Manchopper in….Bolton

Result: Bolton Wanderers 0-1 Cardiff City (FA Cup with Budweiser 4th Round)

Venue: The Reebok Stadium (Saturday 28th January 2014, 3.00pm)

Att: 12,750

With the weather beginning to take a turn for the worse, and with many of the lower leagues being seriously affected by the rains at this point, attentions turn to the upper echelons of English football, and this weekend just happened to be the 4th Round of the ‘Greatest Cup Competition’, the FA Cup. Whether many fans still see the cup with this same enthusiasm is debatable, as attendances throughout the competition are beginning to show, and with clubs offering large price cuts to entice fans in, it appears that, sadly, English football’s premier cup competition is beginning to be taken over by the monies being pumped into the worldwide money-maker that is the Premier League.

For today, the trip would be undertaken by a trip on the rattler up to the Reebok, and after boarding at my local stop in Urmston and transiting via Manchester Deansgate, I was on my way through the steady drizzle up towards Bolton, or Horwich to be precise on a rather crowded Northern rail service.

A little over a half-hour later, and I was disembarking onto Platform 2 at Horwich Parkway Station, sitting in the shadow of the Reebok Stadium, and after pre-arranging to meet on the Platform, which sounds rather more romantic than it ought to, I found Dan Watkinson, who usually joins me on many of these trips, and we were soon climbing over the footbridge along with a number of both Cardiff and Bolton fans towards the stadium, which by this time had attained a Wembley-like arch in the shape of a rainbow.

After getting a teamsheet from an office, and taking a few photos of the exterior of the ground, including with the statue of club legend Nat Lofthouse, who had been adorned with a Bolton scarf, and buying a programme from the vendor sheltering behind a wall outside the turnstiles, we were soon entering through them & into the concourse, me for the great price of just £5 (rather than Dan’s £15) due to me being under the age of 23!!  Once inside, we had been allocated seats directly behind the North Stand goal opposite the travelling South Walians, and with kick-off a little over 10 minutes away, we in what had been termed the ‘Family Stand’ were treated to a performance by Bolton’s very own cheerleading squad, who I learnt are called the Reebok Rebels, and are not particularly thought of fondly by the Wanderers’ followers. I found this harsh, as they are mostly kids really, and doing it for a bit of fun, so maybe some could do with lightening up? Maybe it’s the football getting them this way!! Anyway, the Reebok looks quite impressive from the inside, apart from the large swathes of empty seats, especially within the West Stand and South Stands, the latter being where the band of Cardiff travelling support were based. The 4 stands making up the stadium are remarkably similar, almost in a continuous bowl-like structure if you ignore the roofs. Altogether, the ground can hold a capacity of 28,723 all of which are, of course, seated. The ground is built on Burnden Way, which harks back to their previous home, which they played in until they left for the Reebok in 1997. Let’s delve deeper into the history of the club.

History Lesson:

Bolton Wanderers were formed in 1877 as Christ Church F.C. the name coming from the church the club initially represented. Their original home was on Deane Road in the city, where the University of Bolton’s Innovation factory now stands. The club came to depart this location as a result of a dispute with the vicar(!), and thus changed its name to Bolton Wanderers F.C. in 1877. The suffix was used as a result of the club encountering difficulties in finding a permanent home in their initial nomadic experience, using three different  venues in their first four years in existence. It could so easily have been Bolton Nomads….

They turned pro in 1877, and after achieving a Lancashire Senior Cup (LSC) win ( a first of 12) in 1886 to start off the trophy cabinet, the club became one of the twelve founder members of the Football League in 1888, and have remained in it ever since, spending more time in the top flight (in both formats) than out of it. In 1894, Wanderers finished as FA Cup runners-up, losing 4-1 to Notts County.  During this time, the club lifted a second LSC in 1891, and finished as runners-up in the league in 1899-1900,to continue success into the next century.

After an early FA Cup runners-up spot in 1904, the club managed another league runners-up place in 1904-05, before winning the title in 1908-09, and attaining a further runners-up placing in 1910-11. 1912 saw a third LSC won, before Wanderers won three quick fire FA Cup titles after WWI, in 1923 (beating West Ham Utd 2-0), 1926( bt.Manchester City 1-0) and 1929 (bt.Portsmouth 2-0). In the midst of these successes, the club won a further three LSC’s in 1922, ’25 & ’27 and further LSC titles were won in the lead up to WWII, coming in 1932, ’34 and 1939, when it was shared with county rivals Preston North End. These cup successes were supplemented by a league runners-up spot which came in 1934-’35 season. This resulted in a promotion to the top flight, which went uninterrupted for 29 years.

