Nakata shapes up as his new life gets physical

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The Independent Football

Nakata would appear to be yet another of those astute, big-name signings Allardyce has become renowned for in recent seasons, alongside the likes of Youri Djorkaeff and Fernando Hierro. Although Nakata has only made four appearances so far, there is already the suggestion that Bolton would like to make his move permanent come next summer.

Nakata, despite his many years' experience in Italy, has found himself on a new learning curve with Bolton, who are riding high in the League and are through to the group stages of the Uefa Cup. "The physical side of the game here is not easy, but is something I am getting used to," said Nakata. "It's definitely a lot more physical and faster than it is in Italy. The game never stops here, and you have to run a lot more.

"But the good thing for me is that we play a simple system at Bolton, and that has made it easy to adapt and settle in, and is something I'm enjoying."

The 28-year-old was on the bench for the return leg of Bolton's Uefa Cup first-round tie against Lokomotiv Plovdiv. He is almost certain to return to the starting line-up for today's North-west derby against Wigan at the JJB Stadium, a team he concedes he knows very little about.

But his experience tells him that squad rotation is a necessary part of the game. "I've played in Europe before, so I know how it all works," he said. "Of course, I was a little disappointed to be on the bench, but everybody knows there are so many matches and that you cannot play in all of them."

Nakata certainly played his part in Bulgaria, coming on just after the hour and helping to steady a side who were on the verge of elimination via the away-goals rule. The tide then turned in the final 12 minutes, with Bolton through to the group stages on the back of a 2-1 victory on the night, 4-2 on aggregate.

The Middlesbrough striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is ready to discuss a new contract with the club after making an impressive comeback from injury. The 33-year-old's existing deal runs out at the end of the season, but he proved his worth to the club once again with a fine display as his side eased their way past Xanthi to book a place in the Uefa Cup group stages.

Hasselbaink will attempt to hold on to his place under stiff competition from the £7.5m signing Aiyegbeni Yakubu, Mark Viduka - provided he shakes off an Achilles problem - and Massimo Maccarone for today's trip to Aston Villa, but he has already started looking a little further ahead. "I'm playing and I'm enjoying myself at the moment," said the former Chelsea target man. "It's up to the club. If they want to keep me, I'm definitely open for talks because I'm happy where I am."

The addition of Yakubu to a pool of frontmen which at one point this summer extended to eight has left the manager, Steve McClaren, with a host of options, with Yakubu and Viduka having largely held sway as injuries have hampered the Dutchman. However, Hasselbaink believes he still has what it takes to make an impact at the highest level - he was the club's top scorer last season - and although he admits the last thing he wants to do is sit on the bench, he is prepared to fight on for his place.