Filipe Morais spent 18 months with Bolton after joining on a free transfer from Bradford City and he would make a huge impact during that time, particularly in the second half of the League One promotion season of 2016/17.
Nicknamed ‘The Postman’ by Wanderers fans for the incredible volume of assists he provided en route to the Championship, the Portuguese winger spoke on the Here We Go Again podcast about recovering from a lengthy spell on the sidelines only to be forced to leave a club he had fallen in love with shortly afterwards.
The winger also touched on how his move to Bolton came about under Phil Parkinson and how much he embraced the challenges and pressures of making an upwards step to sign for a club with the sole ambition and expectation of returning to the second tier of football at the first attempt.
‘I’d had an ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) injury in Phil Parkinson’s last season at Bradford and I came back towards the end of the season and we just made the play-offs. I played a few games during that time but I still had issues with my knee. My patella tendon was strong but it was still giving me pain and I was getting little niggles.
‘At 31 years old, most people think you’re just about finished when you get a bad injury at that age but I told myself that I was still going to play in the Championship. That was always in my mind when I was coming back from injury. I remember I kept going on the Cross Trainer when everyone had gone home and I’d be on there for 90 minutes.
‘The staff at Bradford told me to do half an hour and they had to start fining me for overworking because I kept breaking down as I was determined to try and come back stronger. I remember Nick Allamby started fining me £150 to stop me doing more than what I was told to do – that’s the only way I stopped.
‘I wanted it so much because they’d given me a great opportunity at Bradford and I didn’t want the injury to put me down, I was determined to go again. Then Phil Parkinson left for Bolton and I was gutted because I thought the third season I had at the club was our chance, I thought it would be a chance to get to the Championship with the club that I really loved.
‘Everything was perfect. I’d bought a house in Harrogate and I wanted to stay there forever. All of a sudden everything changes and that’s football. New ownership came in and that flipped everything. Stuart (McCall) was doing an amazing job and that season (2016/17) we were dealing with all the off-field problems because we were doing so well on the pitch. We were keeping it under wraps.
‘Stuart was amazing. It was the first time since leaving Chelsea that I’d ever been in a team and not really playing and starting games, and I still couldn’t say a bad word about the manager because he’s so honest and he’s a legend at Bradford.
‘I knew everything about the club because I’d looked into it and I knew all about him. He found a way to make me never dislike him. When you’re not playing it’s very hard to stay happy. Mark Marshall was playing on the wing and he was doing brilliantly – I was the first to congratulate him on doing well because I’m a team player.
‘I found it really tough being on the sidelines because after a year injured I was really fit and hungry to play. I was urging Stuart to get me in the team somehow because we were drawing too many games. Unfortunately he never got me in, and I’d always be coming off the bench. Then it got to January and the Chairman was trying to get rid of me and I was devastated to leave Bradford.
‘I was about to go to Scotland to sign for Aberdeen, Derek McInnes was the manager. On the day that Bradford cancelled my contract to leave the club the news broke on Sky Sports News and Phil Parkinson rang me. He said: ‘You’ve been released!?’ I told him I had and he couldn’t believe that they’d let me go on a free. He asked me what my next move was and I told him I was on my way up to Aberdeen. He told me that I had to come and sign for Bolton.
‘I literally turned the car around on the M62 and drove straight to Bolton and signed for Bolton when I was just about to go onto the A1 and drive towards Scotland.
‘The first six months at Bolton was some of the best football that I’d ever played. I put that down to the amount of frustration that had been built up from not playing at Bradford. I was angry that I hadn’t played and I was upset that I was made to leave a club that I love. I had a real affinity with the fans and I was fuming about being forced out by the Chairman.
‘I was like an animal possessed when I went to Bolton. I loved it at Bradford, we had a big stadium but when I arrived at Bolton and saw the stadium there and the size of the club – it was another level. When I think about Bolton, I just think of the Premier League and I think of players like Ivan Campo, Youri Djorkaeff and Nicolas Anelka. I knew there would be the pressure of playing for a club of that size, but that pressure is what gets the best out of me.
‘I remember being in the stadium sometimes at 9pm having ice baths because I knew how big it was for Bolton to get back up to the Championship. It was bigger than me. It wasn’t about me getting promoted, it was about the club.
‘We had to get the club back to where it belongs, that was the feeling we all had at that time. People like David Wheater and Jay Spearing, great leaders – they had the same feeling. We had some great players in that squad, people like Darren Pratley.
‘Darren Pratley was under appreciated by the fans at the time, I would say he was one of the best players I played with during my time at Bolton. If I was a manager, he’d be my ideal player – I would never not play him. It would baffle me when he’d get criticism on social media.
‘I think that is to do with the pressure of playing for Bolton. The fans got used to the success they had in the Premier League and seeing high calibre players playing for their club, it was just the next level. I loved that pressure and I think it’s what made me put in the performances that I did. It was like I had come to a club playing at the level that I’d wanted to be at, where I’d always wanted to be.
‘I was so thankful to Phil Parkinson for once again giving me a great opportunity. From not playing at Bradford, to signing for Bolton who were second in the league at the time was a big statement. He really had to believe in me and I’ll be forever grateful to him for that.
‘When we got promoted, it brought me to tears. I’ve still got the shirt from the Peterborough game framed as well as the promotion medal. It was an amazing time and then going onto play in the Championship was just everything I’d worked hard for in that last 2/3 years.
‘It felt like it had all been worth it. When you have big injuries like I had, you need some serious mental strength because otherwise you’d never get through – just to stay in the game you would have done well.
‘When I did my ACL at Bradford, two of the young lads there at the time had done the same thing and neither of them can play football anymore. It shows you how hard it is to come back from a bad injury and get back playing to a good level. They really helped me because we pushed each other on, so it’s a massive thanks to them that I ended up recovering and playing well at Bolton.’
Both episodes of the Here We Go Again podcast with Filipe Morais are available to watch on YouTube and listen to on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.