After the cessation of hostilities, success began to dry up a little for Bolton, the club won the Football League War Cup in 1945, and added a tenth LSC title in 1948. In between these wins, horror struck in the shape of the Burnden Park disaster of 9 March 1946, when 33 Wanderers fans were crushed to death and a further 400 suffered injuries in an FA Cup tie between Bolton and Stoke City. In 1953, Bolton played Blackpool in what has  become known as the ‘Stanley Matthews Final’ when Matthews inspired his Tangerines back from a 3-1 deficit to consign Bolton to a 4-3 defeat. The club’s last major trophy success came in 1958, when the aforementioned Nat Lofthouse’s 2 goals inspired Bolton to an FA Cup final success over Manchester United, and they went on to win the end-of-season Charity Shield.

Since then, the club has had many ups and downs, and in 1964 they were relegated back to the Second Division, and were then relegated to the Third Division for the first time in the club’s history, in 1970-71. However, this low lasted just two seasons, as they were promoted back to Division 2 in 1973. In 1978 Bolton returned to the First Division as Champions, but after another two season stay in a Division, they were relegated back to the second tier. Following this relegation in 1980, the club lasted just three seasons in this division, despite the arrival of Brian Kidd, and once again found themselves in Division 3, where they were to remain until 1987, when the club were relegated to the Fourth Division for the first time ever, but bounced immediately back to Division 3 the next season via a third place finish. After being runners-up in 1986, the club lifted the Football (Sherpa Van) League Trophy in 1989, beating Torquay United 4-1, and also lifted the LSC for an eleventh time.

Into the 1990’s, and Bolton reached the league play-off final at the end of the 1990-91 season where they lost out to Tranmere Rovers, and won the last of their twelve LSC titles. During this time they attained a ‘cup giant-killers’ tag by beating FA Cup holders Liverpool, & Wolves in 1993. At the end of the 1992-93 season, the club gained promotion back to Division 2. In 1994, the club again lived up to their FA Cup giant-killers tag, by beating holders Arsenal 3-1 before eventually bowing out to Premiership side Oldham Athletic  in the quarter finals.

Bolton reached the Premiership for the first time in 1995 via a 4-3 play-off final victory over Reading, and during the same season reached the League Cup final but lost out 2-1 to Liverpool. After just a season, in which they were almost bottom throughout, Bolton were relegated back to Division 1, but returned immediately in 1996-97 as Division One Champions. This success meant they bid a fond farewell to Burnden Park, as the club ended a 102-year stay.

The yo-yoing continued in 1997-98, as Wanderers were relegated back to Division One on goal difference, and almost came back up the next season, but lost out in the play-off final to Watford. In 2001, Bolton returned to the Premiership, going top on the first day after a 5-0 away win at Leicester City, and also became the first club to come from behind to win at Old Trafford in the Premiership-era, via a 2-1 win over Manchester United. However, they still almost went down, and needed a win over Ipswich Town on the last day to stay up. Further away success at Old Trafford and Elland Road (Leeds United) followed the next season, but the club still needed a last day win over Middlesbrough to survive.

In 2004, the club reached the League Cup final where they lost to Middlesbrough 2-1, and in 2005 reached the UEFA Cup where they reached the last-32, losing to Marseille. They also lifted the Premier League Asia trophy at the beginning of 2005. After good consistent top 10 finishes over the next few years, they again reached the latter stages of the UEFA Cup, the last-16 this time. Along the way they gained a draw at Bayern Munich and wins at Red Star Belgrade and over Atletico Madrid, before eventually bowing out to Sporting Lisbon. A 16th place finish in the league cemented a good season. In 2007, the club lifted the Peace Cup, and in 2010 won the Carlsberg Cup.

The struggles began soon after and after a few years of staving off relegation they finally succumbed in 2012, and were relegated to the Championship on the last day after only managing draw with Stoke City. Their cause was not helped by Fabrice Muamba’s career-ending, almost fatal, on-pitch cardiac arrest at White Hart Lane during a game with Tottenham Hotspur. Last season saw Bolton manage a seventh place finish, narrowly missing out on a play-off spot.

