IT took Bolton Wanderers fan Matthew Rushton more than three years to piece together the University of Bolton Stadium, pixel by pixel, but now the doors have been thrown open in his virtual creation.

Using the hugely popular sandbox construction game, Minecraft, the 24-year-old from Johnson Fold painstakingly pieced together every fixture and fitting to create an online version of Wanderers’ home since 1997 – thought to be the first of its kind.

Matthew has worked on the kiosks at the stadium for more than five years and so had a good working knowledge of the layout.

The build was not without its problems and the computer-whizz admits he came close to abandoning the project altogether a couple of years ago when he bought a new console and lost a huge portion of the build.

But gamer Matthew, who hosts his own YouTube channel – TheArchitect1995 – is now thoroughly proud of his achievement, which was recently showcased by the club itself on their social media platforms.

“Initially the work for the first eight months or so was carried out largely from memory,” he told The Bolton News. “Especially the exterior and support structure because I knew the basic layout.

“I did use whatever images I could muster up from Google to do the seating areas, counting each individual one and then putting them into place to get an accurate representation. I think it’s possible that fans can actually pick out their individual seat.

“But then as the work progressed, I started taking stadium tours and went on about two or three of them to get as many interior photographs as I could of the player areas, suites and hotel areas to work from. I would also take time after my shift gathering photos for the concourses etc – and obviously it paid off!”

The Reebok Stadium was originally opened in 1997 and has a capacity of 28,723.

Now sponsored by the town’s university, the distinctive architecture of the stadium was a big challenge for Matthew, who nearly abandoned the idea altogether after his first attempt.

“There were a few times I admittedly thought about giving up,” he said. “The first was in October 2016 when I’d just bought myself a new Xbox, but the resulting data transfer set me back about four months and erased much of an unfinished interior meaning I had to do all of that again.

“I did replace the North Stand mural and then took a few months off to weigh up my options. The second occasion came about 7 months later and this one was purely by choice.

“Work was progressing well until about June 2017 before I looked at the stadium and I didn’t really like how it looked, I didn’t feel it was realistic enough.

“As a result I demolished the roof, the exterior, the upper tiers of seating and the hospitality box level - basically everything that wasn’t the lower tier or support structure was torn down - and rebuilt it all over a six-month period.

“I discovered a lot of inaccuracies that I’d incorporated into the stadium when I first started as a 19-year-old. I was 21 by that point and I really did want to give up because of the number of errors.

“I think the one thing that made me not give up was the thought that I’d got so much riding on the project and that it wasn’t just a project for me anymore. I wanted to finish it for myself, the club, fans and everyone else.”

After first coming up with the idea in October 2014, work began in February 2015. The project was completed by April 2018 but by then Matthew had also started to build other stadia from clubs who were with Bolton in the Championship at the time, including Derby’s Pride Park, the Riverside at Middlesbrough and Swansea’s Liberty Stadium.

“Even though it was my first build I think it was the one that surprisingly went under the radar,” he said. “Since the club shared it on Twitter I have been absolutely overwhelmed by it all.

“I was completely taken aback by some of the comment and I can’t thank everyone enough.

“I spoke to a few of my family afterwards and they were all really proud.”