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An honour & a privilege: When Bolton Wanderers signed Fernando Hierro

Fifteen years ago today, Bolton signed a legend of the game

Soccer - FA Barclays Premiership - Bolton Wanderers v Everton - Reebok Stadium Photo by Nigel French - EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images

“When I leave Bolton, I want them to remember me as a model professional”.

The words of the legendary Real Madrid and Spain defender Fernando Hierro after arriving at Bolton Wanderers.

It’s actually fifteen years ago today that Hierro arrived at The Reebok stadium on a free transfer from Qatari side Al-Rayyan SC. Then 36 years old, Hierro boasted a wealth of experience you didn’t need to remind anyone of.

Fernando Hierro Photo by Nick Potts - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

It was quite a rough start for Hierro at first. Just like his Spanish compatriot Ivan Campo, Hierro initially struggled as a centre back.

A few months in, reports had Hierro on a list alongside other players whom the club were trying to offlad. It seemed that it would be a sour end to a terrific career for the former Real captain.

Thankfully, that was not the case.

A move to midfield was a stroke of genius & at the end of the season, Hierro’s performances were vital to where Bolton were in the table. His distribution was second to none. He brought a calmness to Wanderers.

Though he was only at the club for one season, Hierro oozed class & performed to a standard that proved that even at the twilight of his career, he could still play at the highest level.

For the man who had already won everything at club level, you couldn’t have written a better ending to a stellar career.

Hierro’s standing ovation in the final game against Everton a fitting tribute to a legend of the game. We may be in one of the darkest periods of the clubs’ history, but at least we can look back with pride having seen the likes of Hierro, Jay-Jay Okocha, Gary Speed, Ivan Campo & Bruno N’Gotty take little ol’ Bolton Wanderers to Europe.

He may have only played thirty-five times, but Hierro remains one of the greatest and most popular players to ever play for the club.

Bolton Wanderers fell in love with Fernando Hierro & the feeling is still mutual all these years later.

We were a small team but within a generation of players with a lot of experience we managed to take a humble club to playing in European competition for the first time.

It’s something I will remember for the rest of my life.

My last match was in Bolton. The affection and respect of the people and my teammates, the way they treated me was extraordinary.”

Bolton Wanderers v Everton Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images