Hull City's Abdoulaye Faye: 'English football has given me everything. I had some great times at Bolton'
Abdoulaye Faye will renew old acquaintances against today's visitors to the KC Stadium. Philip Buckingham reports ...
AS THE club that first sparked a love affair in 2005, Abdoulaye Faye will forever be indebted to Bolton Wanderers.
A seven-year stay in English football has seen the defender realise each and every ambition and, as the starting point of the fairytale, today's visitors to the KC Stadium demand a special place in his affections.
"I will never forget my time there," said the Hull City defender. And with good reason.
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Signed by Sam Allardyce from French club Lens seven years ago, Faye seized the chance he craved in English football.
Two years at the Reebok Stadium saw him star in Bolton's golden generation and provided the launch pad for a career in England that has so far amassed over 200 appearances.
Much has changed since Faye left Bolton to follow Allardyce to Newcastle in 2007 but he continues to hold the memories dear.
"It's a special game because it's my first English team," Faye told the Mail.
"English football has given me everything and it's become my second home. Bolton is where it started and when I look back it was the time when I played some of my best football.
"I was young and very fit. I was very excited like you are when you are young.
"But I had very good years there and we had some great times together."
Such is Faye's affection for his first English club, he and his family still live in Bolton.
Along with a galaxy of international stars, including Jay-Jay Okocha, Ivan Campo and Nicolas Anelka, Faye helped Bolton to finish eighth and seventh in the Premier League during his two years in white.
The second campaign was good enough for European football.
Both Bolton and Faye have since fallen out of the Premier League to make their way in the Championship and he hopes today's reunion can again evoke happy memories.
"I had a good relationship with the supporters, they liked me a lot as I did very well at Bolton," he said.
"Every time I played for Stoke against Bolton in the Premier League I would get a good reception.
"I have very happy memories from my time there because we had a big team when I played there.
"There was Jay-Jay Okocha, Anelka, Ivan Campo, some great players.
"We even got to Europe too so I will never forget my time there."
The ambitions realised with Bolton, and subsequently Newcastle, Stoke, West Ham and City, were first set by Faye when growing up in Senegal.
The formative years of his career saw the veteran learn a particular style in his homeland and while Lens were the first club to bring Faye to Europe, French football was never enough.
"When I grew up in Senegal it was also my ambition to play in England," he explained. "My style of football is well suited to England as I am very aggressive. I like to fight for the ball.
"When I played in France it was too slow and it didn't suit my game but English football is tough and I like it.
"The standard of football in Senegal was very good. You don't have the money like you do in England but we have so many good players there.
"Football in Senegal is similar to England. When you watch the national team they are aggressive. That's the style I have always had."
Faye now calls England his "second home" as he nears the end of a stout career.
His exit from West Ham United over the summer saw the option to head either to China or the USA but City's offer of a one-year deal proved irresistible.
Faye was unwilling to see his time in England end but his long-term plans are to return to Senegal.
"I think I will move back to Senegal when I have finished playing football as the weather is so much better!" he joked. It is never cold there. Every day it is 28 degrees! I love England but the weather is not so good."
But Faye still has targets to meet with City.
After helping West Ham to promotion through the play-offs in his debut year in the Championship, a snub from the East London side denied him another crack at the Premier League.
Faye's aim has now been reset with the Tigers and, as the mainstay of a new-look defence, he has begun the campaign with solid steps.
Four points from three games has been satisfactory but a win over his former club today would allow City to sign off for an international break with high hopes for the next eight months.
"I came here to have a big season," he said. "I am 34 but every time I go out there I try and give my best for the club and my team-mates.
"I think we can have a great season as we have very good young players.
"If we can just score more goals I'm sure we'll be fine.
"Bolton is a very big game that we must win. I believe we have better players and we must prove it."
Standing in the way is an obstacle Faye knows well.
Kevin Davies, Wanderers' attacking talisman for the last nine years, will spearhead Owen Coyle's attack at the KC and Faye is under no illusion what awaits City.
"Kevin Davies is a very tough guy, very strong in the air and very strong when you are marking him," he added.
"I marked him so many times when I played for Stoke and every time it is 100 per cent difficult.
"Off the pitch he is a very quiet man, he doesn't talk too much. He's a very shy man but when you play against he is a different person. He is very tough.
"He is my friend but I'm going to be doing my best to win the battle."