Bolton Wanderers Football Club
Bolton Wanderers Football Club, or the Trotters as they are otherwise known, was formed in 1874. The club is based in Lancashire, their main rivals being Manchester United, Manchester City, Bury, Blackburn Rovers, Wigan Athletic and Preston North End. Since 1997, the club has been playing its home games at the Reebok Stadium at nearby Horwich.
Bolton Wanderers was formed in 1874 under the name of Christ Church FC, with the Vicar of Christ Church also being the club president. When the president began to lay down too many rules about the use of church premises, the club broke away and formed Bolton Wanderers in 1877. The club’s early meetings were thereby held at the Gladstone Hotel.
Bolton became founder members of the Football League in 1888, finishing fifth in the league’s inaugural season. Jim Cassidy was now firmly establishing himself as a player, and went on to score a club record 5 goals in the 13-0 FA Cup 2nd round victory over Sheffield United in 1890. The team eventually reached the FA Cup Semi-final that year, where they were beaten 2-1 by Sheffield Wednesday.
The club showed a great deal of promise early on, reaching the FA Cup Final for the first time in 1894. However, this ended in disappointment as the Trotters were beaten 4-1 by Notts County at Goodison Park. Due to an increasing need for a purpose build ground to play their home matches, Bolton moved from the Pike’s Lane ground to Burnden Park in 1895. The new ground went on to become the club’s permanent home for over a century.
The team enjoyed another cup run during the 1895/96 campaign, once again reaching the FA Cup Semi-final. The Trotters had previously beaten Crewe Alexandra, Blackpool and Bury, before losing 3-1 in a replay against Sheffield Wednesday. Unfortunately for Bolton, their league form could not match their impressive cup heroics, and the team was relegated to Division Two in 1899.
Promotions and Relegations
John Somerville was now the club’s official manager, and he guided Bolton to the runners-up spot at the end of the 1899/1900 season. From there, the team spent three seasons in Division One, before succumbing to relegation in 1903.
The 1903/04 season saw the return of Bolton Wanderers as a force in the FA Cup. The Trotters narrowly beat Derby County 1-0 in the Semi-final, before eventually losing 1-0 to Manchester City in the Final at Crystal Palace. This time, however, the team was able to repeat their good FA Cup form in the league, and Bolton finished as Division Two runners-up in the 1904/05 season, earning them promotion back to Division One.
Although the Trotters were again relegated in 1908, there was cause for optimism now that scoring sensation Joe Smith had joined the club. Smith’s goals fired Bolton back to Division One in the 1908/09 season, and ensured that the club went up as Division Two Champions. Relegation in 1910 spelled the end of John Somerville’s reign at the club, and he was replaced by Will Settle.
Settle immediately brought Ted Vizard to club as one of his first signings, and ensured that Bolton finished as runners-up in the 1910/11 campaign.
FA Cup success
The Trotters performed admirably in Division One, registering a succession of high placed finishes upon their return. Bolton reached the FA Cup Semi-final once more in 1915, where they were beaten 2-1 in a closely fought game against Sheffield United. Settle chose to leave the club in 1915, where he was replaced by Tom Mather.
World War One then intervened, preventing the 1915/16 season from starting. Bolton continued where they had left off in the league when football eventually resumed in 1919, with Charles Foweraker now in charge at the club.
Bolton won the FA Cup in 1923 after beating West Ham United 2-0 in the Final, sensationally dubbed the White Horse Final. David Jack also became the first player to score at Wembley during the win. An estimate of between 240,000 and 300,000 fans descended upon Wembley to watch the first match at the new stadium. Thousands spilled onto the pitch, and TV pictures show a policeman on a white horse attempting to clear the spectators back to the touchline.
The Trotters were FA Cup Winners for a second time after they defeated Manchester City 1-0 in the 1926 Final. Continuing Bolton’s FA Cup dominance, the team reached the FA Cup Final for a fifth time in the 1928/29 season. This time Bolton won 2-0 against Portsmouth to lift the trophy for a third time in seven years.
Ted Vizard made his last appearance in 1931 at the age of 41, after playing 467 matches for the club. Bolton suffered relegation to Division Two in 1933, before reaching the FA Cup Semi-final the following year. The Trotters eventually bowed out of the cup after a 2-0 loss to West Bromwich Albion. The club did manage to achieve promotion back to Division One in 1935, however, before the outbreak of World War Two saw the 1939/40 season abandoned.
