Back in 2017, Ted Moulden’s career aspirations were firmly focused on playing for Bolton Wanderers.
Having signed scholarship forms at the Club, the defender was a key member of the Under-18s side that reached the Professional Development League National Semi-Finals, following a second-place finish in the Northern section.
But injury brought his budding playing prospects to an abrupt end, with Moulden forced to retire at the conclusion of the 2017/18 season.
"It was tough,” he admits. “Ask any kid in the Academy, all you dream about is becoming a professional player. You put every bit of your life into it.
“You go to sleep early, you eat well, you exercise and keep fit – even when you’re on holiday – so for it to end like that was difficult, especially as a Bolton lad.
“I’ve got a condition with both of my ankles, where the bone hasn’t grown properly. I saw at least 15 specialists and I was a case study in Hull hospital. Twelve surgeons came into a room and I was presented as a case and they looked at movements of the joints.
“I received plenty of help. Anthony Cato and Craig Skinner at LFE (League Football Education) supported me a lot and then Oshor Williams at The PFA has been brilliant and always kept in touch.”
Wanderers were also on hand to support Moulden, with the Club aiding his transition into the next phase of his life by offering a part-time position with the kit staff, which has developed into a permanent ‘Head Kitman’ role.
“The Club has been brilliant; they helped me a lot and tried to keep me involved,” he explains. “To be honest, I didn’t really want to stay involved with football.
“My mum had seen a barbering course online, so I did an intensive course for 12 weeks and qualified as a barber. But I knew the two Club Kitmen, Paul Huddy and Michael Hawke, and Hawkey needed someone to be his assistant when Huddy left to go to Preston.
“About a month after I’d come back to the Club, Hawkey also went to Preston, so the gaffer (Ian Evatt) pulled me into his office and asked if I fancied doing it on my own! It’s given me a routine and a purpose and that’s got me through a difficult period in my life.”
Now 21, Moulden is established in his new career. As he explains, there’s a lot more involved than just folding up kit.
“Day-to-day, I get in at about 7am to lay all the kit out for training,” he says. “On a matchday, I take the lads’ boots, shin pads, sliders, t-shirts, jumpers, pants, socks, under-shorts, under-armers and obviously the match shirts.
“During the week, I’ll do the printing for all the shirts, with the sponsor on the front, sleeve badges and then the name and number on the back. After games, I’ll get back and put the kit in the wash – the laundrette, Alison, comes in and finishes them off.
“Then there’s things like cleaning and stretching boots and changing studs, as well as having to learn what each lad needs in their match pack – Marlon Fossey, for example, always needs a headband in his pack and that’s my job to make sure he has it.
“The only time I’ve messed up was at Oxford United away in February. I tried to change George Johnston’s metal studs and one broke off. Luckily, I had his spare pair of studs on my van, so it all ended fine and we won the game as well!”
It would be fair to say the job isn’t without its idiosyncrasies...
“Alex Baptiste loves getting his studs changed,” Moulden reveals. “He must have asked me at least 15 times this season! He’s a top fella, so I don’t mind doing it for him.
“Matt Gilks, who is now our goalkeeping coach, used to have two t-shirts instead of an under-armer and two pairs of pants. Then there’s other lads that wear certain socks or their own shin pads.
“The strangest thing I have ever been asked for as a Kitman is when someone in the crowd held a sign up asking for one of the player’s underwear after the game! I get bombarded with requests for free gear all the time, but not many like that!”
Since taking on the role full-time, Moulden has played his part in Bolton’s resurgence, finishing his first season with Sky Bet League Two promotion before a top-half finish in League One.
“It’s been two good seasons on the pitch since I started,” he adds. “Getting promoted from League Two was amazing and then ending up in ninth last season, considering we had a lot of injuries, is a great achievement.
“I’ve loved being in the environment of professional sport. The whole staff are one big team and you can always have a laugh with the players as well. I wake up on a Monday morning and I don’t feel like I’m going to work!
“Every day is different and it’s always enjoyable, so hopefully Bolton will continue to rise up the leagues and I can be part of the Club’s journey along the way.”
This feature originally appeared in the summer 2022 edition of the EFL Magazine.