MY LIT­TLE GIRL CAN DRY THE TEARS... Dad’s com­ing home

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

NEW Bolton striker Aaron Wil­bra­ham says mov­ing to the Macron left his over­joyed daugh­ter in tears.

Ash­lee, 11, hasn’t seen her dad reg­u­larly for three years af­ter he made the ag­o­nis­ing de­ci­sion to leave her and wife De­bra be­hind in Manch­ester when he joined Bris­tol City in 2014.

And the 37-year-old couldn’t wait to tell her that an of­fer from Phil Parkinson spelled the end of teary good­byes and guilt-rid­den drives down the M5.

“When I joined Bris­tol, my lit­tle girl had been through four pri­mary schools,” ex­plains the former Crys­tal Palace, Nor­wich and Hull striker.

“That was the hard­est thing for me ev­ery time I left a club – tak­ing her away from a load of school mates who she’d made re­ally good friends with. It was heart­break­ing. She was set­tled in Manch­ester. So was my wife. I didn’t want to up­root her again, so I de­cided I’d move to Bris­tol and come back on my days off.

“It was only for a year and plenty of peo­ple I’d played with had man­aged it. Only it wasn’t a year. I had the best scor­ing sea­son of my ca­reer, won the league, got of­fered a new con­tract.

“Sud­denly, I was away two years. The fol­low­ing sea­son, I had a clause say­ing I had to play 33 league games. I hit that, so I got an­other one.

“I used to wind my wife up, say­ing ‘I’m a much bet­ter player when I’m not liv­ing with you!’ She knew I didn’t mean it, though.

“I’d go back home to visit and my lit­tle girl would be fine all day. She un­der­stands I have to pay the bills and she’d try to put a brave face on it.

“But then we’d have a hug when I left and she’d start get­ting tearyeyed. I’d drive all the way back to Bris­tol feel­ing aw­ful.

“In the end, get­ting closer to them again was the most im­por­tant thing, so when Bolton came in it was per­fect.

“Ash­lee’s on a cruise at the minute with my wife and her par­ents. I rang her to say I was a Bolton player and she couldn’t even speak. She was cry­ing that much.”

Wil­bra­ham, who scored 30 goals in 111 games for City, says Parkinson’s abil­ity to see be­yond his ad­vanc­ing years was an ex­tra pull.


“I loved my time at City, but Lee John­son told me I wouldn’t be play­ing that much,” adds Wil­bra­ham, who was also wanted by Bury.

“It wasn’t ex­actly mak­ing me lose my fight, but I was think­ing ‘I’m go­ing to be work­ing hard ev­ery day to im­press this bloke but he’s al­ready got it in his head that I’m not a regular’.

“I’m old enough to know that if we got four or five games in and weren’t play­ing well, he’d have to rely on me again. He was say­ing sim­i­lar things last year and I still played 36 times.

“I also un­der­stand he was try­ing to man­age my ex­pec­ta­tions, so I wouldn’t be up­set if I wasn’t in the squad.

“But I don’t see the point in say­ing that to one of your play­ers. I’d rather make ev­ery­one feel im­por­tant.

“Phil was dif­fer­ent, ex­plain­ing my role, say­ing that he wanted me to com­pete with Gary Ma­dine for the tar­get man po­si­tion, to help him de­velop.

“Gary’s younger than me, so he’s ob­vi­ously go­ing to play more games, but it’s nice to have a man­ager say­ing pos­i­tive things. That’s what re­ally at­tracted me.”

Best of all, Wil­bra­ham will be back home when Ash­lee starts sec­ondary school in Septem­ber.

“It’s a mas­sive mile­stone for her,” he says. “And hav­ing me back will hope­fully make it eas­ier.

“Iron­i­cally, though, we went to see the teach­ers and they all said she’ll be fine thanks to mov­ing around so much. It’s the ones wrapped in a bit of a bub­ble who can’t han­dle it.

“She’s dead con­fi­dent. She’s al­ways had to make friends and she can walk into any group.

“Even now, my wife said she’s run­ning around the cruise ship with a lit­tle gang. It’s been hor­ri­ble at times, but it’ll hope­fully stand her in good stead for the fu­ture.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

FAM­ILY GUY: Aaron Wil­bra­ham in ac­tion for Bris­tol and, in­sets, with the fam­ily and at new club Bolton

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