, Gary Megson hasn't really changed much. We all thought he would revert more to the Sam Allardyce mould, but against Man City, it didn't look as if much had changed.

It is very early days of course, but maybe this will be the game we see what way Megson is going to take them. If he is going to do what we all think, he needs Kevin Davies back. He was left out of the Carling Cup, which probably shows what that competition means to the Premiership's bottom club, but to me, he is an integral part of that Bolton side, especially if they are going to take that more direct route.

So far Megson has been quite smart with his key men. He has come out and said some very good things about both Nicolas Anelka and El Hadji Diouf, which was pretty shrewd. If they are going to get themselves out of trouble, he needs his best players on side - and his main goalscorer.


Having spoken to players who have played with Anelka, he does throw the odd sulk now and then - hence the nickname - but so far this season he has looked happy, even with all the changes that have gone on. There's no doubt that when he is scoring he is a different prospect, it's just when the goals dry up that he starts to complain and talk about leaving.

And if those goals dry up, Bolton are in big trouble, even more than they are now. His free-kick last week proved he is top-drawer and probably the only player in Megson's squad capable of doing that (although Diouf hit the bar with a similar one on Wednesday), but the rest of the side simply aren't contributing.

It's not like they are shipping goals left right and centre either. They got beat by three against Newcastle on the opening day and again against Portsmouth, but since then have pushed Chelsea and indeed Arsenal. But when you are not scoring, it makes winning games very, very hard, no matter how good your defence or goalkeeper are.

It's hard to know what that defence will be up against on Sunday, but isn't it funny how all of a sudden, from not getting a look-in, Carlton Cole has now become central to West Ham's hopes.

Funny time

He has had a funny time of it, but maybe just maybe, he has found the right place. I have read this week that he himself thinks he has grown up a bit and he has certainly taken his chance since Dean Ashton got injured again. There are a lot of strikers on the books at Upton Park, but maybe now, Cole is at last going to prove to us just why Claudio Ranieri once said he was one of the best players he had worked with.

Elsewhere it will be a patched up midfield, but at least West Ham should be able to send out a decent backline. And in Robert Green and Jussi Jaaskaleinen, we have two of the Premier League's best goalkeepers on display.

Green has been a revelation this season and can consider himself unlucky not to be in the England squad. I don't think he's quite as low as sixth choice, but really he should be pushing Paul Robinson and David James, never mind making Steve McClaren's 22.

And although they are always a threat at home, West Ham might need him to show us all why come Sunday.

Le Tiss predictsAWAY WIN - I am going to stick my neck on the line and go for a rare Bolton win on the road. It's not necessarily because I have seen any signs of recovery under Gary Megson, more to do with the fact that West Ham are struggling to send a side out! I can see this being extremely tight, with one goal settling it, but if Bolton can find a little bit of quality from one of their big players, they can nick this.

Matt's main man

NICOLAS ANELKA - His injury will be as big a worry to Bolton as all 12 of theirs are to West Ham. They have to get him fit because without him, you wonder where the goals will come from. If Megson goes with that 4-3-3 and has the Frenchman, Diouf and Davies up there, Bolton are a a much bigger threat and if it's quality they need, Anelka has it in abundance.

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