SECOND chances don't come around too often in football - but former Bolton Wanderers defender Greg Strong is determined to take his with both hands writes Mark Iles

Languishing in the reserves at League Two strugglers Boston United with a rapidly expiring contract, the future looked bleak for the 29-year-old defender who spent five seasons with the Whites in the early 90s.

But just two weeks ago, former Scotland and Rangers legend Richard Gough made a shock swoop on transfer deadline day to take him to SPL outfit Livingston.

Suddenly Strong was eyeing up fixtures with Celtic, Rangers and Hearts instead of Bury, Lincoln and Wycombe.

"It was an incredible weekend," said the defender. "I went into training as normal at Boston expecting nothing, and the manager pulled me to one side to tell me they had been approached by Livingston.

"There wasn't a footballing decision to make, because it was a huge opportunity, but I have a little boy and a wife and it was a difficult choice to make.

"But by Monday we had decided it was too good to pass up."

Strong signed for Wanderers after coming through the ranks at Wigan, and made his debut in a 4-2 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday on New Year's Day, 1996.

He struggled to hold down a first team place, and was loaned out to Blackpool, Stoke City and Motherwell, before finally joining the Scottish club for £150,000 in July 2000.

A cult figure at Fir Park, he played over 70 games in Lanarkshire before an acrimonious split in 2002 when the club slid into administration.

By his own admission, his next move proved to be a disaster.

Ambitious Hull City were everyone's favourites for promotion in the 2002/3 season, but a broken elbow and a change of management saw him slip out of favour, and once again loaned out to the likes of Bury, Cheltenham and Scunthorpe.

"The decision to go down to the third division seemed right at the time, because Hull were a club who were going places," said Strong.

"But I got a bit of bad luck and it's easy to end up lost. That's what happened.

"But now I've got a chance to show I'm good enough to play at this level, and hopefully I will take it."

Strong made Livingston his 11th professional club and said the much-malligned standard of football in Scotland was actually quite high.

"My wife always asks why I'm not one of those players who sticks with one club for 10 years, but I haven't had that opportunity.

"When Livingston came along, I realised I had the chance of working alongside people like Archie Knox and Richard Gough. How could I pass it up? People are football crazy up here, and the game is a very good standard."

After his career is over, Strong said he intends to come back to his native North West with his wife and son, where he spent some very happy years with Wanderers.

He said: "That was the best time of my career. Signing for your home town club, with so many of my friends being Bolton fans, it was like a dream come true. Wanderers had just been promoted, and there was a great buzz about the place.

"It's obviously a very different club now, but players like Riccy Gardner, Kevin Nolan and Jussi Jaaskelainen are still there, and I still look first for their result in the papers."