The 2001/02 season was the 123rd season in Bolton Wanderers' history, and was our second consecutive in the Premier League. Fans will look back fondly on the season as the first proper in the Sam Allardyce experiment. One of the game's most misunderstood and innovative thinkers, Allardyce transformed Bolton from a First Division struggler to a top Premier League side in under a decade.
He was an early adopter of conditioning and diet and nutrition, a pioneering advocate of sports science and psychology. He also found a way to incorporate ‘luxury' players such as Youri Djorkaeff and Jay-Jay Okocha into a hard working Bolton side.
Okocha didn't join up until the following year, but Djorkaeff had made a loan move from German side Kaiserslautern which was later made permanent. He joined other, more rugged squad members such as Mike Whitlow and a young Kevin Nolan to help Wanderers fight against relegation.
Wanderers struggled in the 2001/02 season, being there-or-thereabouts in terms of the relegation battle all season long. The post-Christmas signings of Djorkaeff, Stig Tofting, Bruno N'Gotty and Fredi Bobic provided much needed impetus into the squad. The impact of fellow loanees Mario Espartero, Kostas Konstantinidis and Djibril Diawara are now but a footnote in the club's history.
So it was in April that Wanderers welcomed fellow strugglers Ipswich Town to the Reebok. It was a sunny day, and Wanderers simply had to win.
At the time, Ipswich were surprise strugglers. A year after finishing fifth in the Premiership and earning George Burley the title of "Manager of the Year, a shocking start to the season saw their UEFA Cup dream end in the third phase of the competition, while after 18 games they were still bottom of the league with a single victory. Their side contained the likes of ex-Ajax man Finidi George, Spaniard Pablo Counago and professional bastard Jim Magilton. My oh my do I hate Jim Ma-fuckin-gilton, but that's a story for another day.
So the teams walked out on a sunny day in Bolton, with palpable tension coming from both sets of supporters. It might have been B.O.
Two minutes in, and Fredi Bobic scored. Well, 71 seconds to be precise. He picked up on a loose shot from Kevin Nolan, then in his trim phase, to fire beyond keeper Marshall. Bolton were lucky to be ahead when Finidi George crossed for Italian Sixto Peralta, who was stopped by a fantastic Anthony Barness tackle.
Bolton however went up to the other end and scored, again through Bobic and again through a Marshall error. The goalkeeper fluffed a catch, and the rebound went from Rod Wallace to Bobic who made it two.
Just five minutes later and Djorkaeff was on the scoresheet. Another error from Marshall saw a Wallace shot palmed into Djorkaeff's path and he made no mistake for three.
The rout was complete on the brink of half time, when Bobic headed home a Ricardo Gardner corner for four.
Ipswich grabbed a late second half consolation through cheating swine Jamie Clapham who, I remember very clearly, was a snide cheat. His goal, probably earned through deception and lies, finished the scoring and Wanderers had won by 4-1.
Any lingering Ipswich hopes for survival were punished on the final day of the season in a 5-0 defeat away to Liverpool, at Anfield.
Bolton Wanderers avoided relegation, despite three successive defeats to Fulham, Arsenal and West Ham United in the final three games, to finish in 16th place.
Jussi Jaaskelainen, Bruno N'Gotty, Anthony Barness, Mike Whitlow, Simon Charlton,
Paul Warhurst, Ricardo Gardner, Kevin Nolan,
Fredi Bobic, Rod Wallace.
Subs: Kevin Poole, Per Frandsen, Dean Holdsworth, Michael Ricketts, Kostas Konstantinidis.
Marshall, Wilnis, McGreal, Venus, Hreidarsson,
Peralta, Holland, Tommy Miller, George,
Subs: Salmon, Stewart, Reuser, Clapham (cheat), Bramble.
Referee: J Winter (Stockton-on-Tees).