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Memorable Match: Bolton v Sheffield Wednesday

Chris takes a disturbing trip down memory lane

Stu Forster

The date was 8th November 1997, the venue was Hillsborough, Sheffield.

Bolton Wanderers were in the midst of their 119th season since formation, and the first back in the top flight of English football after romping home to the Football League First Division title the year before - which had seen the final season at Burnden Park before the move to the futuristic Reebok Stadium.

Bolton arrived at Hillsborough having only won two games all season - the first had been away to Southampton, Nathan Blake netting the only goal at The Dell in the 43rd minute. The club had to wait until the 26th October before beating Chelsea at the Reebok 1-0 with a goal from new record signing Dean Holdsworth in front of 24,080 supporters.

The week before had seen a creditable 1-1 draw played out at the Reebok Stadium, with Nathan Blake again scoring for the Whites.

Wednesday had a good team, back then. Star names included the likes of Jon Newsome, who would go on himself to play for Bolton, Jim Magilton, who to this day remains one of my bitterest of footballing enemies, and a shy and retiring Italian named Paolo Di Canio.

Wanderers included new signings Mark Fish and Mike Whitlow - though £2.5m signing from Newcastle United Robbie Elliott was missing due to a broken leg suffered in the first home game against Everton in September.

The scene was set - referee Mike Reed blew the whistle and the game began. I took my seat in the away end with my mate Chris (it kept things easier if we had friends with the same name), and looked forward to what we hoped would be a positive performance.

That soon all went to shit, and spectacularly so.

We held out gallantly until the 20th minute, when Di Canio scored in front of the massed ranks of Bolton supporters. Six minutes later and it was 2-0, ex-Portsmouth striker and moustache wearer Guy Whittingham stroked past Keith Branagan in the Wanderers goal. 29 minutes on the clock and it was 3-0, as Andy Booth scored the first of his three goals. Numbers two and three came in the 33rd and 44th minutes, and Wanderers found themselves 5-0 down at half-time with the crowd in shell-shock.

Wanderers manager Colin Todd made two substitutions in the first half. His son Andy was brought on to replace Danish midfielder Per Frandsen, whilst on-loan winger Franz Carr replaced struggling left-back Jimmy Phillips, to little effect.

Indeed I empathised with the family in front of us who decided to make the trip back to Bolton at half-time.

I had certainly never experienced a half like it.

Wanderers saw out the rest of the game, thankfully, without conceding again.

Following on from the Hillsborough debacle they recovered some semblance of form, drawing with Leicester City before home wins against Wimbledon and Newcastle United, both times with goals from Nathan Blake.

That form could not be maintained, as they went another dozen games without a win before beating Wednesday 3-2 in the return fixture in March 1998.

Wanderers would finish the season in 18th position, suffering relegation after a cruel last day defeat away to Chelsea. A late spurt of form was not enough to save Wanderers, who dropped back into the First Division despite winning five of their last ten games.

Manager Colin Todd left the club in September 1999 following a fall-out with the board, who went on to appoint former centre-half Sam Allardyce, in a move which revitalised the club and laid the foundations for the most successful decade in the club's history.

The 5-0 loss to Sheffield Wednesday was a dark day, and a memorable match for all the wrong reasons.



Mike Reed


Premier League





Paolo Di Canio


Guy Whittingham


Andy Booth


Andy Booth


Andy Booth


Sheffield Wednesday

Kevin Pressman

Peter AthertonJon NewsomeDes WalkerIan Nolan

Mark PembridgePetter RudiJim Magilton,

Paolo Di CanioAndy BoothGuy Whittingham

Bolton Wanderers

Keith Branagan

Mike WhitlowGudni BergssonMark FishJimmy Phillips

Alan ThompsonPer FrandsenJamie PollockArnar Gunnlaugsson

Dean HoldsworthNathan Blake


Sheffield Wednesday

O'Neill Donaldson for Andy Booth


Graham Hyde for Peter Atherton


Patrick Blondeau for Paolo Di Canio



Bolton Wanderers

Andy Todd for Per Frandsen


Franz Carr for Jimmy Phillips