The Liverpool-born midfielder eclipsed last season’s goalscoring exploits at Old Trafford by grabbing the winner at Manchester United on Wednesday night to give Bolton their first back-to-back away triumphs over their illustrious neighbours for 67 years. Nolan scored the visitors’ first last year as the Trotters came from behind to snatch an unexpected 2-1 win. But on Wednesday night he grabbed all the glory, seizing on David Beckham’s mistake and rattling his shot past Fabien Barthez 12 minutes from time.
Other than success for Liverpool or Everton, nothing brings a wider smile to Scouse faces than seeing United turned over and the 19-year-old’s telephone bore testament to his new-found popularity.
‘‘My phone didn’t stop last night,’’ he said. ‘‘I received about 15 missed calls every two minutes. I kept wiping them off but still it kept going. I suppose you could say I am a hero in Bolton and Liverpool. But that won’t last long. By Saturday I’ll be getting grief again.’’ The reason is simple, Nolan must face Gerard Houllier’s side at the Reebok Stadium on Saturday, when they will attempt to emulate another of last season’s stunning victories.
After avoiding a widely-predicted return to the Nationwide League last term, Bolton looked set for a season of struggle when they failed to collect a point from their opening three games of this campaign. However, Michael Ricketts fired home a penalty to defeat Aston Villa on their previous outing and last night’s triumph has sent the Trotters galloping into a mid-table slot. For Nolan, it was the perfect way to answer the England Under-21 selectors, who omitted him from the squad which took on Yugoslavia last Friday, even though he is now a permanent member of Sam Allardyce’s first choice line-up.
Nolan doesn’t appear as bothered by the snub as his manager, who argued that his player would have received international recognition had he been appearing for a more fashionable club.
‘‘I’m not that disappointed. I know there are a lot of quality players at this level,’’ said Nolan.
‘‘Last year I had to pull out of England Under-20 squads quite often because I was picking up a lot of little niggles.
‘‘If I get the call I would be delighted to go but at the moment I’m happy just being part of Sam’s plans.’’
Nolan was full of praise for Ricketts, who shouldered the burden of Bolton’s attack last night and unsettled Laurent Blanc in particular, forcing the Frenchman into a couple of errors which typified his first year in the Premiership.
Bolton managed a home win and an away draw against Liverpool last year, so there is every chance of the Trotters collecting at least a point at the Reebok Stadium at the weekend.