For a large generation of fans, they don’t know a David Wheater-less Bolton Wanderers.
After 236 games in eight & a half years, it has finally been confirmed that ‘Big Wheatz’ has left to go to League Two side Oldham Athletic.
For a brief moment, it looked as if Wheater would be staying, having spent the last couple of weeks training with the club & playing in the behind closed doors games against Al-Ittihad, Bradford City & Salford City.
When David Wheater arrived at The Reebok Stadium in 2011 from Middlesbrough, he was brought in as (eventual) replacement for Zat Knight. An England U21 international with a couple of senior call ups to his name, Wheater looked quite the bargain at £2.5 million.
In his first half season, Wheater’s largest contribution was an horrific free kick against Birmingham City in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. He tried to shoot from around forty yards out, hitting a Birmingham player right in front of him. However, the ball ricocheted to Paul Robinson, who floated a ball into the box towards the head of Kevin Davies, who teed up Chungy for that famous winner.
Wheater established himself in Wanderers’ starting line-up the season after, filling in the gap that Gary Cahill left when he departed for Chelsea.
The game against Blackburn Rovers at home was a fitting tribute to Fabrice Muamba, his first appearance since his devastating heart attack at White Hart Lane weeks prior. As a mosaic displayed ‘Muamba’ before kickoff in the stands, Wheater ensured the team won the game for Fab on the pitch with a memorable brace.
We all know that Wanderers’ relegation was partly sealed after letting a two goal lead slip against West Bromwich Albion in the penultimate game of the season. In the same game, Wheater ruptured his cruciate ligament and was ruled out for nine months.
His absence was felt, as The Whites initially struggled in The Championship.
As Bolton slipped into a state of mediocrity, so did Wheater.
When the relegation to League One occurred, Wheater’s contract was up. It seemed the right time for both parties to part ways.
The club needed a fresh start having had one of the worst seasons in recent memory & Wheater could have benefited from leaving, with a clean slate at another team.
Instead, Wheater returned in pre-season as a trialist, eager to prove he could still play a part in Wanderers, promotion campaign. After reducing his wage demands, Wheater signed a one year deal.
Thankfully for everyone, it worked out in the best way. His return was vindicated with easily his best season in a Wanderers shirt.
Forming a formidable partnership with Mark Beevers, the club only conceded 36 goals & Wanderers were of course promoted as runners up.
Having never been a prolific goalscorer, Wheater thrived as Bolton finally returned to being set piece specialists. He scored a career high nine goals, the most memorable of which was his towering header against Port Vale, which sent the travelling Whites fans into sheer pandemonium.
On this day last year, Wanderers beat Port Vale 2-0.— Lion of Vienna Suite (@LionOfViennaSte) April 22, 2018
What a fantastic day it was, especially when David Wheater's header gave Bolton the lead. Scenes.
Would love to see a repeat performance next week at Burton.#bwfc
(clip via GTFC_ 92Challenge) pic.twitter.com/pBJ8wzV2el
His prowess in defence and attack earned him a place in the League One PFA team of the season.
All Summer he was rumoured to have been spotted celebrating in Fanny’s or somewhere else around Bolton, singing Sweet Caroline as loud as he could.
Wheater then played a role as Wanderers stayed up in the dramatic fashion, scoring the equalising goal against Nottingham Forest before Aaron Wilbraham’s last gasp winner.
Last season was a disaster on and off the pitch. It’s a shame that his final appearances were completely disastrous, though it won’t overshadow how much he is appreciated by a large section of fans.
Nobody has played more for Bolton Wanderers this decade more than David Wheater. He has been the embodiment of everything good & bad in Wanderers’ recent history. From the lowest lows of relegation & adminstration to the highest highs of that promotion season, he has been here for all of it.
Maybe it’s the right time for Wheater & Bolton Wanderers to part ways for good.
But not many players will ever be as beloved as David Wheater is.
Thanks for the memories.