JACK Iredale’s inspirational journey to Wanderers has taken him around the world and through the pain barrier more than once.

The defender, who completed his move to the UniBol today to become Ian Evatt’s first signing of the summer, has experienced more adversity than most in pursuit of his dream of being a professional footballer.

Diagnosed with type one diabetes at 13, he then suffered an agonising THREE cruciate ligament injuries before his 20th birthday growing up in, Australia and making his way through the famed Institute of Sport.

But despite setbacks that may have stopped others in their tracks, Iredale has refused to allow them to dictate his narrative and he not only manages his condition but has stayed injury free for the last six years on a journey from Greenock Morton to Cambridge United, eventually becoming one of this summer’s most sought-after free agents.

Iredale was cut from sporting cloth – his father Paul a schools rugby player with England and his Scotland-born mother Fiona an Olympic judo quarter-finalist and Commonwealth bronze medallist, representing New Zealand.

He moved away from Scotland before his first birthday and grew up in Hamilton on the North Island of New Zealand, a rugby stronghold.

“There were six of us at lunch time that would just play football – everyone else had a rugby ball,” Iredale explained to the Cambridge News.

“I went home one day aged six and said to my mum that the local team was having soccer try-outs and I wanted to go and play.

“My mum had no idea that I played, she just thought I would be useless at it really but I wanted to play football and she wasn’t going to stop that, so she took me down.

“I was half-decent, and from then on I just stuck at it.”

In 2012 he was offered a scholarship at the AIS, which involved moving away from home and living with a foster family in Canberra.

He won youth caps with Australia and captained his country in World Cup qualifying games but would find his progress halted by a succession of serious injuries.

Two successive ACL tears left him out of football for 22 months and shortly after returning to Perth he suffered a third playing against Newcastle.

A career-changing moment was offered by doctors at the time which involved a new type of surgery which had been used on ex-Chelsea and Ghana midfielder Michael Essien.

He returned after a 15-month rehab to play for Perth Glory’s first team but knew he was playing catch-up and would have to move to Europe for the best possible opportunity to progress. A trial offer from St Mirren in Scotland convinced him to quit his job in a sports shop and leave for the UK – and though the Paisley club did not offer a deal, Morton had been sufficiently impressed during a friendly to take him to the town of his mother’s birth.

Over two years at Cappielow Park he enhanced his reputation as an attacking left-sided defender with an eye for spectacular goals and moved to Carlisle United in League Two.

One season later he switched to Cambridge United and helped Mark Bonner’s side to promotion ahead of Bolton, even having a hand in the U’s goal in a 1-1 draw at the Abbey Stadium which left keeper Billy Crellin with egg on his face.

This season, Iredale has played as a left-back, a wing-back, in midfield and as a left-sided centre-half, playing a crucial role in what proved another hugely positive season. And that was enough to catch Wanderers’ eye, with Evatt reportedly beating a couple of Championship sides to his signature.

The Bolton News:

Iredale has also been vocal about playing professional sport as a diabetic, raising awareness of how the condition can be managed perfectly well to continue a normal life.

While he checks his blood sugar levels several times a day – or more before a game – and tries to stay in control by maintaining a routine on pre-match meals, he joked the only time it had caused him an issue was when he team-mates stole his stash of jelly beans from the dressing room.

Otherwise, like Hibernian’s Scott Allan, or Stevenage full-back Ben Coker, Iredale believes there is no reason why his football trajectory cannot continue to climb.

“I never thought that my diabetes was something that was going to affect me,” he said.

“People should not have a different opinion of me because I am diabetic, it just gives me something extra to think about.

“To be honest, getting to the professional level, I was prouder about getting over the three ACLs.

“Being diabetic is something I’m proud of and I hope I can inspire people, especially the younger kids who are maybe having a hard time in school or football and thinking maybe they can’t get there.

“I keep a bottle of Lucozade by the pitch in training and once in a while I might say ‘gaffer, my sugars are low I need a drink’. Thirty seconds and I am back on the pitch.

“During a game I’ll give a bottle to the physio and he knows that if I go down it’s probably because I’ll have a drink rather than there be anything really up with me.

“I have spoken to parents of kids who say their son or daughter is struggling and is there anything I can say and that’s the message I give them: If you don’t want this to affect you negatively, it won’t. You just have to control it and you’ll be absolutely fine. When you are on top of it there’s nothing stopping you getting to where you want to be.

“I am happy every day to go out and train and that’s because it was so nearly taken away from me.”