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Turning back time: Kevin Poole on his return to Bolton in the FA Cup

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse

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Age never bothered Sam Allardyce as he ruffled feathers during the Premier League glory days – and it certainly isn’t a commodity which stopped one of his trusted lieutenants from enjoying a remarkable career, either.

Kevin Poole remains one of the oldest players to feature in the EFL, ending a 29-year stint as a professional goalkeeper with his last competitive appearance for Burton Albion in 2010.

A few years later, at the age of 50, he even featured as an unused substitute for the Brewers in a league game against Sunderland.

This weekend, he will return to Bolton as part of the coaching staff at Solihull Moors, the National League team looking to prolong Ian Evatt’s miserable record in the FA Cup as a manager.

Poole played for four years with Wanderers between 2001 and 2005, during which time he shared a dressing room with the eclectic mix of global superstars Allardyce had collected whilst establishing Bolton as a top-flight force.

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“It was just a great time,” he told The Bolton News. “Training and playing with World Cup winners week-in, week-out, it was just fantastic.

“Looking back, I never thought I would be in that situation. I’d left Derby to come in, and Sam wanted a number two to push Jussi (Jaaskelainen) as hard as they could. I felt at my age it was a good move but to stay there as long as I did… I had a good career but to look around and see some of the players in that dressing room at the time, superstars like Okocha, Djorkaeff and Hierro, it was just such a great time.

“You can reel all those names off now when I am talking to players, legends.”

Poole had been a professional with the likes of Aston Villa, Leicester and Birmingham for 20 years before he arrived at Bolton, already into his mid-thirties.

The club gave him some concession to work for part of the week with keeper coach Fred Barber at West Brom, which was closer to his Midlands home, but his primary role was to act as back-up to the great Jussi Jaaskelainen, a player he felt was at the very top of the tree.

“Jussi was the best goalkeeper in the Premier League at that point, by far, for me. He was just so consistent,” he said.

“I knew that I was coming towards the end of my career, so I knew what job I’d been brought in to do, I understood it. Maybe if I’d have been younger it would have been harder to sit and watch, you wouldn’t be as happy with the situation.

“But I was happy to do that, and Jussi’s performances were just fantastic. They were amazing to watch.

“I wanted to be in the game, and I still felt that I had a lot to give. I felt that I could push him all the way, and then if I did get a chance, I could still do my stuff.”

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Poole did get a few chances and played in the first three rounds of Wanderers’ run to the Carling Cup final in 2004. Unfortunately, he was unable to collect a winners’ medal to match the one he got at Leicester in 1997, coincidentally with a win against Middlesbrough.

“On a personal level it was great to get to a final, it was great to get there for the club as well,” he said. “I know the result didn’t go for us on the day but that’s football.

“I’ve still got the medal. I have tucked it away somewhere, but it isn’t anywhere special. That’s not really me.”

Poole has been with Solihull for the last four years and is now in charge of progressing the club’s three young goalkeepers.

Handily placed in the National League, the 60-year-old is upbeat about promotion: “Last year you didn’t really have a chance with Notts County and Wrexham, all the money and that. You couldn’t compete.”

And he is aware of the size of the effort it will take to knock an in-form Bolton out on their own patch, even if he maintains there is still a slim chance.

He added: “We have got quite a small squad, so I don’t think there will be too many changes. Bolton will probably swap a few about because there is a game on Tuesday as well.

“For us, it is about going out there and giving our all, putting in the best performance possible. And that will hopefully be enough to get a result.

“It is a good little club. It is a big day coming to a club like Bolton and playing in that stadium but there is a nice core of supporters coming down and it is up to us to make sure they enjoy their day.”

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Ten Bobsworth

Frank Worthington
Frank Worthington

News of the legend that is Kevin Poole.

More of the same please. This is what we want on Nuts, isn't it lads?

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