THE sight of Jon Dadi Bodvarsson leading the Thunderclap at Wembley in front of 34,000 supporters should have been a glorious one.

Wanderers had won the Papa Johns Trophy, 100 years after the White Horse Final against West Ham United, and one of their most popular players was playing cheerleader to half a stadium of joyous supporters.

But Bodvarsson was not decked out in white, his winner’s medal hung around the collar of his matchday suit. He joined in with the celebrations but the fact he had been injured for months took away a chunk of the enjoyment.

Fast forward to last Saturday, and the Icelander walked slowly and solemnly through the mixed zone, suited once more, heading for a silent team bus.

An injury had once again denied him a chance to be involved, the last of his 94 appearances for the club had been against Portsmouth back in April when a calf muscle tear effectively ended his season.

Injuries – both severe and minor – had eaten into his two-and-a-half years with the Whites, and while those spells out of the team never once diminished his standing among the Bolton fans, they did compromise his reliability as a first-choice striker for Ian Evatt, triggering the decision to release him.

Signed as a regular international with a classy first touch that hinted at his past as a Championship starter at Wolves and Reading, Bodvarsson made an exciting start to life as a Wanderer when he arrived from Millwall in January 2022.

Scoring seven times in his first 21 games he immediately ingratiated himself with the local fanbase, just as so many of his countrymen have done in the past.

His willingness to circulate after games, engage in community visits – some of which were off his own back – saw him rightly lauded as one of the most gentlemanly players to represent the club in some time.

Bodvarsson would sign autographs, chat with fans, even kick a ball around if one was available, and that respect was reciprocated whenever he took to the pitch, his name eternally tied to a catchy rendition of the Manfred Mann classic Doo Wah Diddy.

But for all the good work he did to further his own reputation and that of the club, he simply could not get the luck he deserved on the fitness front.

Injuries would limit his involvement in his first full season to just 27 appearances in all competitions, which yielded eight goals. That brought him to the end of his contract but news that he had been given a 12-month extension last summer was largely applauded.

Wanderers boosted their options up front in the summer, meaning that Bodvarsson would now be battling for playing time with Dion Charles, Cameron Jerome, Dan Nlundulu, Carlos Mendes Gomes and Victor Adeboyejo.

After coming up short in the play-off semi-finals at Barnsley, Ian Evatt had tilted the tactical emphasis towards attack. The team began to create more chances, score more goals, but Bodvarsson’s opportunities to get among them were largely restricted to the cup competitions and substitute appearances.

He scored goals against Manchester United’s Under-21s and Stockport County in the Bristol Street Motors Trophy and a hat-trick against Harrogate in the FA Cup but there was a clear sense of frustration for the striker as he reached the end of the year.

Evatt played down the chances of him leaving in the winter window, though interest was rumoured from League One Cambridge United, who already had ex-Wanderer Elias Kachunga in their ranks.

Bodvarsson got a cluster of starts in December and then, with the likes of Mendes Gomes, Adeboyejo and Charles dropping out through injury, found his way to the front of the queue alongside new recruit Aaron Collins.

Five starts in six games in March and April represented his best return in two seasons. A long wait for a goal ended with a brilliant late winner against Wycombe and then an equaliser in the following game against Charlton.

As the season reached its final month Bodvarsson’s wife, Maria, was also heavily pregnant with their second child. Two goals in a thumping 5-2 win against his former club Reading proved his last before injury struck once again.

By the time Bolton made the play-off final there were whispers that his return to the training ground could have seen him take a place on the bench. Given the way the game went, his ability to offer something different in attack might have been a godsend.

In the end, Wanderers had precious few players coming to the end of their contracts so in order to begin the remedial work for next season, had to take advantage of any savings they could quickly make.

There was never a surer bet that Bodvarsson would depart in the classiest manner imaginable, and his parting letter to Bolton supporters was penned with skill and heart.

Football can be a beautiful game but it can also be cruel, and it is a shame that a player who bore so many of the positive hallmarks of this great club never got the magical moment he deserved.

The Bolton News: Gethin Jones hugs goalscorer Jon Dadi Bodvarsson after his winner against WycombeGethin Jones hugs goalscorer Jon Dadi Bodvarsson after his winner against Wycombe (Image: Camerasport)