Cohen the surprise package

First published in Sport The Bolton News: Photograph of the Author by , chief football writer

HE might have been plucked from the bargain basket — but Gary Megson reckons Tamir Cohen could prove to be a real steal for Wanderers.

Leading the club’s goalscoring charts with three, the Israel international has proved to be this season’s surprise package so far at the Reebok.

He arrived as Megson’s first signing, costing a meagre £37,000 from Maccabi Netanya in January 2008, and hardly made an impact on first team affairs until the current campaign.

Cohen started only seven games in his first 19 months at the club, a spell that was littered with injuries.

But now, the Wanderers boss believes his midfielder — son of former Liverpool star Avi Cohen — is finally beginning to show his pedigree.

“It has taken a lot of time for Tamir to adjust,” Megson said. “He is only now starting to get stronger, more used to the pace of the game.

“We brought him here because I saw him play against England. He has a cannon of a left foot, an eye for a goal and he’s good in the air. For £37,000 you just hope he can add the other things to his game, which he is doing.

“It took a little bit of time and he has still got a lot of things he needs to realise before he makes it properly at this level. But he’s getting better.”

Cohen showed in glimpses over his first two campaigns in English football that he has the goalscoring knack, scoring an important second-half equaliser against Aston Villa at the Reebok last April.

But Megson admits his naivety in the English game did make his early appearances frustrating at times.

“In games he played last year he went for a couple of challenges, banged his head and had to come off, so it was one step forward and a couple back,” he said. “Even this year when he played against Liverpool, he scores, which was great. But after that he didn’t get out quickly enough to close down Glen Johnson on the edge of the box, he made life too easy and they got an equaliser.

“But that’s the way it works for us. We have to recruit players who have things to learn but they have to learn them in the biggest cauldron in world football, the Premier League.”

Tamir’s father, Avi, caused uproar in the Israel media soon after joining Liverpool in 1980 by playing for his team against Southampton on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, traditionally a time of rest and prayer.

This year’s holiday fell on Monday — and Megson said Cohen’s request to miss training caused quite a stir on the team coach heading back from Birmingham too.

“Talk about the difference in cultures,” the Whites boss said. “Tamir came to see me on the bus on Saturday asking me for the day off because it’s Yom Kippur, the Jewish religious festival. He said it would cause problems if he came in “We obviously said yes, and then all of a sudden there was another half a dozen who stepped forward saying they were of the same faith! I had to start asking for proof.”

Megson also reckons his father’s success in the English game, where he won a league title, a European Cup and two Charity Shields in a relatively short space of time, has actually made it more difficult for his son to settle.

“I think that’s made it harder,” he said. “It took a little bit of getting used to.

“People thought it would be easier because his dad played over at Liverpool but it’s not. It’s not a help at all.”

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