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Respecting a legend

Bolton Wanderers v Queens Park Rangers - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images

Lofthouse, no name is higher. But for a lad who grew up in the 1990s watching Bolton Wanderers, John McGinlay comes desperately close to the mantle held by Our Nat.

Lofthouse was a Bolton lad born and bred, one of few “one club men” immortalised in English football. Averaging a goal every other game over a 14 year period, the Lion of Vienna will forever stand above all others as Mr Bolton Wanderers.

Which is why I beg you to treat his statue with respect. Nat’s statue represents all that is good about our fine club. Please do not tarnish it by climbing on it and swearing at a man who embodies our misfortune. Nat deserves better. We meet at Nat’s statue because it is our Mecca, the symbolic heart of the stadium. You do us all a great disservice when you use our town’s greatest son as a climbing frame.

McGinlay’s footballing past is very different, but his destination in Wanderers history similarly secured. Born in Inverness, and a journeyman of British football, Super John arrived at Bruce Rioch’s Bolton Wanderers with little reputation to speak of. Little did he, or Bruce, or anyone know, was that McGinlay was about to fill a crucial role in the Rioch Revolution. He’d consistently scored goals in the lower leagues at Yeovil Town, Shrewsbury and Millwall, but his 101 goals in 192 appearances for The Trotters would write him into Bolton Wanderers folklore for generations.

Ask McGinlay to roll up his shirt sleeves, and he’ll show you what Bolton Wanderers means to him. So often we hear football players declare their “love” for a club. Very few ink the crest of their employers into their skin. McGinlay didn’t just score goals at Burnden Park: he settled down, formed a family, adopted Bolton as his home and became an honorary Boltonian.

I met John McGinlay once, on a Sunday night in town. We had been celebrating winning the Bolton Sunday League title. Somewhere between belting out “We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off” on karaoke and sinking a fair few Jägermeisters, a teammate said “don’t look now, but John McGinlay is behind you”. I looked. My hero, there in the flesh. Nineteen years after writing him a tear-stained letter, begging him not to go to Bradford City, I got to meet the man who wore number 10, scored goals every Saturday at Burnden Park, and made me fall in love with my team.

They say never meet your heroes. I say bollocks. He was the perfect gent. He took interest in my sycophantic stories of worshipping his name in my youth, probed us on our league win, and even bought us a round of beers. His friends laughed: “this happens every Sunday, he only comes into town for this!” one told me.

So when Super John McGinlay tells me it’s Tuesday, it’s Tuesday. When he tells me that he loves this town, he loves this town. When he tells me he’s protesting, I protest right beside him.

John McGinlay should have a red carpet rolled out for him whenever he graces The Macron with his presence, not banished from his reporting duties at BBC Radio Manchester for expressing his dismay at our plight. He speaks out because he cares, because he’s one of us. When the club hierarchy locks its doors to a club legend, it loses my respect.

Tonight. 7pm. Nat’s statue. Enough is enough.