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(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Exactly a year ago Tamir Cohen's career seemed to be going nowhere.
The talented midfielder couldn't break into the Maccabi Tel Aviv lineup after falling out with coach Eli Cohen, and it appeared as though he would become just another name on the ever-growing list of Israeli players who have failed to fulfill their potential.
Tel Aviv held Cohen in such low regard that it even allowed him to leave the only club he had ever known on a free transfer to Daniel Jammer's Maccabi Netanya in January.
That fateful move, however, was the break Cohen needed to resurrect his career.
He quickly became a regular starter at Netanya and was Israel's best player in his international debut against Croatia in October.
He continued to attract attention after two more impressive showings against Russia and Macedonia in Euro 2008 qualification and less than a year, after being out of favor at Tel Aviv he's on his way to the English Premier League, joining Bolton Wanderers on a three-and-a-half-year deal starting January 1.
"I always knew that I could reach these heights, but I certainly didn't expect it to happen so quickly," Cohen admitted in an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
"However, I'm not sorry that this has happened and I'm the happiest man on earth.
"I've got to Bolton with hard work and a bit of luck. I've been working very hard with my fitness coach, Hezi Nahshoni in recent months, and I've also gotten a lot of support from Netanya coach Reuven Atar and his assistants."
Tamir will be following in the footsteps of his father Avi, who signed for Liverpool in July 1979.
Avi, who won a championship on Merseyside in the 1979/80 season, couldn't hide his excitement of Tamir's transfer and believes his son has got the ability to do well in England.
"I'm much more excited now than I was when I moved to Liverpool. The excitement as a father is much bigger," he said. "Tamir has the ability to play at the highest levels and if he continues to work hard he will get to play in the Premier League. Tamir has only signed for Bolton. Now he must prove that he can also play there."
Tamir, 23, made his Tel Aviv debut in November 2002 and helped the team to the Israeli championship at the end of that season.
He played a key role in the side's Champions League campaign the following season and was especially impressive in the group matches against European giants Bayern Munich, Juventus and Ajax.
It seemed obvious that Cohen would be a vital member in Tel Aviv for many years to come, but a coaching change at the end of the 2005/06 season changed everything.
Cohen didn't get along with new coach Eli Cohen and started just one game in the first five months of the 2006/07 season. Cohen realized that he had no chance of regaining his place in the Tel Aviv team and asked to leave the club.
The Tel Aviv management eventually let him leave on a free transfer for Netanya, a move it has already admitted regretting.
Avi, who also played for Glasgow Rangers later in his career, said that he never lost faith in his son, even at his lowest point 12 months ago.
"It was hard to predict that within a year Tamir would be moving to a club like Bolton.
"We always knew that he had the potential and that the problems he had at Maccabi Tel Aviv were not of a professional sort. We believed that if he would move to a different club he could display his abilities and also eventually play abroad one day.
"He was made to feel very welcome at Netanya and the results soon showed.
"As time passed he continued to improve and also became a leader at Netanya. He was even called up to the national team and saw that he can play at an international level.
Despite being under a microscope from the very start of his career, Tamir said that having a famous footballer as a father has been a massive advantage.
"He always gives me advice and we speak to each over all the time.
"Being Avi Cohen's son hasn't hurt me at all. I think being his son has only helped me. It's a huge advantage to have a father that has been through the same things I'm about to experience."
Cohen, who has never regarded himself to be especially talented, believes that hard work is the only way to succeed and considers Chelsea defender Tal Ben-Haim, with who he played at Maccabi Tel Aviv, as his role model.
"I saw that Ben-Haim got to where he's at with hard work and determination. If you're not motivated and have no discipline than you will amount to nothing.
"I'm not concerned that the Premier League will be too tough. I'm sure it won't be easy.
"Any player leaving Israel is not fully prepared for the English game. I will gain what I'm missing by training and living there and I hope I will learn as quickly as possible.
"My immediate goal is to fight for a place in the Bolton team. It depends on me.
"If I'm good in training the manager won't be able to ignore me. I have to prove I deserve to play."
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