It’s no secret that Bolton have not had the best goalkeepers in recent years. A conveyor belt of stoppers have vied for the coveted number one spot at the club. Since relegation from the Championship, we have had the battle between Lonergan and Bogdan, and more recently, Ben Alnwick, Mark Howard and the current number one, Remi Matthews. Having said that, we’ve looked back on arguably the best shot stopper Wanderers have had, particularly in the modern era, and a fan favourite, despite never having number one on his back. That is of course, Jussi Jääskeläinen.
The big Finn. A nightmare for shirt printers and an expensive name to have on the back of your jersey, especially if you were paying by the letter. Jussi Jääskeläinen holds the appearance record for a goalkeeper at the club and was the first name on the team sheet for many, many years at the Reebok Stadium.
Having signed for Colin Todd’s side in 1997 for just £100,000, after fifteen years of service to the Trotters, this signing would turn out to be one of the biggest bargains the club has seen. Jussi pulled on the Wanderers shirt a whopping 530 times in all competitions, including friendlies and his all important testimonial against Hibernian.
We’ve picked out two moments from Jussi’s tenure at Bolton, that really summed up how reliable he was between the sticks.
The double penalty save against Blackburn at Ewood Park. Having saved Benni McCarthy’s penalty to his bottom-left, Rovers tried to outwit the Finnish international by changing the taker for their second bite at the cherry. Up stepped Jason Roberts who went the same way, and got the same result meaning Wanderers came away with the 1-0 win.
The double-save at Old Trafford is also one that sticks out in the memory. When Paul Scholes found himself in space just inside of the area, Jussi’s reaction save could only palm it into the path of Andy Cole. Jaaskelainen instantly readjusted, pushing himself off the turf and leaping to stop Cole’s shot exquisitely! Bolton would go on to record a famous victory that day, beating United 2-1 thanks to a Michael Ricketts winner, six minutes from time.
It’s fair to say that the club is currently missing someone of Jussi Jääskeläinen’s calibre, and have done for some time. Ali Al Habsi looked set to be his long term replacement before leaving for Wigan but it wasn’t to be and since then we have lacked security in the position somewhat and potentially won’t have that for a while. However, whoever does take the jersey, be it Matthews, Alexander or a newcomer, they will always have big gloves to fill.