Post World War Two
Football resumed in 1946, and Bolton went on to reach the FA Cup Semi-final during the season, where they were beaten 2-0 by Charlton Athletic. Legendary forward, Nat Lofthouse, had now joined the club, and would eventually become the Trotters’ all-time top scorer with 255 goals.
The 1946 FA Cup disappointment was soon forgotten, however, as Lofthouse fired Bolton to the final in 1953. The well-paired Roy Hartle and Ray Parry had joined the club, but were unable to prevent their side losing a memorable final 4-3 to rivals Blackpool.
Bolton were once again back at Wembley for the 1958 FA Cup Final. This time the Trotters came away victorious after two goals from Nat Lofthouse saw off Manchester United. Lofthouse made his final appearance for the club in 1961, and from then on, Bolton suffered a dramatic dip in form.
The Trotters were relegated to Division Two in 1964 during a miserable period for the Lancashire club. After being unable to gain promotion, Bolton slipped into Division Three after a poor 1970/71 campaign. After two seasons spent in English football’s third tier, the team were crowned Division Three Champions in 1973. Peter Reid began to play an influential role in the side, and helped the club reach the Football League Cup Semi-final in 1977. However, the Trotters went on to lose 2-1 on aggregate to Everton.
Bolton did manage to achieve promotion back to Division One in 1978, however, after finishing the season as Division Two Champions. Sadly, this was to be club’s last taste of success before a disappointing slide down the league ladder.
Slide to Division Four
Frank Worthington joined Bolton in 1978, and scored one of the club’s best ever goals against Ipswich during his first season with the Trotters. Worthington also scored the two goals that beat Manchester United in 1979, ensuring that Bolton did the double over their Manchester rivals that year. However, the team struggled in Division One, and finished 17th before being relegated the following season.
The team’s form deteriorated further, and Bolton were relegated to Division Three in 1983. Although the club was unable to gain immediate promotion, Bolton did beat Walsall 8-1, with Tony Caldwell scoring five goals to equal a club record for the number of goals scored in one match.
The Trotters were made to face a play-off to decide whether or not they would be relegated at the end of the 1986/87 season. Bolton lost 3-2 on aggregate to Aldershot, and suffered the humiliation of relegation to Division Four.
Climb up the league ladder
Phil Neal was in charge of the club at the time, and ensured that Bolton spent just the one season in Division Four, where they finished as league champions. The Trotters won a rare piece of silverware in the form of the Sherpa Van Trophy in 1989. Julian Darby, Dean Crombie, Trevor Morgan and Jeff Chandler scored the goals to seal a 4-1 victory over Torquay United.
Bolton also reached the League Play-offs in 1990, but a 3-1 aggregate loss against Notts County ensured that the club would remain in Division Three. The following season also saw the Trotters miss out on automatic promotion on goal difference. Bolton were forced to enter the Play-offs where they were beaten 1-0 by Tranmere Rovers at Wembley.
Neal left the club at the end of the 1991/92 season, and was replaced by Bruce Rioch. Division Three was re-designated as Division Two after the formation of the FA Premier League in 1992. Rioch made a number of changes to the playing staff, bringing in Andy Walker, Jason McAteer and John McGinlay amongst others. The changes paid off as Bolton finished as Division Two Runners-up in the 1992/93 season, sealing promotion to Division One.
Rise to the Premiership
The team reached the League Cup Final in 1995, where they unfortunately lost 2-1 to Liverpool at Wembley. Bolton did have cause to celebrate that year, however, as the Trotters won promotion to the Premier League. After a third place finish in the league, Bolton qualified for the Play-offs, where they eventually played Reading in the final. In one of the most entertaining Play-off finals in recent times, Bolton emerged victorious after a 4-3 win.
Despite their efforts to achieve promotion, the Trotters struggled to compete in the Premiership, and were relegated in 1996. Per Frandsen and Gudni Bergsson helped to ensure that Bolton finished the 1996/97 campaign as Division One Champions. However, Bolton was fast becoming a ‘yo-yo’ club at this point, as they again suffered relegation to Division One the following season.
After 102 years at Burnden Park, Bolton Wanderers left their famous old ground and moved to their new 28,700 all-seater Reebok Stadium in 1997.
With Colin Todd now in charge, Eidur Gudjohnson and Claus Jensen were brought to the club as Bolton looked to re-build. Todd guided the club to the 1998/99 Division One Play-offs, where they met Ipswich Town in the Semi-final. In an epic second leg, Bolton lost 4-3, but still went through on away goals as the aggregate score was 4-4. The Trotters were, however, beaten 2-0 by Watford in the final, and remained in Division One.
