By Alex Eeles
New Bolton Wanderers FC defender Fernando Hierro is relishing the chance of playing against some of the world's best players in the Premiership this season.
Raring to go
After trading the quiet life in Qatar for the pressure-cooker atmosphere of English football, the former Real Madrid CF captain told uefa.com that he cannot wait to get to grips with the Premiership's top strikers. "I have been interested in coming to the Premiership ever since I left Spain," said Hierro. "It will be great to see the likes of [Paul] Scholes, [Thierry] Henry, [Dennis] Bergkamp and [Alan] Shearer at close quarters again."
Up to the job
At 36, doubts have already been expressed about the veteran defender's ability to succeed in the fast and furious environment of the Premiership, with many critics believing a year in the comparatively pedestrian league of Qatar will have served only to slow his aging limbs.
But Hierro is quick to dismiss any implication he might not be up to the job. "I can assure the Bolton fans that I am in very good shape at the moment," he insisted. "Physically and mentally I am ready for the Premiership and I will be working as hard as I have ever done in my career to adapt quickly to the city, the club and my team-mates.
Experience the key
"I played at the highest level for 14 years with Real Madrid and that is what should be talked about - not one year of low-profile football in Qatar," he added. "I know I have to adapt mentally for a hard competition like the Premiership but I'm doing that already because I have that experience in Madrid."
During an illustrious career at the Santiago Bernabéu, Hierro won myriad honours including five Spanish Primera División titles and the UEFA Champions League three times. The last time Bolton won a major trophy, on the other hand, a 17-year-old Pelé was terrorising defences at the FIFA World Cup and Hierro himself was not even born.
Keeping the faith
Hardly a match made in heaven, then, but Hierro insists he is relishing the challenge. "Bolton are a team who want to grow and I want to help them to do that," he said. "I have faith in the manager, Sam Allardyce, and his methods have impressed me. If we can build on the achievements of last year, we can have a very good season."
Hierro also revealed that his former Madrid team-mate Iván Campo was instrumental in bringing him to the Reebok Stadium. "I spoke to Iván before signing and he told me that he is very happy at Bolton," he said. "He encouraged me to come and join him and I'm really looking forward to playing alongside him again.
"But I'm not here for a holiday, I'm here to win," he concluded. "Bolton are giving me a great opportunity and I have to thank them by showing that I am committed to the club. I had a lot of success in Spain and I'd love some more in England. Besides, Bolton play in all white just like Madrid - that has to be a good sign!"
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