You can picture the scene. The Cardiff City Stadium, its dark, someone is rummaging through the bins.
“Who goes there?!” cries a caretaker.
“It’s me, Bolton Wanderers,” the shadowy figure calls back.
Of course it is, thinks the relieved caretaker. “You gave me a fright there Bolton! How is the wife?”
Bolton have a lot of former Cardiff players. A LOT. On the opening day of the season, Wanderers headed to pre-season title favourites West Brom and secured a very unlikely win. Their squad featured seven players that had turned out for Cardiff at some stage.
The goals were scored by Josh Magennis, who used to play in goal for the Bluebirds, from a cross supplied by Sammy Ameobi, also formerly of this parish. The winner was bagged by Yanic Wildschut, who spent last season on loan at Cardiff and was last seen playing out from his own six-yard box, with disastrous consequences at Derby.
There are Cardiff players everywhere you look. In fact, when in Bolton, former Bluebirds are treated as pests like rats and shooed away with brooms. Super Kev McNaughton, of this parish, led the way with a loan spell, ahead of Arran Lee-Barrett and Joe Mason, who they borrowed several times.
Andrew Taylor and Craig Noone are both there, stalwarts of the squad from the last time Cardiff were promoted to the Premier League. They have goalkeeper Ben Amos, who was so bad on loan that Neil Warnock attempted to send him back but couldn’t because he had played for too many different teams in one season.
Adam Le Fondre was there until recently, but is now sunning himself at Sydney FC, while Mark Howard has moved to Blackpool. They also have Gary O’Neil, who had a seriously impressive, all too brief loan spell at Cardiff many moons ago. I thought he would go on to play for England one day, but he ended up playing for Bolton instead.
To make them feel at home, Bolton are also staging a financial meltdown. They narrowly avoided administration recently, a throwback to Cardiff’s bad old days, and remain very much on the brink after their owners decision to turn off the taps of his investment.
Suffice to say, Bolton have done rather well out of Cardiff in recent years, especially when you consider what has come in the opposite direction. Russell Slade had an unrequited obsession with Josh Vela for a while, but Amos and Liam Feeney did rock up at Cardiff, making little impression.
Then there’s Gary Madine, Cardiff’s albatross.
Madine cost £6m at a time when Cardiff wouldn’t have been able to keep hold of him had they not gone up and wouldn’t be good enough if they did. I’m convinced he is the reason why Cardiff didn’t shell out on a striker in the summer. Vincent Tan would be well within his rights to point at Madine, Andreas Cornelius too and the prosecution could rest.
Who knows what will become of this union in future, but they are sure to be eyeing up Lee Tomlin and Anthony Pilkington. Maybe it was Bolton they turned down? At the end of the day, you can’t blame Bolton for their obsession with Cardiff’s sloppy seconds. They’re the best in town.