JAY Spearing is determined to get one-up on pal Stephen Darby at the Macron, even though he’s struggling on the fairway.

The two former Liverpool prodigies, who grew up together at Anfield and helped the club to two FA Youth Cups in 2006 and 2007 go up against each other for the first time in their professional careers tomorrow.

Rivalries have been stoked up between Bolton and Bradford since Phil Parkinson quit Valley Parade in the summer to take charge at Wanderers. And while things might be friendly again between the golf buddies on the course next week, Spearing insists his only drive on Saturday is to get Bolton back to winning ways.

“There’s a lot riding on this – it feels like a really big occasion,” he told The Bolton News.

“Bradford are a big club in League One and I hear they will be bringing a big away following. With it being the gaffer’s old club they will be desperate to put one over on him.

“We have to back him and make sure we’re the ones coming out with the result.

“It’ll be the first time I’ve ever played against Stephen since we left Liverpool but he’s a good mate. I’ve always kept in touch with him, wherever he’s been.

“We play a bit of golf together too. He’s steadier than I am, my game’s a bit wild, so I suppose I’d have to say he’s the better golfer. But we both know it changes on Saturday afternoon on the pitch. It’s serious then.”

Spearing was forced to watch his team-mates lose their unbeaten record on the television in Merseyside last weekend after receiving a one-match suspension.

Some have questioned whether the recent sense of injustice about refereeing decisions has taken the edge off Wanderers’ mentality in the last few weeks. But Spearing reckons the Walsall defeat will not trigger a slide down the table.

“I was in training on Saturday morning but from what the lads have told me the goalkeeper has a class game and that he was the difference,” he said. “I went to my nan’s in the afternoon and watched the little highlights coming in on Soccer Saturday.

“There has been a bit of talk about decisions after the game, a bit of moaning but I don’t think we have let it get us down at all.

“We know we’re doing the right things because we’re creating chances and playing some decent stuff at the moment. Yes, we’re a little bit frustrated that we’ve not been able to get the goals that our football has deserved but we’re not going to let that affect us.”

Spearing’s suspension came as a result of a yellow card – his fifth of the season – issued for arguing against a penalty awarded by referee Trevor Kettle in the 1-1 draw with MK Dons.

Replays show the midfielder had a point, and while he accepts the blame for leaving his manager a man down at Walsall last weekend, he does feel there should be better on-field communication between the players and the officials.

“I think, as captain, you should be able to talk to referees but there seems to be no middle ground,” he said. “The last yellow card was harsh to say the least. But I take full responsibility and it’s all on me. I have to learn from that.”