MIDFIELD general Jay Spearing has his sights set firmly on Premier League football, and woe betide those who don’t do the same!
Bolton Wanderers’ new captain will celebrate the first anniversary of signing for the club when he leads the team out at Vicarage Road tomorrow, and has wasted no time issuing his mission statement.
While expectation levels among Whites fans are perhaps at their lowest since relegation two seasons ago, there is a steely-eyed determination about the new skipper when it comes to rejoining the English game’s elite.
The Liverpudlian took last season’s slow start and consequent mid-table anonymity personally – and he is demanding more this time around.
“Every single person at this club, whether they’re a player, a coach, the manager or someone behind the scenes working behind a desk wants to get back to that higher level as quickly as we can,” he told The Bolton News. “You look at the stadium, the facilities, the fans – it’s where it belongs.
“I was involved in those tough times last year and on occasions I was captain too. It was tough to keep the morale up.
“Whether the lads look up to you, I don’t know, but as captain you do have to set an example and that’s something I always try to do.
“But I think towards the end of last season that morale had started to come back into the team and the gaffer got us tuned in to the way he wanted to play.
“Yes, it was too late, but I think we played some good stuff and I want to take that into this season now.
“If we push on right away and get a better start than we did last year then I think we’ll be right up there.”
Spearing is, of course, no stranger to the captain’s role, filling-in for Zat Knight on a number of occasions last season.
Now he has been given the official vote of confidence by Dougie Freedman, however, the 25-year-old speaks sincerely about the pride he takes in the role.
“It’s a massive honour to follow in the footsteps of some of the players who have captained this club,” he said. “It’s not just an honour for me but for my family as well.
“Last year Zat was the captain, you could say I was vice-captain but towards the end of the year there were lots of us out there talking and making sure things were going right on the pitch.
“Fingers crossed that stays the same this year. I’m proud it’s me wearing the armband but the idea is that every one of us are captains out there on the field and ready to go.”
Spearing’s captaincy skills were honed from the age of 10 as he skippered the Liverpool youth sides up to and including their successful FA Youth Cup campaign in 2007.
“I’m not afraid to shout at anyone, whether they are bigger than me or whatever. It’s something I grew up with,” he said.
“My dad always made sure I did plenty of talking on the pitch and that’s the way I grew up.”
Part of Spearing’s desire to get back into the top flight is fuelled by a dream of playing again at Anfield, where he played at first team level for five years before moving to Wanderers, initially on loan, in 2012.
Reds boss Brendan Rodgers once said of the midfielder that he had the “soul of the club in his heart” – and despite playing away from Merseyside for the last two years, those emotions are clearly there to stay.
“After the Hillsborough anniversary last year they played ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ as we went out on to the pitch and it was a really touching moment for me,” he said.
“Being captain of this club, the objective is to get us back into the Premier League. Getting to Anfield and playing there, as a Liverpool supporter, it would be an honour to walk out with Bolton Wanderers.”
In the summer that the Steven Gerrard called time on his international career and captaincy, Spearing also acknowledged the effect that the Anfield legend had on his early career on Merseyside.
“I was fortunate enough to train with him for many years at Melwood and he always helped us young lads out,” he said.
“From an early age he was my role model and he always will be. What he’s done for his club and his country is unbelievable.
“He’s been one of, if not the best midfielder around for the last 10 years.
“He’s definitely someone I can learn from and I’ve brought the things he taught me while I was at Liverpool to this club now, hopefully that means we can push on again to the highest level where he has played his whole career.”