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Bolton Nuts » BWFC » Bolton Wanderers News » Mitt Gilks plans to prolong his playing career with Wanderers – to promotion and beyond.

Mitt Gilks plans to prolong his playing career with Wanderers – to promotion and beyond.

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karlypants

karlypants
Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse

Matt Gilks plans to prolong his playing career with Wanderers – to promotion and beyond.

The experienced keeper turns 39 this summer and has been one of the key ingredients in Bolton’s transformed campaign.

Gilks came out of semi-retirement in November to take the number one shirt from Billy Crellin and has since been ever-present as Ian Evatt’s side pushed their way towards the top three.

Now the former Scotland international is desperate to help Wanderers get back into League One at the first time of asking – and book himself a spot in next season’s squad.

“It is weird because I have done it for so long, I love it, and I never want to say ‘no’ to playing,” he told The Bolton News. “I put myself out there to be player-coach and I’d like to think my experience out there has helped the lads, “I want to keep going as long as I can. I don’t want to just stop, or at least until someone tells me I am not good enough.

“You are a long time retired in football. I bumped into a lad on holiday, Nathan Abbey, who I knew from years back. He told me he’d retired too soon and said, ‘Gilksy, keep going as long as you can’. And it stuck with me a little bit.

“When it is time to hang the gloves up I’ll look back fondly on what I have done but for now I just want to help Bolton.”

Wanderers have brought ex-Everton and Wycombe goalkeeper coach Andy Fairman into the first team fold to cover for Gilks.

Fairman had been working with the academy and has also helped the likes of Crellin, Matt Alexander and Lukas Jensen keep sharp on the training ground.

That leaves Gilks able to concentrate on his playing duties and preserving a fine defensive record that includes nine clean sheets in his last 15 games.

Defeat at Newport on Easter Monday halted a long unbeaten run and meant Wanderers dropped out of the automatic promotion spots on goal difference.

Gilks refuses to be downbeat, however, and believes the club should remember how far it has come since the turn of the year.

“Considering where we were a couple of months ago we have done extraordinarily well to get within reach. That shouldn’t be overlooked,” he said.

“We took 36 points from a possible 42 and that is outstanding in itself. To be up there competing is testament to the squad and the management team and I think with seven games to go we’ll have a chance.”

The mood was boosted somewhat after Monday’s game when it transpired that most of Wanderers’ promotion rivals had failed to win, minimising the damage caused by the Newport defeat.

“First thing you do when you run back in, the lads are on the phone checking out the results,” Gilks said.

“When you see they have gone for us, we’re still in there, joint third, it does give you a little boost because you know it isn’t the end of the world.

“There are seven games to go and the goal difference might come into play a little bit now. We are a little bit behind on that.

“There are 21 points up for grabs and if you win the majority, which I think we will have to, then you give yourself a really good chance. Every other team will be thinking exactly the same.

“We have some tough games coming up with Carlisle, Exeter, Morecambe away, Salford away, but they are all cup finals and everyone will be out to get what they can.”

Next up is Harrogate at home and opponents that Gilks believes will be just as hard to break down as Colchester United proved on Good Friday.

“This league is tough,” he said. “There’s a lot of ratting around and teams put pressure on you.

“Yes, we want to implement our style on other teams but they come with a gameplan, you have to find solutions.

“There are no games you can just turn up and win. Teams are fighting for their lives or fighting for promotion and that is what makes it exciting.”

Gilks made his professional debut in 2001 after working with well-respected goalkeeper coach Fred Barber in the youth team at Rochdale.

It was at that time he accepted an offer to train at Bolton – where he first came across another local legend in Jussi Jaaskelainen.

“When Jussi joined Bolton I was already training there with Fred Barber, and I was with Rochdale at the time,” Gilks recalled.

“It is funny how it comes around because I went to Wigan, and Jussi was there, and we were both training at Euxton where we’d trained at Bolton.

“We had a good laugh and a chuckle. My serving was terrible as a kid and when we met back up it was OK, and Jussi just laughed at me and told me it had taken 20 years.

“He is a top fella and probably the best keeper Bolton have ever had. I’m proud to say I trained with him and learned from him.”

Gilks has put his own experience to good use this season by helping Ricardo Santos progress to become one of League Two’s leading defenders.

After a difficult start, the former Peterborough United man has gone on to forge a solid partnership with Alex Baptiste at the heart of the Bolton back four.

“Rico came in and has been fantastic for us,” Gilks said. “He is a hell of a specimen and can do anything he wants in the game, and I am sure he will.

“Having me guiding behind him makes his job a bit easier, along with Alex, who knows his job well enough and will shout back at me sometimes, so you live to accept that.”

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