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Bolton vs Preston: Played for Both Clubs - Ricardo Gardner

A look at the career of former Bolton and Preston player, Ricardo Gardner.

Gardner celebrates with Simon Charlton after scoring in the 3-0 win against Preston in the Play-Off final in 2001.
Gardner celebrates with Simon Charlton after scoring in the 3-0 win against Preston in the Play-Off final in 2001.
Michael Steele/Getty Images

Ahead of this weekend's game, we take a look at the career of former Preston North End player and Bolton Wanderers legend, Ricardo Gardner.

Ricardo 'Bibi' Gardner, born 25th September 1978 in Saint Andrew Jamaica, began his career with Jamaican side Harbour View, where he played 10 times, scoring 2 goals. Whilst playing in his homeland, Gardner made his debut for the Jamaican national side.

After helping Jamaica win the 1998 Caribbean Cup, Gardner went on to play for The Reggae Boyz at the 1998 World Cup in France. It was the first time Jamaica had qualified for the tournament and remains to this day their only appearance at a World Cup. Gardner played and started in all three of Jamaica's games against Argentina, Croatia and Japan. Jamaica finished 3rd and missed out on qualifying for the next round at the expense of Argentina and Croatia.

Bibi's individual performances for Jamaica during the 1998 World Cup attracted the attention of English First Division side Bolton Wanderers, who offered Harbour View £1 million for his services. Bolton had just been relegated (unjustly) from the Premier League, and Gardner joined a strong team with players such as Claus Jensesn, Per Frandsen, Gudni Bergsson, Scott Sellars and Dean Holdsworth.

Ricardo made his Bolton debut on the 25th August 1998, coming on as a substitute in a 3-0 win at Hartlepool United in the League Cup. Bibi made his league debut at West Bromwich Albion on the 8th September, again coming on as a substitute to score a late winner in a 3-2 victory for the Whites.

In his first season at the Reebok, Gardner helped Bolton reach the Play-Off final, only to see the Whites lose 2-0 against Watford FC at Wembley.

The season after, the 1999/2000 season, was the best personally for Gardner. Bibi hit six goals in all competitions as Bolton reached the Semi-Finals of the FA Cup, the League Cup and the Play-Offs, losing to Aston Villa, Tranmere Rovers and Ipswich Town (fucking Barry Knight) respectively.

In 2001, after three years away from the Premier League, Bolton were finally promoted back to the Top Flight after thumping Preston North End 3-0 at the Millennium Stadium in the Play-Off Final. Bibi scored a brilliant solo goal to ensure the Wanderers fans went home jubilant.

After promotion to the Premier League, Gardner was part of the 'Golden Era' Bolton Wanderers. With Big Sam in charge and players such as Youri Djorkaeff, Jay-Jay Okocha and Ivan Campo, Bolton were becoming a force to be reckoned with.

Gardner, despite several injury problems, was a key part of this Bolton side. After four years in the Premier League, Gardner helped Bolton finish 6th, ensuring the Whites qualified for Europe for the first time in the club's history. Bibi would go on to play eleven times for Bolton in the UEFA cup over two spells, including the Trotters' first game in Europe, a 2-1 home win against Bulgarian side Lokomotiv Plovdiv.

Another great European memory came at the Allianz Arena in November 2007. Bolton drew 2-2 against German giants Bayern Munich, with Gardner opening the scoring in the match, firing a shot past legendary keeper Oliver Kahn. The goal was also Gardner's first for Bolton for nearly five years, as he hadn't scored since firing a brilliant free kick in a 4-3 win over Newcastle United back in December 2002.

From the 2008/2009 season onwards, Gardner was moved from left back/ left wing into the centre of midfield. It was also the season when Bibi had his best scoring run in the Premier League, finding the net four times in 29 games.

Gardner's final couple of years were plagued by injuries. In the 2010/2011 season, Gardner was loaned to Championship side Preston North End, managed by former Wanderer Phil Brown. After making his debut against Leeds United, Gardner went on to play four times for the Lilywhites before returning to Bolton.

On his return, Gardner played his 400th game for Bolton against Fulham in April 2011. At the end of the 2010/2011 season, Gardner turned down a move to West Ham United to stay at Bolton a further year. Sadly, Gardner would only play six more times for Bolton before leaving in 2012.

In total for Bolton, Ricardo Gardner scored 23 goals in 409 games. He is the 2nd longest serving Premier League foreign player (Jussi's 1st).

Gardner returned to his homeland of Jamaica in 2013 after living in England for 15 years.

Currently, Gardner has moved into coaching in Jamaica.

The word 'legend' is used too much, but when it comes to a player like Ricardo Gardner, there isn't a better word to describe him.

And Ricardo, if you're reading this, please come back and have your testimonial at the Reebok!