HE quit Chelsea as a teenager to pursue his studies and arrives at the UniBol with a recommendation from a Wanderers legend in Kevin Nolan – Oladapo Afolayan might just be a name Bolton fans remember by the end of this season.

Though Marcus Maddison’s arrival grabbed the headlines on deadline day, Ian Evatt has been equally effusive about the attacking potential of another of his January captures.

Afolayan made his West Ham debut in January and capped it with a goal against Doncaster Rovers in the FA Cup at the former Olympic Stadium but just a couple of weeks later he finds himself pondering the prospect of back-to-back home games against Morecambe and Stevenage.

Anyone who has tracked the forward’s career will know it did not span the normal Premier League academy route. Having turned down a chance to continue in the Stamford Bridge youth system as a 15-year-old, the Harrow-born front man moved to Canada to play in Toronto, retuning to the UK in 2017 to start a degree in civil engineering.

The bridge to a professional football career came via stints at non-league Barnet, Tooting and Micham and Solihull Moors, alongside playing for the Loughborough University team.

The big footballing break came at West Ham in 2018, after which Afolayan planed away at his rough edges during loan spells at Oldham Athletic and Mansfield Town and bounced back from a couple of injuries to score five goals in 11 games for the Hammers’ development squad.

His move to Bolton – which also comes with the hope of a permanent deal in the summer – arrives at a time when nothing but senior football will do for the youngster.

“I think for me playing men’s football is key for me, getting regular games,” he said. “I have proved I can do it before and every time I have stepped into it, I have proved I can do it.

“In previous loans I have had injuries and not really got over them properly but this season I have consolidated, got to full fitness, and been playing well for the Under-23s. I was rewarded with a debut and managed to score, so I was delighted.

“I know there are a lot of good players at this level and it’s tough to get out of but seeing the squad here and the quality we have got, I know the team is more than capable of doing good things in this league.

“For me it’s about gelling in the team and bringing what I know I can, which is goals and assists.”

Wanderers, of course, have a friendly face at the London Stadium these days in former midfielder Nolan, who worked his way up from teenage prospect to club captain in a 10-year spell which included European football, Premier League promotion and 345 appearances.

After spells in management with Leyton Orient and Notts County, he is now part of David Moyes’ backroom and has been a key figure in Afolayan’s development.

“Kev has been great,” he said. “Ever since he came to the club he took a keen eye on the younger lads who were pushing for the first team and he helps make that transition smoother, giving advice and tips.

“The first team players and staff love him and the players who are pushing through really look up to him as well. He has really helped me.”

Afolayan had opportunities to stay closer to home on deadline day but says he knew Bolton was the right destination once he had spoken to Ian Evatt about the role he was expected to play in the final 21 games of the campaign.

Consistency has been an issue for the Whites but with an outsider’s perspective, Afolayan believes there is still plenty to play for.

“You look at the table and things are really tight,” he said. “All it takes is a few good results and you are talking about the play-offs. I have come here with the ambition of taking the club as high as it can go and try and get promoted – whether that’s this season, or next. I want to do as well as I can to the end of the season, see where it takes us in May and then go from there.”