WHEN 13-year-old Bolton Wanderers fan Ollie Aspden put pen to paper to write about the best day of his life, little did he know another one would be just around the corner.

The Sharples School pupil had composed a piece for his English class describing Aaron Wilbraham’s memorable late winner against Nottingham Forest in May 2018, which saved his beloved club from relegation.

When Ollie’s teacher and fellow Whites supporter, Damon Hesford, put his work out on social media, hundreds of the UniBol faithful gave his efforts a thumbs up.

But further afield, Wilbraham – now working as assistant manager at Shrewsbury Town – was made aware of the story and was determined to reward his creativity.

On Thursday lunchtime, Ollie was surprised at school by Wilbraham – known to everyone as ‘Albi’ – who gave him the signed match-worn shirt from that famous day in Wanderers’ history.

“I went to the match with my grandad,” Ollie told The Bolton News. “I was on the pitch celebrating afterwards and it was a moment I’ll never forget. When that goal went in, it seemed to go in slow motion.

MEMORABLE MOMENT: Aaron Wilbraham celebrates his now iconic goal against Nottingham Forest

MEMORABLE MOMENT: Aaron Wilbraham celebrates his now iconic goal against Nottingham Forest

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing when I walked into the room and he was standing there.

“I didn’t really know what to say but I am going to frame the shirt. It’s incredible.”

Ollie’s teacher felt the story had deserved a bigger audience, especially as it had tapped into his own passion for the club.

“Let’s face it, the whole day could have been a work of fiction the way it panned out,” he told us.

“As part of the second year assessment we’d asked Year 8 to write a story about a memorable day and normally I’d ask them not to write about football but Ollie clearly ignored me.

“When I put it up on Twitter the response was amazing. Ollie actually came in last week complaining that it had been on social media.

“I apologised but at that age, kids tend to get embarrassed about everything, don’t they?

“At that point the plan had been for the club to get Albi to sign it, which would in itself have been fantastic, but then I got a text from Paul Holliday (Bolton’s media chief) saying that Albi had seen the tweet and that he wanted to come and actually do it himself.”

Keeping the visit a secret and getting Ollie into the room unaware of what was happening was no mean feat.

“It couldn’t have gone better,” he said. “We had to be a bit crafty.

“We obviously told his mum what was happening and she kept it strictly under wraps superbly.

“To get him into the room at lunchtime, though, we had to take him out of an art class with the excuse that he had to isolate for Covid. He thought his half-term was over at that point.

Surprise for Ollie Aspden as he meets Aaron Wilbraham at school. Picture: Harry McGuire

Surprise for Ollie Aspden as he meets Aaron Wilbraham at school. Picture: Harry McGuire

“When we walked in the room Albi was actually stood behind the door, so he had no clue whatsoever until he turned around. His chin hit the floor.”

School life has not been easy for pupils up and down the country in the last 18 months, thanks to the disruption caused by Covid-19.

Locally, times have been even tougher, and continue to this day.

“With everything that has gone on, all the school that pupils have missed during the pandemic, this term has been tough – and it was a perfect pick-me-up for everyone, myself included,” he said.

“Let’s be honest, it has been rubbish for years at Bolton and that goal was probably the best moment of the whole decade.

“I have watched Bolton in the Premier League, in Europe, but that was the one time I cried.

“I know he has moved on and works at Shrewsbury now but for people like Albi to still have connections at Bolton, and for them to put him in touch so this could happen means a lot.

“This is the type of club the town needs.”

Wilbraham is recharging his batteries after a season at Shrewsbury in which he stepped in for manager Steve Cotterill when he fell ill with Covid.

The former striker, now 41, was happy to give his prized shirt a good home.

“I felt a bit sorry for him because he got dragged out of a lesson, told he’d been near a positive Covid case and he’d have to isolate for the whole holiday,” he said.

“When he came into the room he was like ‘oh my God!’ And he walked back out again, all flustered.

“It felt nice to be able to do something like that.

“I’d heard about it from Ollie Norburn, who is our captain at Shrewsbury and a Bolton lad, and also from our local reporter, Lewis Cox, who is at the Shropshire Star.

“I put it on our family group chat and my sister thought it was lovely.

“I’ve always liked to try and surprise people like that. It was the only shirt I have from that day as well, so I hope he takes good care of it.

“Just with everything at the moment, people are finding it tough.

“There is a lot of bad stuff out there on social media and how it is seen in football, so I wanted to highlight there are good things as well.

“His teacher tweeting the picture of his work got a bit of attention, got to me, and I was able to do something for him.

“People know what that day meant to me. I’ll never forget it, and I love the fact a young fan can look back and point to that as being the best day of his life too.”

Ollie Aspden, with signed shirt. Picture: Harry McGuire

Ollie Aspden, with signed shirt. Picture: Harry McGuire

Ollie's work that got Albi's attention

May 6, 2018 was the best day of my life: the day Bolton Wanderers stayed in the Championship.

It was a lovely bank holiday weekend, that could either become an amazing weekend or a depressing weekend. It all depended on what happened on the Sunday afternoon.

I woke up nice and early, excited for the big day. By the time we had set off to the match, the sun was out and it was absolutely boiling. We arrived at the ground at around 11.30 (one hour before kick-off) bought the programme and went through the turnstiles.

When I was inside it was very quiet with not many people there. Then as time went on the stadium was filling up rapidly. As kick-off was approaching the nerves were building up. My heart was beating out of my chest.

In the first half there wasn’t much happening, just end-to-end stuff. Bolton did score but it was ruled out by the linesman.

Around the 60th minute, Adam Le Fondre came on the pitch and after being on the pitch for five minutes he scored. The Bolton Wanderers fans were going absolutely crazy, all chanting ‘we are staying up!’.

We were all silenced soon after as Nottingham Forest found the net. Soon after that Forest scored again then the sounds that could be heard were the Forest fans in the top tier and the sound of seats closing as fans started to walk out.

With three minutes to go Bolton found an equaliser, a very scrappy goal scored by David Wheater. Craig Noone picked the ball from in the net and sprinted and put it back on the centre circle. All the fans that walked away started walking back up to the stand.

Bolton were pressing onto the ball and the fans could tell the players wanted it.

In the 88th minute Bolton keeper Mark Howard got the ball and smashed it up the pitch.

Luckily Adam Le Fondre found the ball and ran down the right-hand side, put a beautiful ball into the box that found the diving head of Aaron Wilbraham who placed it into the bottom corner.

I’ve never heard something so loud when the ball hit the back of the net and everyone was so shocked that we had pulled it back.

All they had to do was hold on for five or so minutes. I don’t remember anything from the last five minutes as I was sat there crying tears of joy.

As soon as the final whistle went thousands of people ran onto the pitch all singing.

It was unbelievable running round on that pitch. Everyone was so shocked and confused how we had done it.

Bolton Wanderers were staying in the Championship.

All the players were walking round with the fans. After watching the players that day it was unreal how we were ever down at the bottom of the table that day.

Bolton Wanderers fans celebrate at the end of todays match Photographer Rachel Holborn/CameraSport The EFL Sky Bet Championship - Bolton Wanderers v Nottingham Forest - Sunday 6th May 2018 - Macron Stadium - Bolton World Copyright © 2018

Bolton Wanderers fans celebrate the Forest drama