x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Knight hopes for his day in the sun

Staying in the Premier League might be the priority for Bolton, but reaching the FA Cup final at Wembley would provide a welcome lift.

Staying in the Premier League might be the priority for Bolton, but reaching the FA Cup final at Wembley would provide a welcome lift - and make up for Zat Knight's own personal frustration. The big defender left Aston Villa in the summer and then watched his boyhood favourites get to a cup final for the first time in 10 years through the Carling Cup.

As Bolton face Tottenham today in the fifth round, Knight longs to emulate Villa's feat. "It's been a frustrating season for us and seeing Villa get to a final sums it up," said Knight, whose side are in the bottom three in the Premier League. "They haven't been to a cup final for so many years and the year I leave, they get to a final. But hopefully I can get to Wembley with Bolton and make up for it a little bit. We have had some tough games so far and this will be another tough game against Tottenham. But we are in it, so we want to win it."

Knight knows one man in particular could end his dream. Jermain Defoe's hat-trick at Leeds got Spurs to this stage. The centre-back has long been aware of Defoe's talent. As a youngster his cousin, Leon Knight, played alongside the Spurs frontman for Senrab, the famed Sunday League team that also featured John Terry. While Wayne Rooney and Didier Drogba have been lauded this season, Knight thinks the 20-goal Defoe ranks alongside them.

"I believe so. If you name English strikers, he is always in the top five for us," said Knight, 29. "He just loves to shoot, loves the sight of goal. I think if we can shut him up, we can get something out of this game." Facing Defoe and Peter Crouch will round off a testing week for Knight against the league's top strikers. Despite his best efforts, Carlos Tevez and Emmanuel Adebayor scored in Manchester City's 2-0 win over Bolton.

"That's what happens against the best players. All they need is one chance and they punish you," he added. "But, as a defender, that's what you enjoy the most, playing against the top strikers. On Tuesday it was Adebayor and Tevez and now it will be Defoe and Crouch. It brings the best out of yourself." One player Knight did not always enjoy playing against was Kevin Davies, his Bolton captain. Tottenham also found him difficult to deal with in their 2-2 league draw at the Reebok Stadium in October.

"I remember playing against him for Aston Villa and Fulham, and he was a handful. Hopefully we can keep him fit because he is important for us." The leadership qualities of Davies are something Knight wants to provide at the back, especially after the loss of Gary Cahill, who could be out for the season with a blood clot in his arm. Knight, who won two caps for England in 2005, said: "I'm a seasoned professional, one of the senior boys and hopefully I can lead by example. It feels like I'm a captain at the back and I'm enjoying the responsibility."

akhan@thenational.ae Bolton v Tottenham, 5.30pm, Aljazeera Sport +3