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Bolton Wanderers’ modern rise to greatness

In his debut piece, Adam takes a trip down memory lane

Bolton v Preston

With COVID-19 rife across the globe, and the club’s division yet to be decided for the return of the game, we can all agree that Bolton Wanderers are in a much better state than they were a short while ago. The club has proven over the years that it can rise from the levels below the top flight. We’ve looked back at three key games in the club’s rise to European stardom, and reminisce about happier times, starting with our all important return to the promised land.

Bolton 3-0 Preston North End

The stage was set. Club legends Nat Lofthouse and Sir Tom Finney were in attendance at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff for what would be the beginning of the rise of Bolton Wanderers.

A floated free kick from Simon Charlton, cleared only as far as Bolton’s Gareth Farelly who coolly brought the ball down from his thigh and smashed the ball home with the travelling Trotters troops behind him!

After a nervy 72 minutes, Michael Ricketts all but sealed promotion with an 89th minute goal. After finding himself one on one with David Lucas, his heavy touch took it away from the Preston Keeper giving him an easy finish into an open goal. The icing on the cake was the solo run of Ricardo Gardner who opted to go it alone and finished in some style to take Sam Allardyce, Nat Lofthouse and the town of Bolton back to the promised land of the Premier League.

But, as the famous words go, this was only the beginning.

Bolton 2-1 Middlesbrough

It was Survival Sunday as the curtain came down on the 2002/03 Premier League season, with Wanderers needing an all important win at home to Middlesbrough on the final day to ensure their safety.

After just 10 minutes, Bolton were in the driver’s seat. Per Frandsen’s bullet from outside the area cruised past Mark Schwarzer in the Visitors’ goal to put a bit of daylight between them and the relegation zone. ‘So good they named him twice’ and an architect when it comes to skills and set pieces. Jay Jay Okocha put the Whites further ahead with a fantastic free kick over the wall just 11 minutes later!

“Ricketts, What’s the Score?” rang around the Reebok. The former Wanderers frontman’s goal on the hour mark was not enough to salvage anything for Boro and Wanderers remained in the top flight.

Some might say that this was the result that sparked the Club’s rise to Europe…

Bayern Munich 2-2 Bolton Wanderers

The European trip of dreams for a Gary Megson side that pitted names such as Gavin McCann, Daniel Braaten and Gerald Cid against legends such as Kahn, Schweinsteiger and Miroslav Klose. A seemingly weakened side with one eye on league affairs meant that the ever present Jussi Jaaskelainen missed out completely and the late Gary Speed didn’t leave the bench.

A long throw from Skipper Kevin Nolan caused a melee in the penalty area, until it fell at the feet of Ricardo Gardner who put the Wanderers into dreamland. A brace from German legend Lukas Podolski gave the hosts the lead and Megson was staring down the barrel of defeat in his first taste of European Football. Step up, Super Kevin Davies. Another involvement from Nolan, whose pass found Davies at the back post, and the aptly named Super Kev smashed the ball underneath Kahn and into the net, giving The Trotters a monumental draw in Munich!

What would we give to relive those days again?