DOUGIE TOBBUTT talks to the MD of Wanderers' sponsors Reebok UK.

DAVE Singleton had a tough decision to make in 1981; should he give up the teaching job he loved to risk working for a small local sports company?

He had a young family to consider and would be taking home less pay but he could see potential for growth within the firm, so he decided to give it a go.

It turned out to be a good decision as Dave is now managing director of that company - Reebok UK.

Born in Great Lever in 1950, sport had always played a major part in Dave's life. At Edge Lane and then Haywood Grammar he played soccer, basketball, athletics and occasionally rugby.

Soccer was his main passion then. He would play on Saturday morning for school before going off to play in the afternoon in the Boys Fed, first for Marshalls then later for Lads Club before joining Old Haywardians in the Lancs Amateur League.

Although he never trained as a runner in his early days, he started to take it more seriously when he reached 16. He was a Bolton schoolboys champion, running 400 metres in 52 seconds, and 800 metres in two minutes, and that was on a boggy grass track.

In the sixth form Dave did not really know what he wanted to do career-wise but one of his teachers, Eric Singleton, advised him to apply to Loughborough University to study PE.

Dave said: "Mr Singleton was a great motivator and was a good help at that time." Dave took the advice, applied and to his surprise he got accepted.

In between studying, his hopes were to get in the 1st XI soccer team, but was injured inn the first trial and missed his chance.

To regain his fitness he started to run again. In 1970 Robbie Brightwell was coaching at the track, spotted Dave and asked him to run in the cross-country team. Then George Gandy, who was the coach to Seb Coe and David Moorcroft, gave him further coaching and he was selected for England Universities to run 800m.

In 1973 he broke a bone in his foot four times during the year. He put that down to running on a cinder track and insufficient cushioning in his running shoes. After medical advice he put the running on a back burner and concentrated on finishing his degree.

While at Loughborough he met his future wife Liz, a county netball player, and they married in 1974.

After gaining his degree David returned to Bolton and became a teacher at Deane Base School. His main participating sports then were football and basketball. He played basketball for Bernard Kirkbright's Legends, a team made up mainly of Bolton teachers.

He was still too wary of his foot to start running again but in the mid 70s he came across some shoes with EVA cushioning, the first of its kind. This gave him the confidence to start gain and he joined Bolton Harriers. In 1979 Reebok sponsored Dave, who was now running 800m in 1 min 50 secs, and in return he came up with some marketing ideas that included the birth of the Reebok Racing Club.

In 1981 Reebok were looking to expand their market, especially in Europe, and offered him a job. The company was still in its infancy and he had just moved teaching jobs to Bolton North College. leaving his friends to think he was mad to even consider taking up the challenge.

Meanwhile on the running side Dave was catching the eye of the selectors and, despite reaching 30, was picked for the England cross-country team at the age of 30.

In 1983, while representing Reebok at the London Marathon Exhibition in London, he was persuaded to run the 26 miles and, despite no preparation, clocked 2hrs 21mins overtaking several international runners in the last six miles.

Dave could run any distance, from sprinting to cross-country to marathons. People are born with either slow twitch or fast twitch muscles, making them sprinters or endurance runners, and this cannot be changed yet Dave could run both these disciplines at a high level.

In the business world, Reebok were beginning to make giant strides and David was promoted to the position of International Director of Marketing Development.

This took him to China, Japan, Hong Kong, Australia and all over Europe.

In 1983 Reebok was sold to Paul Fireman of Boston USA, and went public in 1984. Then Reebok was a $3m company - today it is a $3billion dollar organisation.

The company has come a long way since starting up in 1895 in Bolton by Joe Foster. His grandsons Jeff and Joe took over the company and they had strong links with the Bolton Harriers.

It was in 1959 they decided to change the name. They were looking through an American dictionary and came across the name Reebok which they liked the sound of, and that was the name they decided on.

In 1987 Dave was asked to go to work for the company in Boston. He moved there with Liz and the family for four years, combining business with running and basketball.

The Singletons came back home in 1991. Reebok was now really hitting the heights but Dave fancied another challenge and took on the offer of a job with an up and coming company Rockport, a Reebok subsidiary. But not for long, as Paul Fireman wanted him back as Managing Director of Reebok UK and Vice President of the company.

Eleven years ago Reebok sponsored Wanderers and Dave and Liz took the children to watch them play at Huddersfield on a cold and wet day when Bolton were in the old Third Division. After a 0 -0 draw, the most exciting action was a spectator climbing up a floodlight pylon!

"I thought that Andrew and Jayne would never ask to go to another game, or even worse go to Old Trafford! But to my surprise they have never missed a game until recently, since going to university. Now they go whenever they get the opportunity."

Reebok moved away from Bolton to London in 1995 but Dave didn't follow. "I like Bolton. I have been all over the world but this is my home," he said.

He commutes to Lancaster and has recently been awarded an honorary fellowship degree from the University of Central Lancaster for his contribution to business.

He receives invitations from around the world to the top venues to watch various sports, but his favourite is still the Reebok Stadium to cheer on the Super Whites.

They say fortune favours the brave. It certainly favoured Dave Singleton and the decision he made back in 1981.