BIG INTERVIEW: Warwick Rimmer
NOT many footballers can lay claim to have played more games for Bolton Wanderers than the great Nat Lofthouse – but Warwick Rimmer is one of a few who can.
One of the first inductees in the Wanderers Hall of Fame, the Birkenhead-born half-back joined the Whites at the age of 15 and went on to make more than 500 competitive appearances in 18 years at the club.
It was not a bad return for a player who opted to join Wanderers ahead of Everton and Liverpool and ended up fourth in the all-time appearance list – just 50 behind leader Eddie Hopkinson.
After making his debut in the club’s first-ever League Cup tie in 1960 against Hull City, Rimmer went on to captain the club to the Division Three title in 1973.
He left the following season to become player/coach at Crewe but returned in 1981 to work in the commercial department after being invited back by commercial manager Alf Davies.
He moved back to his native Wirral to do a similar role at Tranmere Rovers two years later before switching to develop a successful youth set-up at Prenton Park where he is still involved today.
But with a Wanderers-mad son and grandson still regular attendees at the Reebok, Rimmer says the Whites are still close to his heart.
“My son gets over to watch Bolton when he can and his grandson is keen as well,” said Rimmer. “It is funny because they were both big Jussi Jaaskelainen fans, but I hoped he would leave sooner before taking over my number of appearances!
“To play so many games at Bolton is a wonderful achievement I still look back on fondly. I get back now and again and meet with Freddie Hill and Syd Farrimond and still love the club.”
Rimmer turned 72 recently but continues to work part-time at the Tranmere youth academy he helped develop 30 years ago. During that time, he has nurtured such talent as former Wales international Jason Koumas and QPR defender Clint Hill.
Tranmere recently nominated him for a Football League “Unsung Hero” award, with Koumas saying: “I don’t mind admitting that Warwick was the single biggest influence on my career.”
The award will be handed out at a ceremony later this month, and while the ex-Wanderer has been told in advance he did not win it, he admits being humbled by the nomination.
Rimmer says it is not about awards, though, because he gets all of his enjoyment out of helping youngsters get a chance in football, just like he did in 1956 after being spotted by Wanderers playing for Cheshire Boys.
The nephew of former Sheffield Wednesday and England player Ellis Rimmer added: “Bolton were always good with youth and it looks like they are now with what they have been doing in the FA Youth Cup.
“I had the chance to go to Everton and Liverpool but Bolton scouted me in Birkenhead and were fantastic with me because leaving home as a youngster is not easy.
“I was fortunate I made it at Bolton and have tried in the past 27 years, since I was asked to set up a youth system at Tranmere, to use that experience.
“Of course, things have changed and the youngsters now get education as well, which was not around as much in my day.
“I have been very fortunate to work with some great kids and help them – even now there are four or five involved in Ronnie Moore’s first team who came through the ranks.
“Everyone likes to see home-grown talent and the bonus is that it saves you spending money on players.
“I went part-time two years ago but still do around 30 or 40 hours a week and it was very nice of the club to put me forward for that award.”
Rimmer always knew he would move into coaching having taken his badges while he was still playing under coach Charlie Wright.
After five years at Crewe, Rimmer went to coach the national team in Sierra Leone.
African football has come a long way since those days at the start of the 1980s, with Wanderers having their own Sierra Leone star in Medo Kamara now. But Rimmer says there was always potential in the country, as was illustrated when he almost led them to the World Cup in Spain in 1982.
“It doesn’t surprise me Wanderers have signed a Kamara from Sierra Leone – back when I was there more than 90 per cent of the players were called Kamara – we used nicknames a lot,” he joked.
“I enjoyed my time there; I worked with Jimmy Hill for a while and was there for two years. We almost got to the World Cup, losing out to Algeria, who went on to beat West Germany I think in the early rounds.
“It was a bit different as far as lifestyle goes and I came back to Bolton to work with the lotteries.
“My main memories of Wanderers will always be playing for 20 years there, though – in that time it felt like I had won the lottery.”