AARON Collins is 90 minutes away from the Championship – but he can still recall the days when working at McDonalds was the only way to pay the bills.

The Welsh striker nearly slipped through the net at Newport’s academy as a 16-year-old after being passed over for a scholarship, forcing him to flip burgers whilst he waited to go to university.

It was only the arrival of Mike Flynn as the club’s youth coach which turned things around, and within a couple of years Championship Wolves had spotted his talents.

But the journey from Golden Arches to Wembley Arches still had a few bumps to run.

Collins recalled: “I didn’t get a scholarship and didn’t have a pro contract at the time.

“I took up a college role and needed to bring some money in. I had a moped at the time and needed to buy petrol. I couldn’t get back to train, otherwise, and I didn’t want to rely on my mum and dad.

“I went out and got a job at McDonalds because it was the first one that came up. I did it for three months and then the Under-18s coach at Newport got me involved in the scholars and the first team boss, who was Justin Edinburgh, then gave me a professional contract.

“I went to uni open days and I was ready to become a teacher. That was the life I thought I was destined for at the time because I thought my chance had gone.

“At the end of the day it is how hard you work. When people tell you that you are not good enough, you have to prove that you are.”

Collins never got his break at Molineux, spending his three seasons with the club on a succession of loan moves at Colchester, Maidstone, Newport, Tranmere and Notts County.

He rebuilt his career once again at Morecame, Forest Green and then Bristol Rovers – helping the latter to an amazing promotion on the last day of the season via a 7-0 win against Scunthorpe United.

He was voted League One’s player of the season a year later, paving the way for his £750,000 move to Wanderers at the very start of February.

To return to the Championship with his career back in full flow now motivates the 26-year-old, whose spectacular goals have been a feature of the run-in for the Whites.

“There are always people out there that you want to prove wrong. Sometimes you don’t get the chance, and that’s football,” he said.

“Sometimes they say you work from the bottom up, and I started at Newport, went to Wolves and didn’t get a chance, but then went back to the start in League Two to do it all again.

“I am thriving on the football I have played over the past two, three, four years, and it would be a pleasure to go and do it with this club in the Championship.”

Collins has forged an instant bond with the Bolton supporters, and along with Nathan Baxter, Paris Maghoma, Josh Sheehan, George Thomason and Cameron Jerome, has been namechecked in a song that has gone viral among the fanbase since the win at Barnsley in the play-off semi-final.

Sung to the tune of the Stone Roses classic Waterfall, the chant has become the soundtrack for the run-up to Wembley and Collins cannot wait to hear it amplified by a bumper crowd at the weekend.

He said: “I am really looking forward to Saturday and hopefully hearing 30,000-plus singing ‘Baxter’s at the back!’ “The atmosphere for the Barnsley game was phenomenal. I feel like it is only going to be better at Wembley.

“To come in and experience such a massive fanbase and then see they have got a song about me, it’s a pinch yourself moment, a great feeling. I can’t wait to hear it all again.”

Team-mate Jerome has also enjoyed the terrace score, which first came to prominence on a crucial Friday night win at Oakwell in the first leg.

“It is nice!” he said. “It is always nice to be appreciated and sung about, it is a quirky song and seems to have caught on quite well.

“It did make me giggle when I heard it the first time. Obviously, they are singing about a few of the boys and it gets all the fans going.

“The players certainly enjoy it as well.”