The Premier League has played host to players and managers from countries spanning the entire globe. Some from obscure nations have been memorable hits, while others are remembered not so fondly.
Here are two players who struck the right chord when plying their trade in England’s top flight and were cult heroes for their respective sides.
Marian Pahars (Southampton)
Southampton owe a solid thanks to current Cheltenham Town boss Gary Johnson for recommending the striker to manager Dave Jones in 1999 when he was in charge of Latvia.
The Saints agreed a modest fee of £800,000 with Pahars’ club Skonto to secure his signature after a trial period, although it was far from straightforward to make him the first Latvian player in the Premier League.
Pahars hinted at his quality by notching a crucial equaliser against Blackburn Rovers on his home debut. He finished the campaign with a vital brace against Everton to secure the Saints’Premier League status for the 1999/2000 season, which was to become a common theme over the next three terms.
The striker was the club’s top scorer with 13 strikes in the next campaign, playing a huge role in their survival and he followed up his efforts with a further nine in the 2000-01 season, although he displayed the first signs of inconsistency.
However, he bounced back with the best term of his career as he notched 14 goals in 36 matches, finishing inside the top 10 goalscorers in the division.
That season would be the highlight of his time with the Saints as injuries all but ended his career, scoring only four more goals for the club before spending two seasons with Cyprus and then drawing his playing time to a close with spells with Skonto and then FK Jurmala-VV.
He turned to management after his playing days and is currently in charge of the Latvia national side.
He faces a huge challenge to guide his team to the World Cup finals for the first time, being backed in the latest World Cup qualifying odds at 2500/1.
Jay-Jay Okocha (Bolton Wanderers)
Eyebrows were raised when Bolton Wanderers pulled off the signing of Okocha on a free transfer to strengthen their squad for their second season in the Premier League.
The move was considered a major coup for Sam Allardyce’s men, with the midfielder having fared well with Nigeria at the 2002 World Cup along with being a regular during his time at Paris-Saint Germain.
The Nigerian was a sensation for the Trotters throughout his career at the Reebok Stadium, producing quality on the pitch as well as displaying his vivacious personality with his style of play.
He became club captain in 2004 and led the team out at the Millennium Stadium in their League Cup final defeat to Middlesbrough.
His best campaign came in the 2004/05 season when he scored seven goals in 33 appearances in all competitions, which helped guide Allardyce’s men to their highest league position since the 1958/59 campaign.
Okocha was instrumental in turning the Trotters into an established Premier League outfit and his departure in 2006 began the seeds of decline, which saw the club involved in a series of relegation battles before their eventual relegation in 2012.
Now in the doldrums of League One, Bolton fans will remember the days of Okocha with smiles on their faces, longing for those days to return.