After 14 years and some 410 appearances for Bolton Wanderers across the old First Division, Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup, and UEFA Cup (now called the Europa League), Ricardo Gardner has returned to his native Jamaica. Even when he arrived with partially-bleached dreadlocks and bright yellow boots, the Bolton legend was still a relatively understated player.
For the Trotters, Ricardo Gardner was the sort of player where you didn't know just how good you had it until he was gone. The versatile left-sided player could take up a spot on the wing or at left back and do well at either one.
His goals for Bolton were relatively few and far between, totalling just 23 in a 14-year career with the Trotters but there are a few that will be remembered fondly among the Wanderers faithful. Among the most notable was the goal he scored in the old Division One Play-off Final that took Bolton to a 3-0 win over David Moyes' Preston North End and took the Trotters to the Premier League.
While that goal was the dagger in that match, it is not Bibi's most famous contribution for the Whites. That would come in 2007 as Bolton Wanderers travelled to the Allianz Arena to take on Bayern Munich in UEFA Cup action. The Trotters faced a tough task that would end in a famous 2-2 results for Wanderers and it was Ricardo Gardner's goal, his first in five years and the only one that season, that would open the scoring.
Unfortunately for Gardner, his career was stunted with a few long injury lay-offs, with his knee being the major culprit. It was that injury that would cut his Bolton stay short by six months, suffered in a 3-1 loss at Swansea last season.
Now, Bibi Gardner is on his way home to Jamaica with a somewhat unclear future ahead of him. Speaking in a lengthy interview on the club's official website (video below), Gardner explained that he may try to make something happen Stateside:
"I've been keeping myself healthy to prepare for what God has in store for me in the future," Gardner explained. "My family are happy that we are heading back to Jamaica, which makes me happy.
"I want to get the family settled as quickly as possible then I am maybe looking at doing a year in the MLS. Who knows, I might even come back here for another year or two? We will see what happens.
"I do [feel like a proper Boltonian]. It's home away from home for me. From the first day I came here everyone just made me feel so welcome, from Colin Todd to my team-mates and the fans.
Most MLS teams would be able to count themselves lucky should they be able to take advantage of Gardner's drive and wealth of experience. A 14-year long career in England (most of which was spent in the Premier League), experience in Europe, 112 caps for Jamaica, and a World Cup campaign under his belt should be enough to convince any potential suitors.
Gardner will be missed at Bolton but we certainly hope he finds a new club and soon. The 34-year-old still has a lot left to give.
If you have ten minutes to spare, do watch the interview.