There's no denying that in my years supporting Bolton Wanderers, the best team has to be Big Sam's golden era side. No way that side can be beat. Okocha, Djorkaeff, Hierro, Campo, Stelios, Anelka and many more. The sheer class of the players of those years was sensational.
However, this isn't a piece on the best Bolton side. I'm going to take a look at what I feel is the most underrated Bolton side in my lifetime.
And that is the 2010/2011 Bolton Wanderers side.
The main thing is that this was the first season since Big Sam left when it was genuinely brilliant being a Bolton fan. Yes, there was the fantastic European results under Gary Megson but he was an utter prick and the final eighteen months of his reign tarnished any reputation he had at the club. He hated the fans and made sure we knew about it.
In stepped Owen Coyle. He was already familiar to the club from his two year spell as a player in the 90's, and scored the 1995 Play-Off Final against Reading FC.
Having kept Bolton up in the 2009/2010 season, Coyle set about putting his stamp on the side. Now, I know Coyle wasn't the greatest Bolton manager. That's what makes this side even better. Transfers like Robbie Blake, Marcos Alonso and Tom Eaves didn't set the world alight. The return of fan favourite Ivan Klasnic and the signing of the experienced winger Martin Petrov were more encouraging, but going into the season I had no expectations higher than mid table.
Instead, Bolton earned plaudits for the style of play and the some of the results were just brilliant.
Here was the most common starting XI:
Gretar Steinsson Gary Cahill Zat Knight Paul Robinson
Chung-yong Lee Fabrice Muamba Stuart Holden Martin Petrov
Johan Elmander Kevin Davies
Compared to the Bolton of now, it's like 1970's Brazil. But then, it was an average Premier League side that was great to watch.
There wasn't that stand out 'star'. It was just a team that worked. Robbo was a no nonsense full back. Muamba and Holden were a dynamic midfield duo. I wasn't always convinced by Muamba but when paired with Holden he was fantastic. It was the same for Zat Knight and Gary Cahill. When paired together, Cahill made Knight a better player.
Chungy was also in the prime of his career that season. Following on from his debut season in English football, Chungy went from strength to strength, and was just an absolute pleasure to watch.
Super Kevin Davies really was super as well. He excelled in his role as captain and led the team brilliantly.
It was finally the season when Johan Elmander started scoring. The previous two seasons he'd struggled completely, then like magic, Elmander finally started showing the form that led Bolton to break their transfer record for him.
Bench players like Ivan Klasnic and Mark Davies contributed to the team as well. Now, we have Shola Ameobi or Stephen Dobbie to 'change the game'. But back then, Klasnic and Davies were genuinely capable of changing the result of a game.
Klasnic was never a player to work hard. He was just a finisher, pure and simple. Despite not working much in a game, he was still able to make a better contribution than any of our subs now combined. This was evident in a game against Stoke City in 2010. Coming on in the 77th minute, Klasnic scored the winner in the 90th minute, causing the Stoke fans to paddy and try and storm the home end.
It was also a time when Mark Davies was the future of the club. The team goal sticks out as a key moment for Davies and an example of the kind of football Bolton were playing.
There are plenty of stand out moments from the 2010/2011 season. Gretar Steinsson putting Gareth Bale in his back pocket, resulting in a fantastic 4-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur at the Reebok. There was also the 5-1 drubbing of Newcastle United, and the 3-2 win over Aston Villa, when Bolton had to come from behind twice to beat the Villains.
Stuart Holden's 90th minute winner over Blackburn Rovers was another special moment. In that season, he was the beating heart of the side and one of many reasons why Bolton were on the brink of qualifying for Europe for the first time in four years.
Fringe players also had stand out moments, like midfielder Tamir Cohen. Cohen, scored a late winner against Arsenal, leading to a touching celebration in memory of his dad Avi Cohen, the former Liverpool player, who had passed away in 2010 in a motorcycle accident.
While Rodrigo didn't set the world alight, Sturridge was utter class. In just twelve games for Bolton, Sturridge scored 8 goals.
It was also the year of the club's FA Cup run, when Bolton reached the Semi-Finals for the only the second time since winning the cup with Nat Lofthouse in 1958. Despite the actual Semi-Final being completely forgetful, Chungy's winner in the Quarter-Final was special.
The good times quickly faded though. After the 2-1 win over Arsenal in April, Bolton amazingly were 8th.
However, five straight defeats meant Bolton finished the season in the lowly position of 14th.
The main reason for this was Stuart Holden being savagely mauled by that bastard Jonny Evans. Evans' studs caught Holden in the left knee, leaving a gash that required twenty six stitches and a fracture of thefemur near the knee joint, which ruled him out for a minimum of six months. Holden never really recovered after this.
In the pre-season of 2011, Chungy then broke his leg in a friendly against Newport County. His replacement, Gael Kakuta, wasn't great to say the least. Johan Elmander and Daniel Sturridge left and were replaced by David N'Gog.
Subsequently, Bolton were relegated.
I think that the Bolton team of 2010/2011 is the most underrated side in my lifetime. Fans were too used to the glory days of Big Sam, and Coyle's reputation was tarnished with the relegation in 2012.
But for that one year, Bolton could have had something special.