A rough guide to... Bolton Wanderers

Cod Almighty | Article

by Mike Worden

1 August 2016

They are skint and they play at a soulless ground miles from Bolton... but Wanderers look on course for promotion. 

How are you?

Bolton are a club with a rich history; four times FA cup winners and the home town club of Nat Lofthouse, the Lion of Vienna. Lofthouse made 496 appearances for the Lancashire side and 33 appearances for England in the 1950s.

From those heady days a period of relative obscurity followed until a revival in the mid 1990s saw the club climb to the top flight, although they were relegated in their first season. They returned and were relegated again, then came back to manage to first survive and then establish themselves as a decent side, enjoying European football.

Much of this success came under manager 'Big' Sam Allardyce. His recent downfall echoes the plight of the club where he established his reputation. The success he brought came at a cost. When they were eventually relegated back to the second tier, it led to a financial meltdown with accumulated debts of £179million. The club narrowly survived a winding-up order brought by HMRC.

Wanderers' home until 1997 was Burnden Park. Its old-fashioned charm was completely undone in the 1980s with the building of a supermarket on one of the terraces. The supermarket took up half the away end, and the view of the pitch was severely obscured. Imagine not being able to watch a corner being taken and only seeing the ball whizz across the goal. Or see the attacking winger disappear behind a brick wall and guess what happened, like the Apollo missions when the astronauts disappeared behind the moon, keeping the world waiting as to where or when they would emerge, or indeed if they ever would. The old adage that a hard-working player would 'run through brick walls' had special significance at Burnden Park.

All that nonsense was left behind with the move to the new stadium at Horwich, which is closer to Wigan than Bolton. A super-modern stadium of its mid 1990s time with no restricted views. You didn't even need to get out of bed to watch a game if you booked one of the plush rooms in the stadium hotel.

Town connections of late are not great. David Felgate and Dean Crombie are still talked about with affection in Bolton while Gary Henshaw, who played 70 games for the Trotters after leaving Grimsby, now commentates on the games for local radio and has been active on Twitter (@henchontheradio) in the run-up to this FA Cup clash. Phil Neal became player-manager here in 1985 after turning down a similar role at Blundell Park.

What kind of season have you had?

The Trotters are on a decent run of form, having won their last six games and now lie second in the third flight, just three points behind Scunthorpe. They haven't lost since a home defeat by Oxford on 1 October and seem to be finding the net with ease.

Young striker Zach Clough, a product of the Bolton youth set-up, leads the goalscoring chart with five goals this season. Well-known names in the Bolton squad include former Palace defender Dean Moxey and ex-Liverpool midfielder Jay Spearing, who has a habit of collecting yellow cards: he's on six at the moment. Sammy Ameobi signed from Newcastle in September and has brought some higher-level experience to the side. One-time Grimsby loanee Liam Trotter plays in midfield, no doubt to chants of "Trotter is a Trotter".

A familiar name on the squad is Jaaskelainen but this is William, like his father and all-time Bolton hero Jussi, a goalkeeper. The current incumbent between the sticks is Mark Howard, previously of Sheffield United, who has made some impressive saves this season.

Wanderers are managed by former Hull City boss Phil Parkinson, who moved to Bolton from Bradford in the summer.

Where are you from?
Wanderers are from the nearby town of Bolton. It's a shame that away fans don't really get a chance to sample the fine pubs and architecture on offer in the town centre. Instead the ground lies next to a soulless vast expanse of a retail park called Middlebrook.

According to reports from away fans last season, the best local pub is Barnstormers, which boasts among its assets a heated smoking shelter, a feature Bolton's very own Brian Potter would have been proud of in the Phoenix club. Others rate the nearby Beehive, but if it's real ale you are after, the Bolton Camra pub of the year is not too far away, just down the road in Horwich. Trouble is the Victoria & Albert only opens at two on a Saturday afternoon, so either get those pints down your neck quick or go after the game.

You must be so sick that Wigan nicked your training ground?

If the financial problems that surfaced earlier this year weren't enough of an embarrassment, worse was to follow when Wigan owner Dave Whelan announced that he had bought Bolton's impressive training ground in Chorley. Whelan had been searching high and low for a new site for the Latics' training facility without success, having canvassed options including his own hotel grounds and buying a local golf club. He couldn't believe his luck when Bolton's financial collapse meant that he could buy the Euxton complex for the price of a few pies.

Bolton now train on a patch of grass in Lostock while the Latics make use of their new top-of-the-range training facility. This just rubbed the salt in the wounds even more, as their neighbours were promoted to the second tier while Bolton were relegated from it.

The front page image of Bolton Wanderers' stadium has been cropped from an image that is © Copyright David Dixon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Send us your feedback on this article