NOT many Wigan Athletic players get a standing ovation at the Macron Stadium but then Jussi Jaaskelainen isn’t any ordinary Latic.

On Saturday, the Big Finn was back on home turf for the first time since leaving Wanderers in 2012 – an exit which, looking back, perhaps did not receive the attention it deserved.

Fifteen years of service, in which he made 530 appearances and climbed to third on the club’s all-time appearance list, ended in rather nondescript circumstances for Jaaskelainen as Owen Coyle thrust Adam Bogdan into the number one position for the second half of the season.

That decision had been based on the knowledge Sam Allardyce wanted him back at West Ham, and sure enough, a reunion beckoned in the Premier League a few months later.

Last summer, and a few months past his 40th birthday, Jaaskelainen found himself a free agent once more. He was keen to return to the North West and put the feelers out at his former club about a return.

Neil Lennon had Ben Amos lined up as his number one but Phil Gartside refused to entertain the idea of Jaaskelainen returning as back-up despite an offer to take a huge cut in pay. Perhaps stung by his previous ‘defection’ to Allardyce, it was claimed at the time the chairman refused to return Jaaskelainen’s calls.

Forced to train on his own, Jaaskelainen brought in the help of old coach Fred Barber to conduct sessions in his own back yard.

An offer from Wigan materialised in August and though the lack of pre-season meant he made a slow start to life at the DW Stadium, he ended the promotion-winning campaign as first-choice keeper and earned another 12-month contract.

It worked out well in the end for Jaaskelainen but nevertheless there was still a tinge of regret in his voice as he spoke to The Bolton News after Saturday’s Legends game.

“I was 100 per cent ready to come back – but you’ll have to ask the people here why what didn’t happen,” Jaaskelainen said.

“My family has always been based here so I have travelled up and down (while with West Ham).

“It was disappointing when I came to the end of my time here because I wanted to play. The same thing happened with West Ham, so that’s why I took the opportunity at Wigan.

“All summer I was looking for a club but couldn’t really find anything. Once the season started Wigan came to me and I went there.

“I wanted a proper pre-season because it helps you get ready. It’s great now to be back in the area.

“That’s football, it doesn’t always work out as you’d like. But I have to admit I have been really happy with Wigan this season. It has been a great experience and you’re always learning in this game – that is what keeps me going.”

Jaaskelainen has maintained a strong interest in Wanderers’ affairs through his sons Will, who was handed a pro contract last season, and Emil, who has been in the under-15s. He hopes teenage keeper Will can keep the same focus on his training which has helped extend his own career into his forties.

“He’s got a long way to go and a year left on his pro contract,” he said. “He’s only a baby, 17. I only came here when I was 22 and started playing Premier League when I was 25 or 26, so as long as the club show patience, work with him and give him time that’s what I will be hoping for.

“That hard work when I was younger here is paying off now. I think I can say that now. I’m 41 and still playing.

“It is not as physically hard now but I know to do the right things and keep myself fit. I have got a year left on my contract at Wigan and maybe there’s another couple of years in me, you never know. We’ll get next season over with first.”

Wanderers will be in League One next season while Jaaskelainen hopes to keep his position as first-choice keeper for Wigan in the Championship, the level at which he signed in 1997 for Colin Todd.

As for the future? The 41-year-old is ruling nothing out.

“I would love to come back here and play against Bolton but things have happened and we are now in different divisions,” he said. “But you never know, maybe one day?

“It hurts to see Bolton like this. My two boys are still here and I obviously have a big connection to the football club.

“New owners can get it going again. It’ll be a lot of hard work but I hope the fans can get behind them and get the club back on track.”