ALL the tools, all the talent but none of the consistency, David Ngog’s infuriating two-and-a-half years at the Reebok will probably go down as one of Wanderers’ most costly mistakes.
Owen Coyle was convinced he could succeed where Liverpool failed when it came to paying out £4milion for the Frenchman’s services in the summer of 2011.
A year earlier he had been quoted nearly double that figure by the Anfield club, who had given Ngog the exposure following a £1.5m move from Paris St Germain as a teenager but reaped only minimal reward.
Finding the key to untapping those flashes of talent continued to elude the Scot up until the day he was sacked – and continued to be a problem for the man who succeeded him.
Now, Michael Laudrup aims to take up the challenge after taking the striker to Swansea City, and relieving Wanderers of one of their biggest financial burdens in the process.
With wages and transfer fees, Ngog’s spell at Bolton cost around £9million – or roughly £562,000 for each goal he scored for the club.
The softly-spoken Parisian cannot be blamed for those crazy numbers, but like Johan Elmander before him, the price tag never sat well. Like the Sweden international, Ngog kept his head down and worked for the cause, but for a club of Wanderers’ size, such an investment needs much more of a return.
The 24-year-old scored 16 goals in all competitions in a Reebok career littered with niggling injuries and false starts.
For every cameo from the bench that had us eulogising over his pace and power – Freedman’s first game in charge against Cardiff City, for example – there would be another three games where you hardly noticed him on the pitch.
Ngog never asked to be the main man and didn’t court the publicity. But at a time when Wanderers needed leaders in the camp, his genteel style just didn’t fit in with the rough and tough surroundings of the Championship.
While few Wanderers fans mourned his sale to the Premier League Swans, many were backing him to make a success of his move to South Wales.
Top-flight football means a style more in keeping with his pedigree but even with nearly six years’ experience of English football behind him there remain serious questions over whether he can score goals on a regular basis at any level, and where his best position truly lies.
At 24 he is no longer a youngster – a factor often used by managers to deflect criticism that came his way during his time at the Reebok.
His departure at Bolton has thrown a lifeline to Freedman in his efforts to bring a grittier edge to a team that, like Ngog, fails to produce performances that match their pedigree on a regular enough basis.
Three or four new players could be brought in on a temporary basis for the price of one – and the timing of the deal could hardly have been fortuitous, considering the striker’s contract was ticking down to nothing in the summer.
Ideally both sides will benefit. Ngog gets a fresh start, free from the price tag and expectation and in surroundings that suit him. Wanderers are able to bring in players who can come up with the goods when the club really need it, something Ngog sadly failed to do.