Cast your minds back 5 years to the 2nd January 2008. Bolton Wanderers were in the Barclays Premier League with ‘The Ginger Mourinho' holding the reigns at the Reebok Stadium. This was the club's 130th year in existence and our 7th consecutive season in the top flight; things were rosy at the Reebok. The club eventually went on to perform admirably in Europe and survived comfortably in 16th place in the league. This game against Derby County stands out for mostly all the wrong seasons.
The main reason this match was memorable to me is because it was one of the worst games of football I've ever seen. Another factor was the temperature; the game was played in sub-zero temperatures under the Reebok's floodlights on a cold and damp Thursday evening. A star-studded Bolton side featuring the likes of Ivan Campo, Jussi Jaaskelainen, Nicolas Anelka, Stelios Giannakopoulos, and the unforgettable Andy O'Brien turned out against a poor Derby side that languished at the bottom of the table with current White, Tyrone Mears, playing for them.
The game itself was diabolical; Derby came and resiliently defended for 90 minutes, not giving our strike force a sniff of goal. I was joined by 17,014 spectators who were suffering from severe boredom and hypothermia. I can't stress enough how cold it was that night. I was only nine at the time but my skiing long johns and 2 pairs of socks didn't do the trick, it was pretty intense. On 82 minutes the ‘ginger Mourinho' made a change bringing on Stelios and it was a pivotal turning point in the game.
The Reebok's clock was slowly counting down, time was running out and more importantly my feet had turned blue. It was the 90th minute; Bolton had successfully broken down Derby and caught them on the counter-attack. A "Big Sam" inspired route 1 hoof found its way to the little Greek magician, who magnificently dinked the ball over Lewis Price in the Derby goal and headed home from all of three yards. This sent the Bolton fans bouncing up and down on their numb feet as they shivered along to James Brown booming round the stadium. This has since become an iconic goal from Stelios and subsequently put the Rams ten points adrift from safety. They ended the season with a record low number of 11 points.
In a Youtube interview on the club's official website this is what Stelios had to say about his iconic goal:
‘We were struggling at that moment and were desperate to take the 3 points! To score that winning goal was brilliant for the club first and after for me because the club goes first always.
"I think that these are the memories that you remember when you retire."
Nearly 6 years on the Rams return to the Reebok but under different circumstances. Derby have made a solid start under Nigel Clough and find themselves sitting comfortably in 7th position 8 points above the Trotters. They come into this match on the back of an impressive 5-1 win away at fellow strugglers Millwall. A win surely has to be the minimum expectation considering our poor start to the season. Three points on Tuesday night will help kick start our season and hopefully push on to bigger and better things.