Sam Allardyce took charge of the club in 1999, and enjoyed a long and successful period at the helm of the Lancashire club. He guided Bolton to the Football League Cup Semi-final and FA Cup Semi-final in his first season, before they were beaten by Tranmere Rovers and Aston Villa respectively. In addition to Bolton’s domestic cup runs, the team also once again reached the Division One Play-offs. However, this time Ipswich got their revenge against Sam Allardyce’s side as Bolton lost 7-5 on aggregate.
Foreign invasion at Bolton
Allardyce signed Michael Ricketts and Bruno N’Gotty during a season in which Bolton were finally successful in the Play-offs. The Trotters beat West Bromwich Albion 5-2 in the Semi-final, before beating Preston North End 3-0 to reach the Premiership once more.
Bolton’s promotion sparked an invasion of foreign imports at the club. Youri Djorkaeff, Jay-Jay Okocha, Fernando Hierro, Ivan Campo and Hidetoshi Nakata all came to the Reebok, as Allardyce proved to be a shrewd operator in the transfer market. The team reached the League Cup Final in 2004, where they were narrowly beaten 2-1 by Middlesbrough at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. However, Bolton’s good form in the league saw them qualify for the UEFA Cup the following year. The Trotters finished third in their group to qualify for the knock-out stages, but were dumped out of the competition after losing 2-1 on aggregate to Marseille.
Nicholas Anelka became the club’s record signing in August 2006 when he moved for £8,000,000 from Fenerbahce. The player dubbed ‘le sulk’ soon proved his worth, however, as he helped fire the club to seventh place in the league.
Life after Big Sam
At the end of the 2006/07 season, Sam Allardyce resigned as manager before taking up the vacant managerial hotseat at Newcastle United. Gary Megson took charge at Bolton, with many fans angry at his appointment. The Trotters were once again in the UEFA Cup, and recorded a memorable 2-2 away draw at Bayern Munich to finish first in their group.
However, Bolton have been struggling in the league so far, occupying one of the relegation places for much of the season. With Nicholas Anelka having been sold on to Chelsea, Megson may have a tough job on his hands juggling Bolton’s UEFA Cup conquest, as well as their fight for Premiership survival.
- Football League Division One Champions: 1996/97
- Promoted from Division One (via Play-offs): 2000/01
- Football League Division Two Champions: 1908/09, 1977/78
- Football League Division Two Runners-up: 1899/1900, 1904/05, 1910/11, 1934/35, 1992/93
- Football League Division Three Champions: 1972/73
- Promoted from Division Four (3rd): 1987/88
- FA Cup Winners: 1923, 1926, 1929, 1958
- FA Cup Runners-up: 1894, 1904, 1953
- Football League Cup Runners-up: 1995, 2004
- Freight Rover Trophy Runners-up: 1986
- Sherpa Van Trophy Winners: 1989
- UEFA Cup: 2005/06, 2007/08
- Record League Victory: 8-0 v Barnsley, Division Two, 6 October 1934
- Record Cup Victory: 13-0 v Sheffield United, FA Cup 2nd rd, 1 February 1890
- Record Defeat: 1-9 v Preston North End, FA Cup 2nd rd, 10 December 1887
- Most League Goals: 100, Division One, 1996/97
- Highest League Scorer in Season: Joe Smith, 38, Division One, 1920/21
- Most League Goals in Total Aggregate: Nat Lofthouse, 255, 1946-1961
- Most League Goals in One Match: 5, Tony Caldwell v Walsall, Division Three, 10 September 1983
- Most Capped Player: Mark Fish, 34 (62), South Africa
- Most League Appearances: Eddie Hopkinson, 519, 1956-1970
- Youngest League Player: Ray Parry, 15 years 267 days v Wolverhampton Wanderers, 13 October 1951
- Record Transfer Fee Received: £15,000,000 from Chelsea for Nicholas Anelka, January 2008
- Record Transfer Fee Paid: £8,000,000 to Fenerbahce for Nicholas Anelka, August 2006
- Longest Sequence of League Wins: 11, 5/11/1904 – 2/1/1905
- Longest Sequence of League Defeats: 11, 7/4/1902 – 18/10/1902
- Longest Sequence of League Draws: 6, 25/1/1913 – 8/3/1913
- Longest Sequence of Unbeaten League Matches: 23, 13/10/1990 – 9/3/1991
- Longest Sequence Without a League Win: 26, 7/4/1902 – 10/1/1903
- Successive Scoring Run: 24 from 22/11/1996
- Successive Non-Scoring Run: 5 from 3/1/1898