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1997: The Battle of Burnden Park Revisited

January 1997 saw the mother and father of all pitch battles

In January 1997, Colin Todd's Bolton Wanderers side was flying high at the top of Division One, with 18,980 crammed into Burnden Park to see the Whites taking on rivals Wolves managed by former Aberdeen captain Mark McGhee.

Relations between the two former founding members of the football league had never been too friendly, with the battles of the early 1990's catching the eye and the imagination of all who took part:

Just a wee push.

Anyway, as the season wore on it became apparent that Todd's Bolton and McGhee's Wolves would be title rivals and so it came to pass.

Eighteen days into the New Year and the two sides met. The game itself culminated in a routine 3-0 win for the home side with goals from John McGinlay and Nathan Blake, either side of an hilarious Keith Curle own goal.

This game however will go down in the record books as the 'Battle of Burnden'. The Bolton Evening News reported how McGinlay - Public Enemy No 1 in the eyes of the Wolves fans not least because he got away with flooring David Kelly in the memorable play-off semi-final of 1995 - went out 10 minutes before kick off to do his own special warm-up by giving the irate visitors a wave.

Before Wanderers took the lead, a 22 man brawl erupted in the middle of the field.

Wolves striker Iwan Roberts told the Birmingham Mail:

"One player started it. He knows who he is and there was no need for it. The referee lost control and to be fair he didn't really get it back,"

We now know that it was former Oldham Athletic man John Sheridan who lit the touch paper after Bolton had a penalty claim rejected when Nathan Blake fell under a tough Dean Richards tackle. Sheridan complained and was dragged back by Mark Venus, who was flattened by the Wanderers midfielder.

Famously, the referee commented after the game

"I am not going to report it. What can I say? I just didn't see what happened.

"I just called the two captains together and told them it was a situation for common sense.''

The Birmingham Mail would go on to report that multiple punches were traded. Roberts remained in the thick of things with Wolves legend Steve Bull taking two uppercuts on his chin.

The brawl came to an end with Wanderers winning on points. The fun didn't end there, however.

But in the 63rd minute, old rivals Bull and Taggart were booked for aiming head-butts at each other. However the most heinous offence would occur at half time.

Add to that a half-time incident involving Lofty the Lion and you had an unforgettable afternoon.

Our favourite mascot, Lofty, went through his usual dance routine in front of the away fans when he was bombarded with missiles, including a meat pie. Waste of a pie. Some angry Wolves fans even tried to get at Lofty who was eventually reported to the FA for his 'misconduct'. Lovely stuff.

The pie was believed to be unharmed.

In a post-game interview, a visibly bleeding Sheridan said:

"There was a bit of fisticuffs in the first couple of minutes but that's all part of the game.

He continued:

"A lot of players got involved in the fracas but it was all over in five minutes. A few players appealed for a penalty and that was it, really. I was caught in the middle of it."

You're not wrong. It was a fantastic, iconic moment in the history of our famous club.

The Teams

BOLTON: Ward; Bergsson, Fairclough, Taggart, Small; Lee, Pollock, Sheridan, Sellars; McGinlay (Green, 81), Blake. Not used: Johansen, Coleman.

WOLVES: Stowell; Smith, Richards, Curle, Venus; Emblen (Goodman, 69), Osborn (Atkins, 70), Thomas (Thompson, 70), Froggatt; Bull, Roberts.