HELPING Wanderers to promotion is a favour some 20 years in the making, says Matt Gilks.

The veteran keeper, whose impact in the first team after taking the gloves in November proved so profound, trained with the Whites in his teens alongside the great Jussi Jaaskelainen.

Gilks never signed for Bolton at the time – going on to forge a fine career with the likes of Rochdale, Blackpool and Rangers – but after helping the club to promotion in his first season as a player-coach, he felt he owed a debt to the schooling he received as a youngster.

“I have been going a long time and I am thankful I’ve had that longevity because a lot of people don’t,” he told The Bolton News.

“When I joined this club I said I was forever indebted to it because of what it had given me back when I was training with Fred Barber. I just hope I have paid a little bit back with what we have achieved.”

Gilks kept 16 clean sheets in 35 appearances this season, his steadying influence proving invaluable for Ian Evatt as he corrected Wanderers’ course post-January.

But the keeper admits he did not foresee just how different things would be in the second half of the campaign.

“I don’t think there was anyone as worried as I was – but, no, I never saw it ending up like this,” he said. “I am glad it did, though, it is incredible.

“Coming into the team the lads got a little bit more belief in January and gelled together, we got better and better, it was an amazing story.”

Wanderers produced the perfect response at Crawley after a defeat against Exeter looked to have put the skids under their promotion momentum.

“After the Exeter game I can honestly say for 45 minutes in the dressing room nobody moved,” Gilks reflected. “There wasn’t a sound out of anybody and it showed what it meant to the lads.

“It was a feeling we never ever wanted again and we knew we would leave everything on this pitch. It would have taken a very good team to beat us today because of what we brought. We were going to leave everything on that pitch regardless of who we were playing against.”