LIFE after Anfield is going surprisingly well for Jay Spearing – but the Wanderers midfielder feels he still has some unfinished business in the Premier League.
Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers once said of the Melwood graduate that he had the soul of the club in his heart, referring to the heart-warming tale of a Wirral lad made good, which began with a trial aged just seven after playing for Wallasey junior team Greenleas.
But like so many of the academy products of his generation, Spearing was denied enough first team opportunities to continue making progress and after a brief spell at Leicester City, he landed at the Reebok with a major decision to make.
Though never publicly admitted, it was clear that life was moving on at Liverpool without him.
Yet the way Spearing dived headlong into the Championship battle won him instant favour on the terraces at his new club and though he will never have the same rich history as he shared on Merseyside, one wonders how long it will be before Dougie Freedman is compelled to make the same sort of eulogies as Rodgers.
After cruelly missing out on the season finale with a broken toe, it seemed Wanderers’ tight finances could prevent them trying to secure his signature on a permanent basis.
Blackburn Rovers attempted to beat them to the punch and the way the advances of a local rival were repelled merely served to cement his legend in Bolton.
By the start of the season fans were chanting for Freedman to sign him up, and a few weeks later they did just that.
It had not been an easy choice to cut the apron strings and leave Liverpool but Spearing now looks at the decision as one of the best he had made in his professional career.
Speaking to The Bolton News after being voted Championship Player of the Year, the 24-year-old revealed his dream of a return to the top flight and Anfield.
“Leaving Liverpool, a team I supported, was a huge decision not just for me but for my family as well,” he said. “I honestly didn’t know it would turn out as well as it has at the moment. It’s something I would never have dreamed of that 12 months down the line I’d be coming and picking up an award.
“Every footballer in the Championship, not just myself, feels that they belong in the higher level and that they can do a job there.
“But I look at our squad and there are a lot of players who have been there and done it in the Premier League and they are itching to get back, myself included.
“I’m just looking to take things step by step now and making sure I progress, and that Bolton Wanderers start pushing back up the table.”
Not someone entirely comfortable with the spotlight or media glare, Spearing has tended to go about his business on and off the pitch with the minimum of fuss.
But there is no doubt he has bought into life at Bolton just as readily as he did at Liverpool, and just last week he fronted a room full of junior Wanderers fans dressed in full Halloween regalia alongside team-mate Rob Hall.
It had meant to be the kind of standard meet and greet players are often called upon to fulfil but the fact both Spearing and Hall joined in with the fun hints at why fans voted him ahead of Blackburn’s goal machine Jordan Rhodes and Blackpool’s prodigious Tom Ince to the award on Monday night.
“It was totally unexpected,” he said. “Especially when you see the competition I was up against.
“Coming here last season on loan was a massive opportunity for me to go out, express myself, and show exactly what sort of person I am.
“Thankfully the fans took to me right away, so to get their backing and their votes to help me win the award was absolutely amazing.”
Spearing’s permanent move to Bolton did not start well, and a poor run of form in the opening 10 games has dimmed talk of a promotion tilt.
Last weekend’s win at Bournemouth stretched an unbeaten run to six games, however, and Spearing now has his sights fixed on gaining an all-elusive home win.
“I think we can take confidence from the run,” he said. “We know ourselves that the home form hasn’t been the best and that we are drawing too many games.
“The aim is to make the Reebok a fortress like it was in the later stages of last year and hopefully Saturday can really kick-start our season.
“We haven’t been finishing teams off at home but away from the Reebok we’ve been sticking to the gameplan and looking dangerous.
“We’ve got to get a little bit of that into our home form, do our best to kick on, and make the place somewhere where the opposition are worried about coming to.”