Since making their debut in the competition in 1881 in a 5-5 draw against Eagley, it’s been nearly 138 years of the most extraordinary moments, coupled with tragedy and disaster in equal measure.
This once proud club has reached the final of the FA Cup on no less than seven occasions. After losing their first two finals in 1894 & 1904 to Notts County and Manchester City respectively, Wanderers finally got their hands on the famous trophy in 1923 under the stewardship of legendary manager Charles Foweraker.
Now known as The White Horse final, Bolton’s 2-0 win against West Ham United was the first ever game played at Wembley Stadium. David Jack scored early, before Jack Smith scored in the second half to clinch the game for Wanderers.
From there, Bolton went on to win two more FA Cups in the 1920s. They beat Manchester City 1-0 in 1926 & went on to beat Portsmouth 2-0 in 1929.
Wanderers fans would have to wait another twenty-four years before they reached the final again.
During that wait, Bolton would record their highest ever attendance during a fifth round tie against Manchester City in 1933. A crowd of 69,912 saw City win 4-2 at Burnden Park. It remains the 11th highest club attendance in English football.
With Nat Lofthouse leading the line in 1953, Bolton Wanderers threw away a 3-1 lead to lose 4-3 against Blackpool in the ‘Matthews final’.
But Lofty would have his moment to shine in the cup five years later. Wanderers’ greatest player scored both goals in the 1958 FA Cup final as Bolton beat Manchester United 2-0.
Wanderers’ fourth FA Cup triumph would mark the last time the club have reached the final. The furthest they have reached since is the semi-finals, with both games ending in heartbreaking circumstances.
In Sam Allardyce’s first season as manager, Bolton reached the semi-finals of the Play-Offs, League Cup and the FA Cup, failing to reach the final in all competitions.
The FA Cup game was particularly memorable for all the wrong reasons. Facing Aston Villa at Wembley, Wanderers had the perfect opportunity to take the lead deep into stoppage time. With the score at 0-0, Eidur Gudjohnsen teed up Dean Holdsworth with what looked like the easiest of tap ins. However, Holdsworth skied the chance & Villa went on to win on penalties.
Then in 2011... well you know how that game ended.
Bolton Wanderers have a long and varied history with the FA Cup. During the Rioch era, it was the White Hot days. Fans went to grounds like Anfield, Goodison Park and Highbury thinking anything was possible, and walked away believing that. That was the magic of the FA Cup.
Since dropping from the Premier League in 2012, Bolton haven’t made it past the fourth round. Aside from Zach Clough’s debut goal against Wigan Athletic and a plucky draw against Liverpool at Anfield, Wanderers haven’t a stand out moment in the FA Cup.
The club is crying out for a moment like McGinlay’s leaping header vs Liverpool or Chungy’s dramatic winner against Birmingham City.
Do I expect Wanderers to reach the final in the near future? Absolutely not.
What I’d really love to see is a convincing win against Walsall on Saturday.
Just for one day. Forget the turgid football. Forget the fact we’ve won twice in twenty-two games. Forget the crippling off-field issues and new registration embargo.
The FA Cup could be a wonderful escape from the apathetic veil surrounding Wanderers at this time.
For one game, Wanderers should believe in the magic of the FA Cup. Because we genuinely have nothing else.