Is It a Bird? Is It a Plane? No, It's Chris Eagles Playing Golf

  • July 27, 2014 | By Largehat
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Two weeks before the new Football League season gets underway, former Bolton Wanderers midfielder Chris Eagles is still without a club.

While the 28-year-old Hemel-born Eagles has only technically been a free agent since 1st July, it was clear for months prior to this that Bolton manager Dougie Freedman had no intention of offering the player a new deal. Yet a perfunctory search of online news sources provides no evidence of Eagles being linked with, or in talks with, a new club.


Why hasn't a Championship, or indeed League One manager, signed Eagles in time to get him fit and ready for the impending new season? Eagles has the gift of flair, is a proven performer at Championship level, is at the peak of his career, and is versatile enough to play across the front line. Given the way he was frozen out in his final months at Wanderers, Eagles will be badly in need of minutes on the pitch, and pre-season campaigns are designed for just this purpose.

Perhaps, as Wanderers fans, we are well equipped to answer this question from within.

Eagles was not a cherished member of our squad, even during the first half of the 2012-13 season when he was by far our most consistent performer and biggest goal threat. During his time at Wanderers, I came to feel that Chris Eagles was simply not the type of player our fans are predisposed to appreciate.

Over the years, finesse players such as Sasa Curcic and Jay-Jay Okocha have been taken to the heart of Wanderers fans, but the way Eagles was scapegoated at times left me with the distinct impression that unless you're the kind of flair midfielder who can consistently beat an opponent for pace or skill, you're given short shrift by the Macron faithful.

I've heard Eagles barracked for not hunting down an opponent twenty yards away, for his hairstyle, and for having the temerity to have once been on the books of Manchester United. I've heard him called a 'Big Time Charlie', echoing the label Bruce Rioch infamously applied to Ian Wright upon the former's arrival at Highbury in 1995.

The only outpouring of grief at Eagles's departure has come from the player himself.

After three years at the club - a period of rapid decline, which saw a relegation and two disappointing seasons at a lower level, the end of which saw the player hawked around the league for loan deals to get him off the wage bill - Chris Eagles spoke with commendable dignity upon his departure, expressing his warmth for the club and its fans.

"Everyone knows what I feel for Bolton... I love the fans, I love the club and I always will", Eagles told The Bolton News on his departure - while also refusing to criticise the way he was treated in his final months.

Perhaps it is the case that in a World Cup summer which has been dominated by central attacking players, wide players who can't offer either direct running or strong defensive qualities have fallen out of fashion.

But Eagles offers the positional sense and intelligence of a Kevin Nolan and on his day, he's a genuine goal threat. Perhaps Eagles is the type of player a manager needs to build a system around in order to get the best out of him: there is evidence Dougie Freedman was willing to do this when he inherited Owen Coyle's players, but never saw Eagles as a long term option for his own plans.

Whatever the reasons for Eagles's continued unemployment may be, I, for one, never doubted his workrate or attitude, and have that funny feeling that he may come back to haunt Bolton Wanderers one day soon.

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Pos Team Pld Pts
19 Rochdale 32 33
20 AFC Wimbledon 33 31
21 Tranmere Rovers 31 23
22 Southend United 33 16
23 Bolton Wanderers 30 11
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