CROSSING swords with the Premier League’s most in-form winger failed to faze Gretar Steinsson – but the Reebok hard man admits he was reduced to tears just a few days before facing Tottenham.
The Icelandic full-back put in arguably his finest performance in a Wanderers shirt at White Hart Lane on Saturday, as he slugged out a fascinating battle with Welsh wizard Gareth Bale.
What makes his efforts all the more impressive, however, is that all this was done just over 72 hours after the birth of his baby daughter, Elmu Rós, who was waiting back home in Bolton with his wife, Manuela, and five-year-old son, Johann.
Proud dad Steinsson admits it was hard to leave for work after such an eventful few days.
“She was born on Wednesday, so it was back home, a sleepless night, and then back to work,” he said. “It’s hard to be the wife of a footballer. When duty calls, you have to leave the family behind.
“People usually get a couple of days off but you have to stand there and be strong for the fans and your team-mates.
“I’m a really proud dad of probably the most beautiful girl in the world, even if I say so, and really proud of my wife for giving me this miracle.
“You always hear people talking in interviews about how the most unbelievable thing is the birth of your children. I always found that a little bit soft.
“But I was there, standing tall, crying my eyes out.”
Despite the narrow defeat in North London, Steinsson rediscovered his top form against Tottenham after a chequered season in which his first team place has come under considerable scrutiny.
Sam Ricketts was preferred at the start of the campaign by Gary Megson, and a nagging knee injury has meant the 28-year-old has rarely been able to replicate the kind of performances that have made him such a terrace favourite in his two-and-a-half years at the club.
Owen Coyle’s arrival in January sparked a renaissance of sorts, and now the former AZ Alkmaar man is hoping to make up for lost time.
“This might be close to my best game for Bolton,” he said after the final whistle.
“I felt like last season I finished on a high but this season has basically been disappointing right from pre-season to December.
“I have been struggling with injury as well, so this season has been a big frustration in so many ways.
“I’m just glad that I am being told by the manager to play, go out there and enjoy it.
“The knee has been better in the last couple of weeks, and it just shows what can happen when you can go out and play without pain.
“I’m just glad that I am getting more up to the standards I am used to because this season has been a major disappointment.
“It has been tough, having been knocked down so hard at the beginning. But I have got my head right and done my best to get right.
“I’m just glad that I am playing, and hope I can build on that in the next game against Birmingham, then for the start of next season.”
Placed up against Bale, whose electric form has helped Spurs to the verge of Champions League qualification, Steinsson reckons he knew he would have his work cut out.
“He’s an absolutely fantastic player and he was in my team for player of the year,” he said.
“He came off a bad run and got a lot of criticism for what he did at the start of the season but now I think he’s one of the best left-backs, or left-wingers in the Premier League or Europe right now.
“He’s strong, really good in the air and he can strike a football however he wants.
“I had to be on my toes but I think I worked well with Chung-Yong and Vladimir and did my job. Nothing special.
“Sometimes you do it properly and it works out, and sometimes you don’t, but I felt comfortable today.”