WILL Buckley failed to get Wanderers’ attention with his goals as a teenager – but the Reebok certainly sat up and took notice of his ruthless finishing on Saturday.
Brighton’s wide man scored twice to sink the Whites and put his side within striking distance of the play-off places.
But an unknown fact to many inside the stadium as they watched Bolton’s run come to a grinding halt was that the man causing the damage could have been wearing a white shirt, had his talents been spotted a decade earlier.
Speaking after his brace, the 25-year-old told the story of how he could have been lining up for Dougie Freedman.
“When I got released at Oldham, I had trials at quite a lot of local clubs and Bolton was one of them,” he said.
“I played a few games for a Trialists XI against Bolton’s Under 15s or 16s. But I never got asked back so that was just that.
“I think Sam Allardyce was manager then as I was only 15, turning 16. (I’m) not sure who the youth coaches were.
“But there were a lot of lads there, 20 or 30 of us at first.
“Then they would ask you back for another game and another game. It went on for a few months but nothing came of it.
“I probably played three or four games and had five or six training sessions as well. I was a striker at the time and I scored a few goals. I actually think I got a hat-trick in one of them.
“I was quite small in those days so that might have put them off.
Buckley was forced to rethink his plans before finally getting an offer from Rochdale, where his goals set the Lancashire club on their way to their first promotion in 36 years.
“After Bolton, I had trials at Bury and Accrington Stanley and I ended up going to college for 12 months and doing a Football Academy course,” Buckley added. “In the end Rochdale picked me up – Keith Hill and Dave Flitcroft.
“I still speak to ‘Hilly’ and ‘Flickers’ quite regularly. I appreciate everything they did for me so I keep in contact when I can.”
Buckley was heavily linked with a move to Premier League Sunderland in January but is now focusing on staying fit and keeping Brighton in the race for a top-six finish.
The Oldham-born front man admits Saturday’s game swung on a five-minute spell in the second half when referee Scott Duncan ruled out a Joe Mason goal for offside, and four minutes later, Buckley doubled his side’s lead.
“I love scoring any goals but the second one was probably the best because it sealed the game and we could relax a little more and play our football without too much pressure,” he said.
“Bolton scored and we had a look back to see if it was offside. A few of the lads reckoned it was.
“But goals change games and had that gone in it might have been a totally different game.
“So, my second gave us breathing space and a platform to see the game out.”