Adam Bogdan's slow rise to top at Bolton worth the wait
Defeated from 102 yards but unbeatable from 12: it is an understatement to say that Adam Bogdan's last two Premier League games have brought contrasting experiences.
The Bolton Wanderers goalkeeper has been embarrassed and has excelled in two bittersweet games. A 2-1 win at Everton was his first Premier League victory.
It is not the reason the Hungarian's involvement will be remembered, however.
The American, who had once conceded to a fellow shot-stopper himself, refused to celebrate after becoming only the fourth goalkeeper ever to score in the Premier League.
Ten days later, Bogdan illustrated why he is so highly rated at the Reebok Stadium. While Bolton lost 3-0 to Manchester United on Saturday, the 24 year old enhanced his own reputation by saving Wayne Rooney's penalty.
It prompted Owen Coyle, the Bolton manager, to suggest he is considering ending Jussi Jaaskelainen's long reign as the Wanderers' first-choice goalkeeper. "I have got a decision to make every week with Adam Bogdan and Jussi Jaaskelainen," he said. "We know Adam is destined for a huge career."
It began in his native Hungary. Bogdan is from Obuda, the least known of the three districts that make up the country's capital; Buda and Pest are the others, giving the city its name. Bogdan would cross the River Danube every day to attend school in Pest.
"I started at a small club when I was nine," he said. "I was only there for one year before I moved to FC Vasas, who are one of the biggest clubs in the country."
In a decade, he progressed through the junior sides to the reserves, before sitting on the bench for the senior side. His only taste of first-team football, however, came on loan at Vecses, a second-division side.
International football brought him to Bolton's attention. After playing for Hungary's Under 21 side, he was given a trial and then offered a contract in 2007. It was during Sammy Lee's ill-fated reign as manager, but more than four years after his departure, a benefit is belatedly emerging.
Not that Bogdan was involved initially. His first task was to get acclimatised to English football's physical demands.
"What you notice is everything is so much faster," he said. "Before I came to England, I always felt I could come and claim every cross but I had to learn which not to because there are times I would get smashed to the floor."
It took him three years to come into contention. He became Jaaskelainen's understudy when Ali Al Habsi, the Oman No 1, was first loaned and then sold to Wigan Athletic. After a solitary league game, on loan at Crewe, he was thrust into the top flight when Jaaskelainen was sent off against Birmingham in August 2010. He realised an ambition in the 2-2 draw.
"When I was growing up, it was my dream to play in the Premier League," he said.
With Coyle blooding the younger goalkeeper in cup competitions, further opportunities have arrived this season. One, however, was an afternoon to forget. Bogdan fumbled shots to allow Daniel Sturridge and Frank Lampard to score in Chelsea's 5-1 win.
"They should have been basic saves," Coyle said. "I feel for the kid but he's got to show the character to come through it."
He has. "After the Chelsea game, I was a bit down but I played against Arsenal in the Carling Cup a few weeks later," Bogdan said. "I went away confident because I felt I played well at Emirates Stadium."
With Jaaskelainen injured, he played, and earned Coyle's praise, at both Goodison Park and Old Trafford.
In the process, a mentor has become a rival.
"Jussi doesn't coach me but he gives me important advice," Bogdan said. "We've got a good relationship. The biggest thing you can learn from Jussi is how to be professional and basic things that are needed to reach the top level, such as decision making."
He has reached the top level for club and country, debuting for Hungary last summer and winning four caps. As at Bolton, he is the young pretender to an established goalkeeper. The veteran Gabor Kiraly has 85 caps but there is increasing awareness of the challenger in his homeland.
"When I go home, more and more people are starting to recognise me," he said. "Sometimes it's good and sometimes not so good." As his last two league games illustrate, infamy and fame can go hand in hand.
Published: January 18, 2012 04:00 AM