21 September 2008

Football History: Bolton Wanderers (Premier League)

Founder members of the football league, Bolton Wanderers are one of 7 original members to have never won English football's most prestigious honour. Despite never having been league champions, Wanderers have finished third on three occasions. However, league consistency has been a long time coming as the last of these achievements came in 1925. They have spent the vast majority of the last 30 years in the lower divisions. Bolton's major success has come in the FA Cup, a trophy they have won on four occasions, the last being a 2-0 victory over Manchester United in 1958.

In more recent times, Bruce Rioch and Colin Todd returned Bolton to the top flight. As a management duo, they took them from the 3rd division no-hopers to the Premiership in just 3 years. Thanks to the duo, 1994-95 was a marvellous season for The Trotters. They reached the Coca Cola Cup final only to lose to Liverpool and also gained promotion to the Premier League after battling through the play-offs.

In a remarkable final, they emerged 4-3 victors over Reading to take their place in the top division for the first time since 1980. However, Bolton went into the top flight under a new manager when Bruce Rioch, after his feats at Burnden Park, was tempted by the management position at Arsenal that George Graham had recently vacated. Roy McFarland took over but Bolton suffered in the Premiership and went straight back down to the Football League and Roy McFarland lost his job in the process. He was replaced by Colin Todd, who took Bolton back to the top flight as champions of the Nationwide League in 1997.

A further reason to be cheerful was the Reebok Stadium. The stadium replaced the beloved but decrepit Burnden Park, whose last ever fixture saw a 4-1 hammering of Charlton Athletic. The new ground was built in Horwich, near Bolton and held 25,000 supporters.

However, the following season was no easier for the Trotters and they were relegated again the following season after a battle that ended with Everton saving themselves and Bolton dropping into the league again. Sam Allardyce, formerly the manager at Blackpool and Notts County, was appointed to the managerial role at the newly-built Reebok Stadium. Under him, they earned promotion back to the Barclaycard Premiership, and managed to stay there with the help of experienced and talented international stars like Youri Djorkaeff and Jay-Jay Okocha.

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