MARTIN O’Neill pursued three players in the January transfer window and got two of them – loan signings Sotirios Kyrgiakos and Wayne Bridge.
But it was the one that got away that came back to haunt him on Saturday – Bolton skipper Kevin Davies leading the line superbly for Bolton and plundering two goals from a Sunderland defence he bothered all afternoon.
Back at the turn of the year, O’Neill thought he might nab the 35-year-old, who had ceased to be a first-team regular under Owen Coyle.
For a couple of weeks, the move hung in the balance before the striker finally decided to accept a new and improved deal at the Reebok.
But Bolton’s manager claimed at the weekend that a move was never going to happen and that the skipper’s bit-part role was down to wanting him fresh for the season run-in.
“For me, the move was a non-starter in January,” Coyle insisted.
“I said that he wouldn’t be available and that he was a huge part of what we were doing.
“He hadn’t been starting games during that period because he had injuries and I was wanting to get the best out of him later because he does tend to play through injuries – he was touch and go for the Sunderland game with a calf strain but wanted to play.”
O’Neill did not want to revisit the details of his efforts to sign the player in January, but he was quick to endorse the England striker’s pedigree.
“Kevin Davies has been a fine player for quite some considerable time and has been very important to Bolton in their quest to stay in the league,” he said.
“People talk about him being an old-fashioned centre-forward, but he will cause problems.
“He’s not afraid to get hurt, he’s a nuisance, but he’s more than that – he has ability and he scores goals – and I think he’s an example to young aspiring forwards like Connor Wickham, who could learn a great deal from him.”
Coyle was even more fulsome in his praise – as well he should be, given how much Bolton’s survival hopes will depend on the man who has been so important to them down the years.
“Kevin was superb,” said Coyle.
“He’s not only a wonderful player, he’s a terrific leader and great captain and he’s completely committed to this club.
“He’s come roaring back in the last few months and showed the sort of form that got him in the England side.
“As a striker, he doesn’t have to score to contribute because of his all-round game, but, when he does score, he’s up there with the best.
“I think he can go on longer, even though he’s 35 now, he still has that desire, even in training.”