Dapo Afolayan came back to haunt Paul Cook – and celebrate his birthday in style at Ipswich.
The Wanderers winger took his tally to five goals in nine appearances this season with a brace at Portman Road in a convincing 5-2 Whites win.
Cook admitted after the game that Ipswich had struggled to deal with Afolayan’s threat, particularly in the first half as he struck either side of an Eoin Doyle penalty.
And the birthday boy – who had turned 24 – then revealed that Cook had passed on the chance to sign him after a trial at Wigan Athletic a few years ago.
“It’s always nice to hear that from opposition managers,” he said of Cook’s praise. “I spoke to him after the game. He’s a good guy.
“I went on trial when he was at Wigan when I was younger, so I’ve known him for a while.”
Asked what happened at Wigan, Afolayan – who moved to Wanderers via Premier League West Ham – was at a loss to explain.
“Yeah, I don’t know,” he laughed. “They must have had bigger and better things at the time.”
Ian Evatt brought Afolayan to the UniBol on loan from West Ham in January and then convinced him to sign a three-year deal as a free agent in the summer.
His rapid progression this season has already got Bolton fans speculating whether he could be targeted by clubs in the divisions above when the window reopens in January.
The Wanderers boss is keen to keep Afolayan’s feet on the floor and though he is starting to get more attention from opposition defenders, Evatt feels he has the temperament to succeed.
“It’s his birthday isn’t it, so he fancied it today!” said Evatt after the final whistle. “He is a very talented young player, but the same applies to him that he needs to be humble, he needs to keep his work ethic the same and concentrate on himself and the team and not get involved with the opposition because they try and wind him up or anyone else that tries to do it.
“Just focus on being good, and that’s enough, and he did that today.”
Afolayan and Wanderers’ afternoon took a nasty turn as they travelled back up to the North West when it emerged the player had been targeted for racial abuse by at least two online accounts, one of which was captured on a video.
Ipswich were quick to issue a statement to condemn the abuse.
"The club is aware of a video on social media that appears to have been filmed during today’s fixture with Bolton Wanderers at Portman Road,” the club said.
"We are conducting a thorough investigation into the matter, and we have made the relevant authorities aware, including the police.
"Ipswich Town Football Club does not tolerate discrimination of any kind and will not hesitate to take strong, but appropriate, action.
"We encourage supporters to report any such behaviour by speaking to their nearest steward or through the Kick It Out app. We will not be commenting more at this time."
Wanderers also commented on the video, saying: “We're disgusted to have learned of discriminatory and hateful comments directed at Dapo Afolayan in a video that appears to have been filmed by an Ipswich fan during today's game.
“We show our full support to Dapo and commend the direct approach to taking action by Ipswich Town.”
Another Twitter account was also reported to police and the social media platform after the game for racial insults.
This follows another Bolton player – Elias Kachunga – being subjected to racial slurs on Instagram last week.
The player wrote on his Twitter account after Saturday’s game: “What a performance from the team. We deserved three points. I want to also thank everyone for the support of the last few days. Me and my family really appreciate it. Thank you for all your messages, I have seen them all.”