Back on to today’s game, and after the cheerleaders and flag wavers were all done in a very American style start to the day, the teams entered the field, and in all honesty, hardly anything happened in a rather dire first half. There was little to choose between the two sides, because they both lacked that cutting edge up front. Both could make good moves into the last third, but that was about as far as it got for either, Mark Hudson and Andreas Cornelius coming close for the visitors as they made the early running, and only an effort from range by Chung-Yong Lee worthy of note for the hosts within the first half-hour. Magnus Eikrem spurned Cardiff’s best chance as he fired narrowly wide of the far post of Bolton custodian Andy Lonergan, before Lee had a golden opportunity on the stroke of half-time as he burst into the box, only to tamely scuff an effort into the grateful hands of David Marshall in the Welsh side’s goal. It was a good job I had decided to buy my pie & hot chocolate before the game, as it gave me something to do to relieve the boredom of what was unravelling before our eyes.

After the break, Cardiff’s new boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had clearly seen enough, and had withdrawn both Eikrem and the soon to depart Andreas Cornelius, and introduced Craig Noone and Fraizer Campbell in their place, and within five minutes, Campbell had found the net with his first touch, as Lonergan lost the ball at his near post as he attempted to gather a low ball, and Campbell pounced to poke home, as Bolton fans around us at the far end were still congratulating Lonergan on collecting the ball.

By far the best player on the park on the day was Neil Danns, with all Bolton’s play coming through him, and he forced Marshall, who for me is one of the most underrated goalkeepers in the Premier League, into a sharp low save, and he had to be alert again soon after, when Craig Davies’ effort deflected off the Theo-lover Kevin Theophile-Catherine and Marshall smothered at he near post. As Bolton fans began to shout and bawl at Dougie Freedman, they were almost given something to shout about, when after a short corner, Alex Baptiste whipped a ball in and Ben Turner sliced a clearance towards his own far corner, only for Marshall to show tremendous reflexes to get down low at the foot of the post and claw the ball away. You just knew it wasn’t going to be Bolton’s day.

Despite the introduction by Freedman of Andre Moritz and Sanmi Odelusi as Bolton continued to press for a goal, and they were almost caught on the break late on when, after Matt Mills went down in the area at one end and the ref was unmoved, Cardiff broke clear and Campbell had the chance to end it, but fizzed a low effort which grazed the outside of the post. It mattered little however, as the referee blew soon after to send the Bluebirds into the fifth round for a meeting with Wigan Athletic (which they went on to lose).

After leaving into the drizzle and gale force winds, we were held for a while by the Transport Police at the station, and after supplying a Scottish Cardiff fan from Manchester with the results of some sides from the day, we soon boarded a train onto Manchester Victoria, and upon arrival, I made the short walk to Oxford Road, where I bid goodbye to Dan, and waited for the train onwards home, which then switched platforms with no warning or announcement, meaning I had to bus it back. Thanks Northern Rail. Or should it be Northern Fail?

Ratings:

Game: 6- Poor overall quality, with only the odd bid of excitement.

Ground: 8- Tidy and still relatively new and easy to navigate.

Programme: 8- Exactly what you’d expect, a good quality glossy issue

Food: 8- Tasty pie (Holland’s), and a good size Hot Chocolate too, for £4

Fans: 7- Get behind the side, but don’t like the manager much and are more than happy to vent their spleen!

Value For Money: 9- Can’t complain for a £5 entry and £4 for food. Programme £3, end just under £12 on the train, so £24 overall. Teamsheet was free!

Referee: 8- Had a solid game, got most decisions correct, no big decisions to be made.

My Bolton Wanderers M.o.M.- Neil Danns

My Cardiff City M.o.M.- David Marshall

TEAMS:

BOLTON WANDERERS: 24.Andy Lonergan, 15.Alex Baptiste, 12.Zat Knight, 4.Matt Mills, 5.Tim Ream, 6.Jay Spearing(c), 44.Medo Kamara, 18.Neil Danns, 7.Chris Eagles, 27.Chung-Yong Lee, 28.Craig Davies. SUBS: 1.Adam Bogdan, 21.Darren Pratley, 14.Andre Moritz(p), 38.Sanmi Odelusi(p), 25.Josh Vela, 33.Hayden White, 11.Robert Hall.

CARDIFF CITY: 1.David Marshall, 28.Kevin McNaughton, 5.Mark Hudson(c), 6.Ben Turner, 28.Kevin Theophile-Catherine, 7.Peter  Whittingham, 13.Bo-Kyung Kim, 20.Joe Mason, 17.Aron Gunnarsson, 15.Magnus Wolff Eikrem, 9.Andreas Cornelius. SUBS: 32.Joe Lewis(GK), 4.Steven Caulker, 8.Gary Medel, 10.Fraizer Campbell(p)(1), 16.Craig Noone(p), 29.Mats Moller Daehli(p), 42.Declan John.

REFEREE: Jon Moss.

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