Vela senior spent years ferrying a young Josh the length and breadth of the country for the Bolton Wanderers academy and now, aged 28, the Shrewsbury midfielder is set to face the Trotters for the first time in his career.
The Town man, who joined Wanderers aged eight and spent 17 years at the club, was influential in helping Bolton to a League One promotion in 2017. In all he played almost 200 games for the club, including a handful of appearances in the Premier League – where as a highly-rated teenager he went up against Spurs’ Gareth Bale and Luka Modric in his first start.
Vela, who has been a leading light in Steve Cotterill’s improved Town of late, acknowledges none would be possible without dad Jose, whose friends know as ‘Joe’.
Shrews’ Mancunian midfielder is part-Peruvian through Jose’s father, who Josh has only met once. Jose, who works as a truck salesman for Mercedes, was born in Spain and was a keen footballer himself. Vela has not opened up on his family or their back-story previously.
“He travels everywhere. He was at Liverpool, he got all his mates to come and watch. He travels far and wide to come and watch me and has done ever since I was a young lad,” Salford-born Vela said of his dad.
“He’s a big influence on my career, and obviously my life, and he’ll be there tomorrow cheering me on again.
“He was there at Bolton, every week, home and away, it was a big part of my life. He loves his football, he knows what he’s talking about, if I don’t play well he’s always on my case and if I do play well he gives me a little pat on the shoulder.
“Recently he’s not been as bad, but back in the younger days he’s been quite harsh on me, but it’s got me where I am today.
“He knows I can score goals, he thinks I should score more goals and I should score more goals!
“He was sat in the corner at Fleetwood, freezing and shaking in the corner, I saw him with his two hands in the air, that was good for him to be there.
“Luckily Bolton wasn’t too far from Salford but when we used to play Middlesbrough away in the academy he’d not finish work until late, be up at all hours, it was a big commitment and I’m thankful because it’s got me where I am today, in professional football.”
Vela was desperate to play in the contest at the UniBol Stadium earlier in the season but had just picked up a serious knee injury. He battled to play a part but the player and club staff ultimately made the sensible decision to omit him as Vela spent the best part of two months on the sidelines.
Around 15 members of the Vela clan will be at Montgomery Waters Meadow tomorrow, including friends and family – and of course Jose.
Bolton arrive in Shropshire 17th, one point and place below Town, but ended a winless run with a 2-0 success over Ipswich last week.
Manchester United fan Vela admitted he will not celebrate if he adds to his one Town goal this season with another against the club he gave such service to earlier in his career.
He was a versatile option during his time at the Greater Manchester club but his 17 years at the club ended on something of a sour note after a breakdown in relationships with then boss Phil Parkinson. Vela left for Hibernian in Scotland but endured a difficult six months away from his young family before returning to England in January 2020.
Vela, who is out of contract in the summer but has reiterated his desire to stay at Town, has a strong relationship with boss Cotterill, who feels Vela benefited from a ‘tough’ upbringing to ‘know the rights and wrongs’.
“We seem to get on really well – well I really get on with him, I’m not sure what he thinks of me, but he seems to be doing OK!” Cotterill said of the midfielder.
“He is (grounded), he’s been brought up very well, brought up quite tough, I think, which I don’t think there’s anything wrong with. His family have brought him up well and taught him the rights and wrongs.
“His dad is a big fan of his and a big follower, his father in his football life is very important and I’m sure at this moment he’s really pleased.
“He had that injury for a couple of months and now he’s back in the team and playing well, you think to yourself ‘how did we get over those couple of months not having him?’ You wouldn’t want to do that again.”