Fit-again Chris Eagles ready to soar for Bolton Wanderers
CHRIS Eagles feared an ankle injury had wrecked his season before it even had a chance to begin – but now back fit and firing again, he has grand designs on rebuilding Wanderers’ season.
Dougie Freedman’s chief architect has been a big miss for the Whites, who have lacked creativity and firepower since the former Manchester United man limped off against his former club Burnley on the opening day of the season.
The extent of the injury had never previously come to light but Eagles, who bounced back with a goal against Derby on his first full 90 minutes of the season on Tuesday night, admits he feared the worst when he hit the ground at Turf Moor.
“I thought I had broken my ankle,” he told The Bolton News. “It ended up as torn ligaments on the outside of my left foot.
“It wasn’t the tackle but when I came in to have a shot my foot just gave way and I knew straight away something serious had happened. My ankle just blew out.”
Eagles tried to return ahead of schedule only for his ankle to break down again in training and has been forced to watch his team-mates struggle from the sidelines.
“It was tough,” he said. “I went to every game and supported the lads. No one knew but I came back a couple of weeks earlier to try and push it but I ended up rolling it again. That’s why I am so glad to be back.”
Now back in situ, Eagles has set his sights on reversing an awful start, which has seen the Whites fail to win any of their first seven games for the first time in 111 years.
The 27-year-old believes last season’s near-miss on the play-offs could still be haunting the club.
“I can’t answer for the other lads but what happened has played on my mind. It was 2-2 at half-time and we came out in the second half but we just couldn’t score,” he said of the draw against Blackpool on the final day of last season.
“I am sure had we got in the play-offs we had the players to go on and win it. But we didn’t make it and we are aiming for it this year.
“It wasn’t just that last game; it was matches before that when we dropped points. The gaffer has learned from that and even if it is only a point, it’s something.
“Last season we were 18th and had a huge gap to make up. Luckily now we can amend it and there is not such a big gap. If we win Saturday, we are right back in there.
“But we are not panicking. We know we are good enough and every team that comes to the Reebok will know that.”
The knives have been out for manager Freedman in some quarters, with bookmakers installing him as favourite to be the next Championship manager to lose his job.
Eagles believes it is now the players’ responsibility to ease the pressure on the Scot.
“You can tell we are a close knit team and believe in the gaffer and the staff,” he said. “That’s why we will stick together whether we believe we are wrong or right. It showed last year we can do it. I am not looking just to get in the play-offs, I am looking at automatic promotion and that's what we aim for every year.
“We have a clean slate now and the gaffer has the full season. But we need to get a win, starting on Saturday. Even a draw away isn’t bad but at home we really need three points.”
Brighton stand in the way at the Amex Stadium tomorrow afternoon and Eagles was part of the side that escaped with an unlikely point last year thanks to David Ngog’s late, late equaliser.
“Last year I thought they were the best footballing side we played,” he added. “They are different now and it’s mad in this league: bottom can beat top, it’s a crazy league.”