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Elbouzedi's 'dream' scenario as Wanderers bear down on promotion

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse

Zack Elboudezi is dreaming of a glorious moment in Bolton Wanderers’ promotion showdown this weekend.

The winger has yet to score his first goal since arriving on loan from Lincoln City in February – but loves the idea that it could arrive on the grand stage, as Ian Evatt’s men seek the victory required to clinch a return to League One.

Wanderers know three points against Exeter City on Saturday will mean they guarantee a top three spot.

And the Irishman would love his big Bolton moment to come in a game of such importance.

“That’s the stuff dreams are made of isn’t it?” he said. “Sometimes when I am sitting in that hotel, that’s what I am thinking about – scoring that winning goal that gets the club promoted.

“But the main thing for me isn’t personal glory, it’s about helping the team and hopefully by the end of the season we have that promotion.”

Elbouzedi has primarily been used from the bench in recent weeks, his pace and trickery opening up opportunities against tiring opponents.

“Whatever the manager wants from me, I’m happy to do,” the 23-year-old told the club. “If I can start and make an impact that’d be great, but if I can come off the bench and make an impact then that is great too.

“The main things is that the team gets the win and then at the end of the season we’re all celebrating.”

With two games to go and so much at stake, Elbouzedi reckons the experienced heads in the Bolton dressing room are now coming into their own.

“You see how calm they are in certain situations,” he said. “Even in the Harrogate game where we were 1-0 down people you look at people like Baps (Alex Baptiste) or Doyler (Eoin Doyle) and there’s no panic. They are really calm whereas some of the younger players might be a bit more frantic.

“It’s good to be part of this group and when you are winning games it helps. Everyone is friendly and everyone knows each other. There are no egos, everyone just gets on and goes about their day.

“We work hard and I think that has shown on the pitch because we have got those wins and climbed the table.”

Elbouzedi came to Bolton looking for regular football in early February but an indifferent start meant he dropped out of the squad completely by the end of his first month.

He returned to the pitch in mid-March to see out a win at Port Vale and has since carved out a niche as one of Evatt’s regular go-to options late in games.

“I didn’t get off to the best start,” Elbouzedi admitted. “I have high standards for myself and I wasn’t at those standards for whatever reason – I don’t know what it was.

“But recently I have felt more like a part of the team and I feel more comfortable. That’s when I play my best football – when I am comfortable – because I can try things in games and run at people, that sort of thing.

“I always try to train well but when things are not going right you start second-guessing yourself.

“Now I have put the hard work in during training and I am just sort of playing off instinct.

“In the last few weeks when I have been coming on I think I have done well and shown the fans a little bit more of what I can do.

“I still think there is more to come from me, personally, but things are getting better and the lads have really helped with that.”

Elbouzedi’s parent club, Lincoln City, have been on an upward trend for a few years. After promotion from the Conference in 2017 they reached the third tier by 2019 and now look a strong bet to reach the Championship, currently sitting fourth in the table.

Michael Appleton’s side have succeeded with a playing style which has also pleased the football purists, which made the transition between the two clubs was an easy one.

“Lincoln and Bolton have been quite similar for me because they both try to play in a certain way and the gaffer here actually played under the gaffer at Lincoln when he was at Blackpool,” he said.

“The style of football and the philosophy and culture they want to build around the club here is quite similar to Lincoln. They want good people and they want good football.

“For me as a player I like to get on the ball and pass it around. Direct football probably wouldn’t suit me and that’s one of the reasons I came here.”


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