- The Washington Times - Friday, July 13, 2007

SEOUL — Need a little help? Then call in the foreign legion. The Bolton Wanderers did just that.

Working with a limited budget, the English Premier League team found success by importing foreign talent at a bargain price. With players from roughly 18 countries, including the United States, on its senior roster, Bolton is one of most cosmopolitan teams in the world. That’s quite an accomplishment for a small club from a blue-collar town in the northwest of England that was once known for its cotton mills.

“We set up a policy many years ago of bringing players from overseas, and it has worked very successfully,” club secretary Simon Marland said.

Bolton, which kicked off the eight-team Peace Cup with a 1-1 tie with seven-time Korean champion Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma last night, was the trail blazer in signing foreign talent. Many English clubs have followed suit. Now 45 percent of the players in the EPL are foreign.

Only six of the 22 Bolton players in South Korea are English. The rest hail from France, Spain, Slovakia, Finland, Portugal, Wales, Ireland, Senegal, Greece, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Trinidad and Finland.

This is not the first visit to Korea for Bolton’s Senegalese star, El Hadji Diouf. The famed striker was on Senegal’s team that pulled off a stunning 1-0 defeat over world champion France in the opening game of the 2002 World Cup in Seoul.

Forward Johann Smith, the team’s lone American, did not travel to Seoul. The Hartford, Conn., native should have been playing for his country at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Canada. But he suffered a serious ankle sprain while training with Team USA last month.

One of Bolton’s most famous imports was French 1998 World Cup winner Youri Djorkaeff, who later played for the New York Red Bulls in Major League Soccer.

The team knows that in order to draw talent it needs to remain in the top half of the EPL, which it did the last four seasons under famed coach Sam Allardyce. However, Allardyce now coaches Newcastle United, and rookie coach Sammy Lee has taken over for Bolton.

Lee wants to use the Peace Cup to experiment with a new formation.

“For the first game of our preseason, I thought it was a great game,” Lee said.

Bolton, which rested five of its top players to give younger players starts, took a 1-0 lead on a goal by captain Kevin Nolan in the 78th minute. But Seongnam — which was without five players because they are with their national team at the Asia Cup in Indonesia — tied the game with a goal by Gi-il Nam with three minutes left.

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