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The Quentin X File - What's in a Number - 6

Central. Defence?

Aston Villa v Bolton Wanderers Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

The number six. Usually the shirt of the big central defender and captain. The leader from the back. Don't mess with him or you'll find yourself in the stand. Yeah?

Well, when it comes to Bolton Wanderers, no actually. Alright, some wearers of the shirt have appeared in the centre of defence, but the majority have been more forward in the team, holding the central of midfield and trying to dictate the game around them. However, the first holder of the shirt fit into the stereotype.

1995-1996 - Alan Stubbs

Now, say what you like about Stubbs, and many have, but in his defence he played more games for Bolton than he did for any other team he played for. Yes, he agitated for a move when his star rose, but he isn't alone in doing that in the history of modern football and the papers were making two and two equal five when Bruce Rioch jumped to Arsenal, making out that Stubbs and Jason McAteer were prime targets for our old boss. In the end, neither ended up there, which shows you what papers know, but you can see why Stubbs head was turned.

After we returned from whence we had come, Stubbs was sold to Celtic, where he won two league medals (yes, so could your Granny if she played for them) before two terms at Everton and two relegations, first at Sunderland, then at Derby, both of whom went down with the lowest points gained in a Premier League season.

After a spell coaching at Everton, he became manager of Hibs, where he won the Scottish Cup, and then Rotherham, where he lasted all of five months.

1997-1998 - Chris Fairclough

Fairclough had previously played in the number twenty one shirt in our first season in the Premiership and was given number six in our second attempt. Already thirty one when he joined, he racked up ninety league appearances over three years, suffering two relegations and one promotion. Released at the end of the 97-98 season he journeyed to Notts County and York before retiring in 2001.

1999 - Andy Todd

Todd, the son of manager Colin, had originally joined in 1995 and had played in the number twenty three in our first season in the league and seventeen in our second. Given the number six shirt, he didn't see the year out after a training ground "altercation" with Phil Brown which saw the perma-tanned one end up with a broken jaw soon after Todd's father had left the club. The story goes that, at a team bonding session soon after Big Sam's arrival, Todd and Brown squared off in the toilets after sinking a few and, in the days when such things were allowed in toilets, an ashtray was used to end the argument. A quick call later, and Todd was on his way to Charlton.

This incident was, undoubtedly, the pinnacle of Todd's career as, following Charlton, he ended up at Blackburn, Burnley, Derby, Northampton, Perth (Australia, not Scotland), Oldham and Hereford before finishing his career at Armadale. No, not the Arndale. Armadale, who are also in Australia.

A career in coaching beckoned and he has been at Linfield and Newport and is currently coaching at the car crash that is Blackpool.

2000 - Mark Fish

The next player to wear the shirt was Mark Fish and he was another one who quickly vacated shirt and club. Signed from Lazio in 1997 for £2million, he wasn't able to stop Bolton's quick second return to the second tier, wearing twenty one that season and then seventeen when squad numbers came to Division One. His performances for the club meant suitors would come calling and "Feesh" was sold to Charlton in November 2000 for £750K. Proving that balancing books wasn't a big thing back then either. He spent a further five years at The Valley before retiring back to South Africa.

2001-2003 - Paul Warhurst

I've already dealt with Warhurst under number five. Suffice to say, he looked as much like he'd been dragged through a hedge wearing number six as he did wearing number five.

2003-2004 - Youri Djorkaeff

I think we can all say our gasters were flabbered when Le God signed for the club halfway through the 2001-02 season. But as he spent more seasons wearing unlucky number thirteen, I'll look at him there.

2004-2008 - Gary Speed

If you sat me down, poked me with sticks and asked me who I thought Big Sam's best ever signing was, I'd give you your Anelkas, your SKDs, your Le Gods and your Dioufs and point you at Gary Speed. Bought from Newcastle for £750K, when Big Sam became manager there, some fans didn't want him purely because he stole Gary Speed from them. Amazingly he was already thirty four and whichever idiot was in charge at St James' Park at the time (...............what? Bobby Robson? You are taking the piss my friend) would surely get sacked early doors the next season. And he did. There can be little said about Gary Speed's time at The Reebok that wouldn't bring a smile to one's face, up until Big Sam leaving, Little Sam and then Megson taking over and Speed being shunted off tout de suite to Sheffield United, his last professional club and his first managerial position.

I was in New York just before Christmas in 2005 when Bolton beat Everton 4-0 at Goodison Park. Speed scored a penalty. I woke up after a heavy night on the tiles to be greeted by this score and the sight of Gary Speed celebrating his goal like any other, even though he had spent a couple of years at Everton. Not for him the "no celebrating". He was a professional and he would celebrate any goal that he scored, regardless of the opposition. That's what would have made him a fantastic manager. Be blowed to courtesy during the game, we can all make up after it.

Whatever demons drove him to commit suicide we'll never know. Depression hits people differently and can come on you quickly. Amazingly, it is almost six years since he died. Regardless, if you are looking for a player who encapsulated the good times at Bolton Wanderers, you should look no further than Gary Speed.

2008-2012 - Fabrice Muamba

He was a funny bastard wasn't he, that Gary Megson. Once in a while, he and his scouting team would come up with a player that could actually make a difference. And for most of his time at the club, that is what Fabrice Muamba did.

I'm always a bit reticent about players who are signed from clubs that have just been relegated from our division. Surely we should be looking at players who have been proven to make a difference rather than ones that have capitulated. And when I saw the price tag of £5million I wondered if Megson had his head screwed on right. Well, he didn't but that's another story.

Muamba had good days and bad days but whenever he wasn't in the side, there was always a clamour for him to be brought back in and he allowed players like Mark Davies and Stuart Holden to move forward.

What happened to him at White Hart Lane is well documented and the main thing is that he is alive and well and able to tell the tale. We've seen recently with Cheick Tioté how horribly wrong it can go when seemingly fit young men suddenly collapse. Muamba's survival is down to the quick thinking of all the doctors at White Hart Lane, even the ones in the stand. We'll never know if his absence during that relegation season would have made a difference. But I bet you it would have.

Having said that, we'd probably be in a bigger shit hole financially if he had. So, every cloud eh?

2013-2015 - Jay Spearing

Muamba didn't announce his retirement until the following August, by which time the squad numbers had been registered and no new signing took it after. The next player was Spearing and as he now plays in number eight, I'll have a look at him.

2015 - Josh Vela

King of Twitter, Vela has previously played in fourty four and twenty five, but it was his elevation to automatic starter, and Spearing's move to number eight, that made him the current holder of number six. Next year will mark his tenth year at the club, which I guess makes him our longest serving player now that Sparky has moved on.

Let's not beat around any bush, he can be bloody frustrating at times, letting games pass him by if he's played in the wrong position. But play him where he should play, and he can turn games and has got a fantastic goal or two in him. There was the possibility of him leaving in January but with the sale of Zach Clough, this became less of a necessity. It will be interesting to see what will happen if we need money come New Year. But that's for another day.

So, there we have number six. Tune in next time for the number seven shirt and Bulent Akin. Yes, Bulent Akin.