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Jay Jay Okocha walks back down memory lane

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse

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Jay-Jay Okocha says the chance to pull on a pair of boots again at Wanderers was “priceless”.

The Nigerian superstar returned to Bolton as part of the Legends team on Sunday afternoon to help raise funds for treatment for Gethin Jones’s mother, Karen, who was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease earlier this year.

Okocha played 142 times for Wanderers over four seasons between 2002 and 2006, thrilling fans with his skills and spectacular strikes.

But when offered the chance to come back and help one of the current squad, the former midfielder – now 48 – had no doubts.

“This is what we need to be doing for each other, when one of us needs help, we need to be there for him,” he said after Sunday’s game, “I’m happy to be here, it wasn’t difficult for me to make the decision to come.

“It’s great to catch up with the lads and the manager (Sam Allardyce) as well.

“Those are times that are priceless to me and it’s great to re-encounter that again.

“I cherish every moment that I spend here with my colleagues.”

Okocha played at the 1998 World Cup finals, won the Africa Cup of Nations with Nigeria and an Olympic gold medal, along with a plethora of trophies and medals at club level.

That he chose to join Wanderers – then relatively new in the Premier League under Allardyce in 2002 – from Paris St Germain, was a decision that turned heads in the footballing world.

And the former midfielder says establishing Bolton as a top flight side counts among his greatest achievements in the game.

“It’s up there because people celebrate success in different ways,” he said. “For such a club, it was mas more than winning a trophy for us to steady the ship and the club and establish ourselves as a Premier League side. They were fantastic years that I had here and for me, it counts up there.”

Okocha continues to watch on from afar and is happy to see Wanderers have emerged from troubled times.

“We all are following the progress of the club and it’s good to see the club going up again, going towards the right direction and hopefully it will continue like that,” he added.

One of the highlights of Sunday’s game was Okocha’s celebration having opened the scoring from the penalty spot. Jogging over to the dugout, he re-created the famous dance with Allardyce that the pair performed after beating Middlesbrough to secure survival in 2003.

“It’s just reliving great memories,” he said. “It was a bit pre-planned. It was fun, it was a fun memory and why not live it again.”

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