Thursday, September 20, 2007

History of Bolton Wanderers F.C.

Early history
The club was founded in 1874 as Christ Church FC, but changed its name to Bolton Wanderers in 1877. Bolton were one of the 12 founder members of the Football League, which formed in 1888. Having remained in the Football League since its formation, Bolton have spent more time in the top flight (Premier League/old First Division) than out of it.

In 1894 Bolton reached the final of football's oldest competition, the FA Cup, for the first time, but lost 4-1 to Notts County at Goodison Park. A decade later they were runners-up a second time, losing 1-0 to local rivals Manchester City at Crystal Palace on April 23, 1904. On April 28, 1923 Bolton won the cup at their third attempt to win their first major trophy, beating West Ham United 2-0 in the first ever Wembley final. The match, famously known as The White Horse Final was played in front of over 127,000 supporters. Bolton's centre-forward, David Jack scored the first ever goal at Wembley Stadium. They became the most successful cup side of the twenties, also winning in 1926 and 1929, beating Manchester City and Portsmouth respectively.

From 1935 to 1964, Bolton enjoyed an uninterrupted stay in the top flight- regarded by fans as a golden era, spearheaded in the 1950s by Nat Lofthouse. They would not return to the top flight until 1978, where they lasted but two seasons before a period of further decline set in.

In 1953 Bolton played in one of the most famous FA Cup finals of all time - The Stanley Matthews Final of 1953. Bolton lost the game to Blackpool 4-3 after throwing away a 3-1 lead. Blackpool were victorious thanks to the skills of Matthews and the goals of Stan Mortensen.

Bolton Wanderers have not won a major trophy since 1958, when two Nat Lofthouse goals saw them overcome Manchester United in the FA Cup final in front of a 100,000 crowd at Wembley. The closest they have come to winning a major trophy since then is finishing runners-up in the League Cup, first in 1995 and again in 2004.

At the end of the 1986–87 season, Bolton Wanderers suffered relegation to the Fourth Division for the first time in their history. But the board kept faith in manager Phil Neal and they won promotion back to the Third Division at the first attempt. The deciding goal was scored by Robbie Savage in a 1-0 win at Wrexham. Neal remained in charge until the summer of 1992 when he made way for Bruce Rioch, who a few years earlier had won two successive promotions with Middlesbrough.

In the early part of Rioch's tenure, Bolton gained a giantkilling reputation in cup competitions. In 1993 Bolton beat FA Cup holders Liverpool 2-0 in a third round replay thanks to goals from John McGinlay and Andy Walker. The club also defeated higher division opposition in the form of Wolves that year before bowing out to Derby County. In 1994 Bolton beat FA Cup holders Arsenal 3-1 in a fourth round replay, and went on to reach the Quarter Finals, bowing out 1-0 at home to local rivals (and then Premier League) Oldham Athletic. Bolton also defeated top division opposition in the form of Everton and Aston Villa that year.

Bolton reach the Premiership
Bolton reached the Premiership in 1995, under the management of Bruce Rioch, thanks to a victory over Reading in the Division One playoff final. After being 2–0 down at half-time, two goals from Bolton in the final 15 minutes of the game forced extra time and they went on to win 4-3 and return to top division football after a 15-year exile. They had been on the losing side at Wembley a few weeks earlier, having lost 2-1 to Liverpool in the League Cup final.

Rioch left to take charge at Arsenal after the promotion success. He was replaced by Derby County manager Roy McFarland, who was joined by his former assistant Colin Todd. Bolton were bottom for virtually all of the 1995-96 Premiership campaign and despite several new signings, Bolton dismissed McFarland on New Year's Day 1996 and appointed Todd in his place. Todd was unable to save Bolton from relegation but the board kept faith in him. It is worth noting, however, that Bolton's form improved noticeably under Todd with 19 points from their last 16 games.

The Bolton board's loyalty in Todd was rewarded when they won promotion back to the Premiership at the first attempt thanks to a season in which they achieved 98 league points and 100 goals in the process of securing the Division One Championship. They could have achieved 100 league points and 100 league goals save for drawing the last game of the season at Tranmere Rovers 2-2.

A second relegation and another promotion
Bolton were relegated on goal difference at the end of the 1997-98 Premiership campaign, going down to Division One with the previous season's other two promoted sides— Barnsley and Crystal Palace. Bolton reached the 1999 Division One playoff final but lost to Watford. Colin Todd resigned as manager soon after and was replaced by Notts County's Sam Allardyce.

