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Premier League Cult Icons: Jay-Jay Okocha

Jay-Jay Okocha - so good they named him twice.

Arriving at Bolton Wanderers on a free transfer from PSG in 2002, Nigerian Okocha would go on to enjoy four unforgettable years in the Premier League, with his technical brilliance making him not only a firm favourite with supporters of the Trotters but football fans across the country.

An attacking midfielder, Okocha played the game with a flair rarely seen before or since in England's top flight, making a mockery of opponents with his skill, trickery and trademark body feints.

Jay-Jay Okocha In Profile

Place of BirthEnugu, Nigeria
PositionAttacking Midfielder
Premier League club(s)Bolton Wanderers
Premier League appearances124
Premier League goals14
Premier League assists11
International caps73
Other notable clubsEintracht Frankfurt, Fenerbahce, PSG, Hull City

Journey into football

Born in Enugu, a city of around 820,000 inhabitants in southeastern Nigeria, Okocha grew up playing football on the streets with his brothers and friends with makeshift balls.

Okocha eventually played youth football for Enugu Rangers, the only Nigerian professional club to have never been relegated from the top flight.

He would never make a senior appearance, however, as in 1990 a 17-year-old Okocha visited a friend in West Germany and asked to join in his training session with Third Division side Borussia Neunkirchen. 

The rest, as they say, was history.

Okocha made a big impression on the Borussia Neunkirchen staff straight away, earning a professional contract, before being picked up by Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt just two years later.

Style of play

A crowd pleaser and entertainer, Okocha was an attacking midfielder with great speed and skill who could receive the ball anywhere and make things happen.

The Nigerian was not afraid to attempt complex skills within matches, making him very unpredictable for opponents.

In Sam Allardyce's Bolton team, Okocha was afforded the freedom to create in the final third, with an organised defensive structure in place behind him.

He was also a very accomplished set piece taker, scoring a memorable brace of free kicks in the first-leg of the League Cup semi-finals against Aston Villa in 2004.

Despite Okocha's undoubted technical gifts, the Nigerian could at times be inconsistent in his output.

Best Premier League moment

With a number of majestic goals and masterful pieces of skill to choose from, Okocha's most iconic Premier League moment has to be his solo goal for Bolton against West Ham in April 2003.

Collecting the ball inside his own half, Okocha shrugged off Joe Cole before carrying the ball forward and thumping an unstoppable effort past David James in the Hammers goal.

This moment of magic was decisive for Bolton, with the Trotters earning a 1-0 win which helped them on their way to narrowly avoiding relegation in 17th place in the 2002/03 season.

Okocha's effort against West Ham was voted by Bolton fans as the club's best ever Premier League goal in 2008.

Bolton Legacy

Okocha's spell at Bolton marked a memorable period for the club, first playing an instrumental role in helping the Trotters survive the drop in 2002-03 before being a member of side which secured three successive top half finishes in the Premier League.

Finishing sixth in the top flight in 2004-05, Okocha and Bolton competed in the UEFA Cup the following year, progressing through the group stage before being knocked out by Marseille in the Round of 32.

Awarded the team captaincy in 2003 following his outstanding debut season, Okocha came close to lifting silverware for the club in 2004 with Bolton losing in the League Cup final against Middlesbrough,.

Eventually landing a lucrative move to Qatar SC in 2006, Okocha remains a legendary figure amongst Bolton supporters to this day.

In 2017, Okocha was voted as Bolton's greatest ever player by the fans at an event at the club's home ground.

Biggest career achievement

Okocha's crowning moments in his football career would arrive in the green jersey of his country Nigeria.

A member of both the winning squads of the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia and Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta two years later, Okocha is widely revered in his homeland as one of the best Nigerian footballers of all time.

Okocha captaining his country Nigeria at the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia.

Did you know?

Jay-Jay Okocha is the paternal uncle of current Fulham and Nigeria player Alex Iwobi.

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