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Ex Bolton boss Allardyce on pass master Fernando Hierro

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse

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Sam Allardyce says there is “no doubt” his time at Wanderers was the most enjoyable spell of his managerial career to date.

Allardyce spent eight years in the hot seat at Bolton, building a star-studded side and even guiding the club to European qualification.

The 68-year-old also had a lengthy spell with the Whites during his playing days, and he says the club will always have a special place in his heart.

“There is no doubt about that,” Big Sam told No Tippy Tappy Football Podcast. “You have love and affection for one particular club that you have played for or managed – I think everybody has that.

“Generally, mine was because it gave me the opportunity to live the dream, to start as a new apprentice, make it into the first team and do 10 years.

“Then to go back, do eight years as a manager and achieve the things we achieved. I never expected to have nine Premier League clubs.

“I never expected to leave Bolton but unfortunately I had to. But that was the best of the best.”

One of the big names Allardyce brought to the North West was Real Madrid legend Fernando Hierro.

The Spaniard finished his career in the Premier League with Wanderers, and Big Sam thoroughly enjoyed working with him.

The former Whites boss explained: “The best passer in the Premier League - and people will (be surprised) because this was in the Paul Scholes era - was Fernando Hierro.

“If he wasn’t the best and Scholes was, they were both on a par. I have never seen anybody place – he could pass it onto a sixpence, that’s how good he was.

“My whole coaching technique sort of changed watching him get the ball and get the players on the frontline to get running in the right areas.

“He could make a pass that nobody else could, so we made the runs more dangerous for the opposition. They were more difficult to execute, but he could. That is why we became so good with him as an attacking option.”

He added: “When he left, his last game at home was against Everton and the whole stadium stood up and applauded.

“I had never experienced that before and that was how much – not just me – but everybody else appreciated him.”

Hierro is currently serving as sporting director at Mexican club Chivas, having taken up the role back in October.

Youri Djorkaeff was another memorable signing that Allardyce pulled off, spending three seasons in the North West in total.

A World Cup winner with France, the attacking midfielder made a big impact at Wanderers after joining from German outfit Kaiserslautern.

Big Sam reckons signing Djorkaeff was a big moment in his Bolton tenure and set the tone for what was to come.

“He was the start of the whole Bolton Wanderers regime. ‘Who are these players? How does he get them?’ He came from Kaiserslautern in Germany,” the former boss recalled.

“He was not playing and his agent rang me and said, ‘Youri Djorkaeff needs to play to get in the World Cup squad for France’. I asked if he would come to Bolton and he said, ‘well, let’s go and see him’. That was it, we jumped on the plane.

“I took a few of the lads with me. We had done some clips on Bolton – where it was, what sort of stadium we had. It is a great stadium, to be fair.

“We sold it to him and he felt that we could both help each other. He hadn’t been playing but he said, ‘don’t worry about me. I will be alright’.

“He went straight into the side and scored a few goals to keep us up comfortably that year. He went off to the World Cup and then rang up saying, ‘can I come back?’ “He stayed two more years and more players followed – the likes of Campo, Hierro. People would look at who played for Bolton – a World Cup winner, a European champion – and think it must be alright there.”

Allardyce has been out of football since his departure from West Brom at the end of the 2020/21 campaign. He took charge of a Turton side in the Generations Cup at Darwen FC earlier this year, reuniting with former fan favourite Ricardo Gardner.

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