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Cult Heroes: Bolo Zenden

Cult Heroes: Bolo Zenden
Cult Heroes: Bolo Zenden

There are the rare occasions when putting together the Cult Hero pieces for Roker Report that the planets align and your choice just feels right. However there are the other times when SAFC's opponents don't really throw up any player of real interest that has played for both sides, I'm looking at you Wigan! Thankfully today is one of the good days. Saturday's hosts have provided Sunderland with a number of talented footballers who more often than not have an interesting story to tell to boot. Emerson Thome for example. Who didn't love that man mountain of a defender?

Today we profile a midfielder who boasts possibly one of the most impressive resumes that we have ever seen of Sunderland player, in recent memory at least. A remarkable career in spite of a number of serious injuries and setbacks before he even set foot on Wearside.

Who else but a man with the dance moves to rival that long forgotten relative who turns up to a family party once in a blue moon and throws down some shapes to the Bee Gees - its Bolo Zenden!

Boudewijn began his footballing adventure in 1985 when he signed as an amateur for Dutch outfit MVV Maastricht, a side with which he had two years before he was picked up by PSV Eindhoven's youth academy. Bolo signed professional papers in 1993 and would go on to enjoy five years with the club having made the left wing spot his own, nailing down a spot in the starting eleven following the departure of fellow Dutchman Jan Wouters.

Zenden became an integral part of the PSV setup, especially during the 1996/97 season where his performances earned him the Dutch Talent of the Year award and helped his side win the Eredivisie title.

In 1998 Bolo joined Louis Van Gaal's Dutch revolution at Spanish giants Barcelona but often found himself limited to a left-wing back position due to a certain Marc Overmars who was preferred ahead of Zenden on the left of midfield. However the switch was not necessarily a bad move for the Dutchman as he kept fan favourite Sergi Barjuan out of the side with his performances and Barcelona went on to win the La Liga Championship that term.

The turn of the new millennium saw the beginning of the end of Zenden's Barcelona career as Van Gaal resigned from his post having failed to back up his domestic success with Champions League success. Bolo would make just ten appearances for the Catalan outfit and just as the talented side seemed to be entering a turbulent period in their history Zenden made the switch to SAFC's opponents this weekend, Chelsea, in a deal worth £7.5m.

The Stamford Bridge fans were excited by the Dutchman's arrival, encouraged by recent impressive form at International level, in particular a game against England just prior to his transfer which saw him run rings around Ashley Cole. Zenden's spell with the Pensioners began well, capitalising on a rare Shay Given gaffe to score on his debut against Newcastle the future looked bright for Bolo in London. However his form didn't last and a spell on the sidelines through a thigh injury did nothing to help.

In his second season Bolo again started strongly having been brought back into the first team squad, a spell which saw him score a cracking goal in a 2-2 draw with Manchester United. However, much like that first spell, Zenden was unable to capitalise on the early promise and the form of Jesper Gronkjaer was not helping his cause. First team football became a rarity and on the occasions he did make the starting eleven he would very rarely finish a full ninety minutes.

A disgruntled Zenden agreed a loan move to SAFC's next opponents in the FA Cup, Middlesbrough, a move which worked out well for both parties as Bolo was entrusted with a first team spot and thrived with a run of games under his belt. The Dutchman flourished on Teeside and was an integral part of Steve McClaren's side which won the club's first major honours. Zenden would make his stay permanent in the summer of 2004 when his contract with Chelsea expired, signing a one year deal with Boro.

Since his spell with Middlesbrough Bolo spent an injury plagued couple of years with Liverpool before a stint in France with Marseille before eventually being released in 2009. Confident of securing a permanent move elsewhere Zenden kept himself in condition whilst without a club and was keen on a return to England with Blackburn Rovers and Portsmouth reportedly interested in the experienced wideman.

However it was Steve Bruce who he impressed the most and in October of 2009 having impressed whilst on trial was offered a short term deal with Sunderland keen to take advantage of his wealth of experience. Zenden quickly impressed the Wearside faithful with many calling for the Dutchman to be given a starting spot in the side rather than the cameos from the bench that he was often restricted to.

Bolo gave us a number of memorable moments during his brief stint at The Stadium of Light and was responsible for one of the greatest goals I have seen, a stunning, acrobatic, left-footed volley in a 3-1 win over Spurs which flew over Gomes and into the far top corner.

Zenden "Wonder Volley" against Spurs (via anthsafc95)

Zenden also went on to become an Internet sensation thanks to his part in the celebrations that followed Asamoah Gyan's goal, the second in Sunderland's remarkable 3-0 over Chelsea. What we would give for a repeat of that performance and result this weekend!

Despite his obvious influence on the side, both on and off the field, Steve Bruce believed he had got all he could out of his talented midfielder and announced that an extension to his contract would not be forthcoming.

And that was that, we were left "Zenden-less". Thankfully Sebastian Larsson arrived to replace the Dane's good looks, or so our missus says... Anyway, let's enjoy his Stamford Bridge dancing one more time!

Zenden's Safety Dance (via TopRedcafe)

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