Aaron Thomas Wilbraham a.k.a Wilbrahimovic turned up at Bolton Wanderers with little fan fare to say the least. Bristol City were quite happy to see the back of an aging striker who had failed to hit his League One heights upon their return to the Championship and Bolton were desperate to sign anyone who would accept the club’s financial constraints.
Wilbraham kicked off his career at Stockport County where he made over 150 league appearances. He spent nearly a decade with the, now at least, National League North side from a youth player through to pro. In the 1997-96 season, when Wilbraham made his first team debut, Stockport were in the old First Division with their fall from grace starting during his time at the club with him leaving the club in the Second Division. From there he moved on to Hull City, who were also in the Second Division though it was rebranded that year to League One and was involved in their promotion to the Championship in 2004.
From there he moved onto MK Dons who were then in League Two. He played an important role in the run in to the end of the 2007-08 season as MK won the League Two title in a season when Wilbraham also won his first Football League Trophy. He continued to make an important goal scoring contribution the following season in League One and would spent 6 years with the club before moving onto pastures new.
His next club were Norwich City, who at the time were chasing promotion to the Premier League. When they won promotion, Wilbraham completed the set of Football League promotions. He scored his 100th goal the following season meaning that he had played and scored in all four professional English leagues, albeit he played nothing more than a bit part role through the season.
When his time at Norwich came to an end he moved onto Crystal Palace. While at the London outfit he clinched his second promotion in three years, completing the full 120 minutes of Palace’s successful play off final in which former Wanderers Dean Moxey, Owen Garven and Andre Moritz also featured. Those good old Dougie Freedman ‘I never sign players from my former clubs’ signings. He never really featured for Palace on their return to the top flight and moved on again at the end of the next season.
This time it was tonight’s opponents Bristol City who cam calling. That season Wilbraham was a man on fire in a Bristol City side that was bantering its way to the League One title and Football League Trophy double, which is a surprisingly rare achievement. Wilbraham would finish the season as the club’s top scorer as they racked up an impressive 96 league goals and 99 points. City would lose only seven games in all competitions ending the season with a characteristic 8-2 win.
The next season would be a more difficult one for City and Wilbraham, though he was still able to score in the Ashton Gate massacre when City trashed Bolton 6-0. His game time in the South West would dwindle further over the next year and he left the club by mutual consent rather than moving into more of a coaching role.
It was at this point he rocked up at Wanderers for an undisclosed fee, likely to be £0. He only scored two goals during his time in Horwich, but they were two of the most important goals of Bolton’s season. The first came at Hillborough as Bolton came from behind to pick up a point and the second was that goal against Nottingham Forest to pull off, surely, one of if not the greatest escape in the Football League’s 130-year history.
On leaving Bolton Wilbraham returned to League One with Rochdale who currently sit one place and one point above the final relegation places. He has scored once in 14 appearances, and it should be noted that it was a wonder goal.
He came in and played out most of his Bolton career as an unwanted figure and a symbol of Bolton’s recruitment problems. He ended his time with the club as a hero. It’s a funny old game football isn’t it? When interview during his time at Bolton he said he doesn’t mind the criticism, he is often not liked when he first joins a club but always leaves on good terms with the fans. I don’t think, even when saying that, he could possibly have guess on just how good a terms he would leave.