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Japanese national star Hidetoshi Nakata has told Soccerphile he was happy to come out of his first FA Cup tie on the winners’ side.

Bolton Wanderers had been expecting a tough 3rd Round test at Vicarage Road against 4th-placed Championship side Watford but ended up with a comfortable 3-0 victory.

“We knew it was going to be hard but we did the Dominoqq job,” said Nakata. “We just started well and took it from there.”

Bolton took control of their hosts in the 11th minute after Mexican marksman Jared Borgetti fired into the bottom corner after Watford had failed to clear a Ricardo Gardner cross.

After 34 minutes they turned the screw on the Hornets when Borgetti dummied for teammate Stelios Giannokopoulos to lash the ball into the roof of the net. Portuguese winger Ricardo Vaz Te added a third in the 73rd minute to send Bolton into the hat for the 4th Round and emphasize the ever-growing gulf in class between England’s top two divisions.

“Yes we played really well today,” confirmed Nakata, “and maybe the most important thing was that we did not give away any goals.”

The Japanese legend arrived at the Reebok Stadium last August on a season-long loan from Fiorentina and so far has made twelve appearances for the Wanderers in all competitions, scoring once.

‘Hide’ has adapted well to his new surroundings despite the challenge of a new culture and language:

“Yes I like it here in England,” he told Soccerphile. “There is an excellent atmosphere at the football matches here, and being at an English club is very different from one in Italy but I am happy.”

Having spent so long abroad Nakata has not found adapting to a new country and langauge a problem although admits,

“My Italian is of course still better than my English having spent seven years over there!”

The elegant playmaker, who turns 29 later this month, is fulfilling a desire to play in the Premiership after an Italian sojourn that began when he left Bellmare Hiratsuka for Perugia in 1998 and took in Roma, Parma, Bologna and Fiorentina over succeeding seasons.

2006 will also see Nakata enter his third World Cup Finals in the blue of Nippon although he was quick to dismiss thoughts of Germany:

“I am not even thinking about the World Cup yet as we have so many games here at Bolton to deal with,” he admitted. “Once we are done with the season here then I will think about it.”


The Gazza Strip


Contrary to popular belief, it’s not all parties and yachts when you’re a Premiership footballer. At this time of year, most players will face up to four matches in seven days, a schedule so tough, Wayne Rooney will be up and down the motorway living off cold turkey sandwiches. He refuses to moan though, he enjoys an old bird. Man U are unbeaten in nine matches in the league, they’re a must bet at 4/11 at home to Bolton.


Cristiano Ronaldo is worth a little bet to open the scoring. The Portuguese wonder-boy has had a disappointing season; he’s been on a bench more often than Paul Gascoigne. The undisputed King of the unnecessary step-over is back in the starting 11; a return to form is imminent. He’s 9/1 to score the first goal and 5/2 to score at any time.


After going 93 matches for Man U without scoring, Rio Ferdinand has now bagged two in five games, a record that James Beattie can only dream about. Rio’s a 10/1 shot to make that record three in six, stranger things have happened.


It’s not just turkeys that get stuffed over Christmas. David Moyes is in the middle of the most embarrassing run since Paula Radcliffe relieved herself during the London marathon. Everton face a Sunderland team who have just had their best result of the season; their midweek match was called off. Get on the Mackems at 13/8.


Peter Crouch shoved Lee Bowyer to the ground on Boxing Day, an act that would normally receive a red card and a three match ban. The lanky striker can consider himself fortunate to be available for selection against West Brom; he’s not very good at football. Stevie Gerrard is back to his sublime best for the Pool, he’s a 13/8 shot to find the back of the net against Albion. Liverpool are good things at 1/4.


Steve Bruce didn’t endear himself to the Birmingham supporters when he waved to Manchester United fans as the Blues lost heavily in the Cup. If Bruce’s familiarity with opposition supporters is in relation to how badly they get beat, he might end up crowd surfing with the Chelsea fans. Chelsea are a 1/6 certainty.


It’s been widely reported that Graeme Souness wants Alan Shearer to stay on for another season, he probably will; as manager. Souness may have settled the dressing-room squabbling, but he can’t find a cure for their away day blues. The Geordies travel to White Hart Lane; Spurs get the nod at 4/6.


Milan Baros proved to be tasty with his hands against Everton, the Villa could do with a 2nd keeper when the Arsenal come to town. The Gunners are 4/6; they’re home, and almost certainly, hosed.