When Johan Elmander went nine months without a goal, there were few who thought he had a future at Bolton. His record £8.2m price tag seemed a heavy burden and he was an angry man, according to his captain, Kevin Davies, as he tried to find reasons for his failure.
That was last year. Now he looks irreplaceable and the transformation coincided with the arrival of a new manager, Owen Coyle. Elmander said: "Hopefully, I'm showing what anyone can do when they have a great manager who believes in them."
The player is now in a happy place, made abundantly clear on Saturday as he produced a display that bore the hallmarks of Didier Drogba. Newcastle's indecisive defence may have contributed to Bolton's biggest ever Premier League win, but both of Elmander's goals were classy and clinical. He also did not falter amid some overly physical challenges – none more so than a vicious elbow that earned Fabricio Coloccini a red card.
Coyle said: "Johan has pace and power and ultimately you need that composure to be a good finisher. To have that consistency you need to bring it all together, which is why the elite strikers in this country are the best in the world because they show it consistently. Johan is doing that now. He plays every week for me because I know what he brings and when the goals come in with all the play he looks a truly outstanding player. He can keep it up because he has it in him. This is not a fluke or an accident."
Elmander is not alone. Confidence is at an all-time high at the Reebok. Lee Chung-yong capped another impressive display with a goal and Davies scored twice from the penalty spot. The captain was also buoyed after being told by Fabio Capello's assistant Franco Baldini that he "would be needed next year" after being ignored by England for last week's friendly against France.
For Newcastle, Andy Carroll impressed yet again, but their inconsistency is all too obvious. There would be little surprise if they respond after this humiliation with a victory against leaders Chelsea on Sunday. Their manager Chris Hughton has demanded better, saying: "I am sure no one will need motivating for that one."
The Newcastle winger Jonas Gutierrez added: "In the past, whenever we have played poorly or things have gone against us, we have managed to bounce back. We hope we can do that again."
Scorers: Bolton K Davies 18 (pen), 90 (pen), Lee 39, Elmander 50, 72; Newcastle Carroll 52.
Substitutes: Bolton Petrov (M Taylor, 78), Klasnic (Elmander, 80), Moreno (Lee, 86). Unused Bogdan (gk), Steinsson, M Davies, BlakeNewcastle Routledge (Guthrie, 71), Lovenkrands (Ameobi, 72), Campbell (Gutierrez, 77). Unused Soderberg (gk), Perch, S Taylor, Ranger.
Booked: Bolton Lee Newcastle Enrique, Nolan
Sent off: Newcastle Coloccini (76).
Man of the match Elmander. Match rating 8/10.
Possession Bolton 50% Newcatle 50%.
Shots on target Bolton 8 Newcastle 2.
Referee H Webb (South Yorkshire). Att 22,203.Reuse content