Jussi eyes career best
Jussi Jaaskelainen hopes Sunday's FA Cup semi-final against Stoke will prove the greatest day in his career.
By Jamie Casey
Last Updated: 13/04/11 2:23pm
Goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen hopes Sunday's FA Cup semi-final against Stoke will eclipse the greatest day in his 14-year Bolton Wanderers career.
The Trotters stalwart was just 24 when he appeared at the old Wembley stadium in an FA Cup semi-final against Aston Villa in 2000.
Bolton lost in a penalty shoot-out that day, but Finnish keeper Jaaskelainen nonetheless cites it as the highest point in a Wanderers shirt.
"That day was the best thing that has happened to me in my whole career," he said.
"People ask me what it's like to play in a semi-final at Wembley, especially as a younger player, but I can only say it is an experience I won't forget.
"It was early in my career, but the game against Aston Villa sticks out in my mind even though we lost in the end.
"We got so close to reaching the final but everything around the game was special. Hopefully this time, the result will be there for us too."
The Potters and the Trotters were delighted to have avoided the other side of the draw, which pits high-profile rivals Manchester United and Manchester City.
Despite admitting relief at facing Stoke, Jaaskelainen is far from complacent and insists Bolton will have to be on top of their game if they are to progress.
"We were both very happy with the draw because we wanted to miss the Manchester teams but Stoke are a good side and we will have to stick to our game plan," he said.
"Both teams will think this is an excellent opportunity to reach the final but when the day comes around, our focus has got to be on getting the result and nothing else."
Former Bolton boss Sam Allardyce had a knack for signing experienced professionals in the twilight of their careers, such as Fernando Hierro and Youri Djorkaeff to name but a few.
Allardyce was renowned for his ability to squeeze the last bit of quality out of such stars, but Jaaskelainen has faith in current boss Owen Coyle's fresh approach.
He said: "In the past we have signed, I wouldn't say older players, but more experienced ones who have played at a high level and we've got them back to playing at their best. Now it's a little bit different.
"We've had some great players down the years but the good thing now is that we've got younger players coming through. They are hungry and want to succeed."