It’s been an absolutely brilliant year to be a Bolton Wanderers fan. Especially considering the position we were in when 2021 began. Languishing in the bottom half of the table, it looked as if any chance of promotion was slipping away.
Then that January transfer window happened. In came the likes of Declan John, Ben Jackson, Kieran Lee, MJ Williams & Dapo Afolayan. Five players who massively changed Wanderers’ fortunes.
The huge turning point was the away game against Mansfield Town. After going 2-0 down with less than twenty minutes to go, it seemed as if it was just going to be one of those disappointing games we had seen far too often. But oh no - something miraculous happened. With five minutes to go - it was 2-2. A brilliant point away from home seemed a good result.
Though Wanderers weren’t done then. With added time looming, Arthur ‘The King’ Gnahoua curled home a sensational winner that turned out to be the start of one of the most outstanding runs the club has ever been on. Eleven wins in fourteen catapulted Wanderers back into the race for not just the play-offs, but automatic promotion.
A brilliant 4-1 win at Crawley on the final day of the season clinched promotion. For the vast majority of us not being able to attend a game throughout the season, the chance to celebrate with the players outside the hotel when they returned was a real highlight. Seeing a tipsy Eoin Doyle doing his best Stone Cold Steve Austin impression whilst on the shoulders of a fellow Wanderers fan was a sight to see.
Thankfully by the start of the 20/21 season, fans were able to attend games and the first one back against MK Dons did not disappoint. A classic 3-3 draw which included a debut screamer from Josh Sheehan and a last gasp equaliser from Mr Dioralyte himself, Alex Baptiste, was just the 90 minutes needed to welcome the fans back home.
Seeing Dapo re-create the Okocha dance at Wimbledon, banishing the demons of Barry Knight at Ipswich and putting four past Charlton were particular highlights for me on the road. Just to be able to travel across the country again to see Wanderers is great, something we took for granted a couple of years back. The away form might have dipped in recent games, though I’m hopeful we can get back to winning ways sooner rather than later.
To end the year with the 16th best league record out of the 92 professional clubs combined is an outstanding achievement.
There was also the charity game to raise money for Gethin Jones’ mum and the Darby Rimmer MND Foundation.
It was just wonderful to see over 13,000 fans turn up to witness the return of Sam Allardyce in the Bolton dugout to manage his famous team once again. To see Okocha, Campo, Stelios, Super Kevin Davies, Nicky Hunt, Jussi, Ricardo Gardner, Super John and the rest all playing back at The Reebok was truly special.
Whether it was Big Sam and Jay-Jay recreating their dance, Campo pinging balls across the pitch like it was 2006 or SKD with a trademark yellow card challenge, it was a fantastic day for a even more special cause.
I’d like to also say thank you to all the people who have contributed towards the site and the podcast in 2021.
For everyone who has tweeted, commented & enjoyed our content, thank you.
Finally, I just want to repeat something from last years New Years message. Once again, It’s been a challenging year for a lot of people mentally & it’s important to realise now more than ever - it’s ok not to be ok. If you feel like you are struggling and can’t talk to a family member or a friend, please reach out and call one of these numbers:
Charity providing support if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety condition.
Phone: 03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.30pm)
A charity helping people living with manic depression or bipolar disorder.
CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably. A charity providing a mental health helpline and webchat.
Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight)
Men’s Health Forum
24/7 stress support for men by text, chat and email.
Mental Health Foundation
Provides information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities.
Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.
Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)
Voluntary charity offering support for sufferers of panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Offers a course to help overcome your phobia or OCD.
Phone: 0844 967 4848 (daily, 10am to 10pm). Calls cost 5p per minute plus your phone provider’s Access Charge
Support for people with OCD. Includes information on treatment and online resources.
Phone: 0845 390 6232 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5pm). Calls cost 5p per minute plus your phone provider’s Access Charge
A charity run by people with OCD, for people with OCD. Includes facts, news and treatments.
Phone: 0333 212 7890 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)
Young suicide prevention society.
Phone: HOPElineUK 0800 068 4141 (9am to midnight, every day of the year)
Advice on dealing with domestic violence.
Phone: 0808 2000 247 (24-hour helpline)
Rethink Mental Illness
Support and advice for people living with mental illness.
Phone: 0300 5000 927 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm)
Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.
Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
Emotional support, information and guidance for people affected by mental illness, their families and carers.
Textcare: comfort and care via text message, sent when the person needs it most: www.sane.org.uk/textcare
Peer support forum: www.sane.org.uk/supportforum
Information on child and adolescent mental health. Services for parents and professionals.
Phone: Parents’ helpline 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm)
(Other numbers can be found on the NHS website by clicking here)
Remember, someone out there loves you, even if you don’t have the capacity to love yourself right now.
Whether you’re staying in, going out or will be fast asleep by midnight, I hope you all have a fantastic New Year. Let’s hope it’ll be terrific again for our beloved Bolton Wanderers.
Happy New Year!