YOU know you have achieved cult status at a football club when just a few strains of music have fans bouncing to the beat and chanting your name.

May 6, 2018 - the day Aaron Wilbraham was propelled from being a journeyman striker staring relegation in the face to the most popular person in Bolton, who need never buy a pint in the town again.

With one nod of the head, Wilbraham sparked scenes of celebration unparalleled in Wanderers’ recent history. Fans swarmed, grown men wept and for one glorious sunny afternoon, all finally seemed right in a world which had been so chaotic for so long.

That dramatic 3-2 victory against Nottingham Forest was enough secure safety at Burton Albion’s expense but it most definitely did not herald the bright new dawn many had hoped.

Bolton withered on the vine on Ken Anderson’s watch, slipping into administration and eventual relegation, enduring months of humiliating dissection by prying eyes.

Wilbraham, released just a couple of weeks after his memorable goal, extended a broad career down the road at tomorrow’s opponents Rochdale – and on the eve of his 40th birthday, prepares to set foot on the pitch for the first time since that glorious day.

“I was devastated when the club went down,” he told The Bolton News. “Even after I left I thought ‘right, go on, you’re in a good position now’. In my head that goal should have been a stepping stone to get Bolton up to where they should be – but to watch what happened was horrible. It still winds me up.”

Wilbraham needs no cajoling to recall detail of the goal, painting a vivid picture of a day that remains hazy in the mind of many, for one reason or another.

“Mark Howard’s kick, Karl Henry’s flick on, Alfie (Adam Le Fondre) cross and my header – we’d all left by the start of the next season,” he said.

“The whole thing went by like a dream, almost as if it happened to someone else at times. I must have been outside with fans for about two hours after the game and to this day people come up to me and say thanks – in the Trafford Centre, on holiday in Ibiza and Dubai, they all say it was one of the best days of their life. And I totally agree.

“I have purposely never come back to watch a Bolton game because I wanted to be on the pitch when I returned. I do actually still go to Jiggi’s salon at the Whites Hotel to get my beard trimmed every Friday but to walk back out there in front of the fans will be mad.

“I have got nothing but fond memories of Bolton and their supporters and that day… It was just incredible.”

Ironically, Wilbraham did not get paid for the goal that kept Wanderers in the Championship that day for quite some time.

"Ha, yes," he said. "I got the yellow card administration fee taken out of that month's wages because I got booked for whipping my top off but I didn't get the goal bonus until late August.

"I say that very tongue in cheek because it isn't the end of the world but there was a lot of messing about going on, even then."

Images of Wilbraham celebrating with fans who had swarmed the pitch after the final whistle will be preserved for eternity. And the man himself has some lasting mementoes of the occasion.

"The kit man managed to grab me the match ball, which was great," he said. "The lads all signed it and put nice messages on there. I think one or two of them were happy I'd guaranteed them an extra year on their contract.

"On my phone I have got three things saved. The first one is the tweet the club put out with my goal set to music from the Titanic.

"I've got another video of the Bolton Wanderers fans singing my song in a nightclub that night. I still watch that, it's great.

"Then I have got a voice message from David Wheater, who I think was absolutely steaming. It was from the Monday night - so he was still going. He was saying 'I'm sat in my living room watching your goal on replay and I can't believe it.'

"He was definitely happy I'd got him another year!"

And yet things could have been so different. Wilbraham had been on the fringes of the team to that stage, his biggest contribution an equaliser against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.

Supporters had questioned his value to the team at the age of 36, especially when he was picked ahead of the goalscorer supreme, Adam Le Fondre, for such a crucial game.

"I expected to play against Burton the previous week," he said. "I was a bit annoyed I didn't start that game and at half time there were fans on the pitch asking me why I wasn't in the starting 11.

"I said to my little girl and missus before the Forest game 'I bet I score the winner now' so it was like it had been written."

Fate may indeed have played a part, with Wilbraham revealing an extra motivation had spurred him in the second half.

"I lost my dad when I was 16 and my nan at about 30, she had been like a parent to me," he said. "I'd hit the bar in the first half, had one disallowed, gone close but at half time I was washing my face, looked in the mirror and said 'Nan, Dad, I need you.'

"I'm not religious. I'd like to think people are watching over you, but they came through."

The mere mention of Aaron Wilbraham usually provokes the same response among groups of Bolton fans – who set his name to a popular dance tune called “This Girl” which will never be heard in these parts the same again.

“It follows me around,” Wilbraham laughed. “The kit man at Bolton sent me a SnapChat earlier saying they were playing it at the training ground.

“I had my 40th birthday party last weekend in the international break, it fell nicely for old team-mates to come up and celebrate. We had it at the Etihad because I’m a City fan, with saxophonist, and when the DJ got me up on stage he ended up playing along with it.

“I had 180 people bouncing around and singing the song. It was great.”

Wilbraham has come up against Bolton once already this season, scoring in the 1-1 draw at Spotland in the Leasing.com Trophy, a game eventually decided by penalties.

“I got an unbelievable reception from the Bolton fans when they came to Rochdale. I can’t thank them enough for that. Out of respect when I scored, I didn’t celebrate, and I definitely wouldn’t if it happened again on Saturday.”

Although it was Keith Hill who initially took Wilbraham to Rochdale, he has found a new lease of life mentoring an enterprising young squad under Brian Barry-Murphy this season. And though his career began in the late nineties it shows no signs of slowing down some 669 appearances later.

“I’m enjoying it,” he said. “I’ve started the last four games and played Saturday-Tuesday the other week. I’ve even been playing on the wing a bit!

“This manager and Keith are very different people – I’d say the current one is calmer. But it’s clear there is a lot of respect between the two.

“We have played some good football this season. The manager has got a very young squad but makes sure the boys don’t worry about making mistakes. It’s a good balance.

“Everyone has their own way of doing things but Keith knows what he’s doing and I think he’ll do well for Bolton.”