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Toe Poke
By ESPN Staff

Ricketts looks to regain his form

Michael Ricketts can use his loan spell at Burnley as a potential stepping stone back to the Barclays Premiership - according to former Bolton team-mate Kevin Nolan.

The Leeds striker today joined the Clarets on loan until the end of the season and Nolan reckons his old pal is ready to recapture his best form after four disastrous years.

If his potential had been fulfilled, Ricketts could now be jostling for a place in Sven Goran Eriksson's squad for this summer's World Cup finals.

But so catastrophic has been his decline that he has scored only 18 goals since winning his solitary England cap against Holland in February 2002.

Rather than provide the platform to help him establish himself in Eriksson's England side, his undistinguished 45-minute appearance at the Amsterdam Arena served as the catalyst for a remarkable fall from grace.

A big-money move to Middlesbrough proved disastrous, a free transfer move to Leeds has failed to bear fruit and a recent loan spell at Cardiff was not made permanent.

However, Nolan told PA Sport: 'There's no reason why Michael shouldn't be able to play in the Premiership again.

'A lot of people have written him off but I think he's got the potential to be the best and start banging those goals in again.

'That season when we won promotion to the Premiership he was brilliant and was one of the top scorers in the division.

'He then carried it on when we were in the Premiership and there's no doubt in my mind that Michael can and will get back to that in the next year or so.

'A loan move to Burnley could be a great way to help him achieve that.'

The pair developed a close friendship during their time together at Bolton and despite Ricketts leaving the club under a cloud after falling out with Sam Allardyce, his bond with Nolan remains strong.

Nolan added: 'I still regard Michael as a great friend and I wish he was still at Bolton now because I think he'd still be banging the goals in for us.

'I think anyone who was at our club when Michael was there knows that he's got the ability to play at the top level.

'He proved that when he got the England cap. People forget why he got the England cap; it was because he was banging in goals frequently in the Premiership.

'Just after that he went through a couple of bad months and its hard to get back out of it.

'He made a move to Middlesbrough and never really hit it off there.

'It was a shame and I get a bit upset when I hear people slagging him off because I know what a great lad he is and what a great footballer he is.'

Though Ricketts has struggled badly for fitness and form since his acrimonious departure from the Reebok Stadium three years ago, his recent loan spell at Ninian Park suggested he has not lost his eye for goal.

The 27-year-old scored five goals in 17 appearances but a permanent move failed to materialise because of how much of his £12,000-a-week wages each club would pay.

Nolan added: 'He started to get it going again during his time at Cardiff and you could see the old Ricks coming back.

'Hopefully, fingers crossed and touch wood, he really does turn it around because when I spoke to him just before Christmas he was really looking forward to the games again.

'I think the last couple of years he's been a bit down and it's been a bit hard for him to come back up, but I've no doubts whatsoever that he will come good again.'