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Happy Birthday Ricardo Gardner

Rob issues a warm happy birthday to one of his favourite ever Wanderers players

Happy birthday: Ricardo Gardner turns 37 today
Happy birthday: Ricardo Gardner turns 37 today
Getty Images/Getty Images

As a 15-year-old Bolton Wanderers fan I purchased our beautiful pale blue away kit (the one in the image above) and wisely chose to adorn the shirt with the name and number of my favourite player: Ricardo Gardner, 11.

Today marks the occasion of Ricardo's 37th birthday, and it seemed only apt to send him my heartfelt birthday wishes.

Ricardo, Bibi to his pals, remains my second favourite player I've ever seen pull on the famous Bolton jersey, only surpassed by the great man himself Jay-Jay Okocha. He was exactly the kind of player that our current squad sorely lacks - pacey, unpredictable, direct and brilliant, when he fancied it. Frankly, I'm amazed he didn't make Chris' Top 5 Foreign Imports article earlier this week.

Ricardo joined Bolton from Harbour View in his homeland after impressing for Jamaica at the 1998 World Cup. He became an instant fans' favourite, making his league debut as a substitute and scoring the winner in a 3-2 defeat of West Brom, after Gudni Bergsson had been sent off.

He scored three goals in that first season then established himself as a regular the following season before suffering a cruciate ligament injury - but came back to score an absolute wonder goal in the Play-Off Final to take us into the Premier League, which he describes as his best moment as a Bolton player.

Ricardo also scored in the famous UEFA Cup match at Bayern Munich, which was his first club goal in five years. At the time of leaving the club in 2012, he was the second longest serving player in the Premier League - only beaten by his Wanderers teammate Jussi Jaaskelainen.

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Ricardo made 409 appearances and scored 23 goals for Bolton in all competitions in his 14 seasons at the club, and made four appearances on loan at Preston in 2010/11. He represented Jamaica on 112 occasions, scoring nine times.

If you didn't already think Ricardo was a legend then read what he had to say about the club and the Bolton fans as he prepared to head back to Jamaica in 2013.

"I just want to send all my love and tell them thanks for all the years that they have supported me and for accepting me, since the first day I came to the football club and making me feel at home. I've been here for almost half of my life, so I look back and feel thankful and grateful for everything I achieved here."

You can watch Ricardo's departing video interview below.

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Away from football Ricardo also fancies himself as a musician and he's pretty decent, check out his video for 'Move To Your Goal' below.

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Happy Birthday Ricardo, you are a true Wanderers legend and hopefully we'll see you back at the club or in England in some capacity in the future.