1999-00 brought disappointment for Bolton under their new manager as they lost in the semi finals of the Division One playoffs, the League Cup and the FA Cup. However, happier times were around the corner as in 2000–01 Sam Allardyce and his team got it right by beating Preston North End 3-0 in the Division One playoff final with goals from Gareth Farrelly, Michael Ricketts and Ricardo Gardner respectively. The club was then promoted back to the Premiership.

Staying up
In 2000 Bolton reached the Semi Finals of the FA Cup at Wembley but were defeated by Aston Villa in a penalty shoot-out. The defeat meant that Bolton could not achieve the historic feat of featuring in the first and last cup finals at Wembley. Dean Holdsworth, who was the club's record signing at the time, scored his penalty after earlier missing a glorious chance to put Bolton in the final. Wanderers lost after Allan Johnston and Michael Johansen saw their efforts saved by future England goalkeeper David James.

Bolton went top of the Premiership after winning their first three games of the 2001-02 season, but failed to keep up their winning ways and wallowed away to 16th place in the final table - just enough to secure their first-ever Premiership survival, and their first top flight survival since 1979.

Bolton struggled throughout 2002-03 but managed to stay up, winning their final game of the season 2-1 against Middlesbrough thanks to goals from Per Frandsen and Jay Jay Okocha. The victory condemned West Ham United to relegation. In 2003-04, despite a poor start which saw them lose 6-2 to Manchester City and 4-0 to both Manchester United and Premiership newcomers Portsmouth, Bolton nevertheless enjoyed their best season for some 50 years. They reached the League Cup final, losing 2-1 to Middlesbrough. Despite this setback, Bolton finished eighth - much higher than most pundits had predicted them to finish when the season began, and could even have gone one higher on the final day in mid-May 2004 and qualified for Europe had they won their last match of the season; however, a 2-0 defeat at home to Fulham (Bolton's bogey team in the Premiership) saw their excellent season end on something of a disappointing note. However, although nobody could have known it at this time, better things were still to come...

Qualification for Europe
Bolton's impressive progress continued in 2004-05. They secured an impressive sixth place finish - equal on points with European champions Liverpool, who finished fifth by goal difference - and a 1-1 draw against Portsmouth in their penultimate match of the season guaranteed them qualification for a European competition (the UEFA Cup) for the first time in their history. With the outcome also assuring Portsmouth safety from the relegation trapdoor, the result was a carnival atmosphere that saw both sets of fans invade the pitch at the end of the match.

Bolton's renaissance continued into 2005-06, when they achieved another eighth place in the Premiership. The club's first foray into European football saw them knock out Lokomotiv Plovdiv in the opening round. In the group stage they played Turkish giants Besiktas, Vitória de Guimarães, Zenit St. Petersburg and eventual winners Sevilla in which they were unbeaten. They progressed in the knockout stages where they were knocked out by Marseille in the last 32.

A further sign of the club's recent progression came when Sam Allardyce was linked with the England manager's job after it was announced that Sven-Göran Eriksson would step down after the 2006 World Cup. Allardyce was also linked with the Newcastle manager's job until it was given to Glenn Roeder.

Bolton broke their transfer record in August 2006 with the £8 million signing of French striker Nicolas Anelka from Turkish side Fenerbahce. His first goals came in the 3-1 victory over Arsenal, his old side.

Bolton qualified for the Uefa Cup for the second time in 2007 finishing a point in front of Reading in 7th place courtesy of a 2-2 draw in their final game of the season against Aston Villa coupled with Portsmouth's failure to beat Arsenal on the same day.

Allardyce makes way for Lee
On April 29, 2007, Allardyce announced his resignation as manager after almost eight years in the job. It was revealed he had tendered his resignation two weeks earlier. Allardyce initially refused to disclose the reasons for his shock departure, while the club maintained the reasons for the split were private. Allardyce eventually revealed that his exit from Bolton hinged on the lack of forthcoming silverware amidst heavy speculation that he would be joining Newcastle United F.C.

Following speculation that Gary Speed might replace Allardyce, the club's assistant manager, Sammy Lee, took over as manager the day after Allardyce's resignation. On May 1st, 2007, Lee named Speed as his new first team coach alongside Ricky Sbragia and Jimmy Phillips.

The start to Lee’s managerial career with Bolton proved tense, with his first game in charge a 3-1 loss to West Ham United who were battling relegation. Lee’s second match in charge was at home to the Premiership's in-form side, Aston Villa. This match would decide the fate of Bolton’s hopes of gaining a UEFA cup for the second time in their history. Bolton twice threw away the lead with the game finishing a 2-2 draw after a late Luke Moore equaliser for Villa. However, with Reading and Portsmouth both also drawing their final matches, the result was enough for Bolton to seal 7th position in the league and qualification for the UEFA Cup.

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