In the early 90's Bolton Wanderers burst onto the scene overnight with the 2-0 demolition of Liverpool at Anfield during an FA Cup 3rd Round replay. Wanderers had all but disappeared to third and fourth tier obscurity during difficult times but were experiencing a resurgence under new manager Bruce Rioch, with his creative, attack minded approach and entertaining style. Despite being in the old Division Two (league one equivalent) Bolton were prepared to take the game to the FA Cup holders and won in style - the memory of McGinlay's soaring header living long in the Bolton consciousness.
In 2021 the 90's revival is everywhere - from haircuts and music to fashion and home styling - and Bolton Wanderers are doing their bit to bring the magic on the pitch once again. Sure we had some good forays into the Premier League and even travelled Europe in unparalleled UEFA cup success in the noughties' but nothing matches our unassailable rise and rise during the 90's with giant killings, scintillating football and a world of possibilities as we unveiled the most spectacular football stadium in the country. Now, finally, after too many years of football certainly not coming home, Ian Evatt looks to have conjured up the perfect mix of grit and substance to be able to give any team in the land a good run for their money.
Fact. We are not solid at the back, but you know what, it only serves to enrich our enjoyment! After five end to end games of football so far this season - filled with chances, goal mouth action - and goals - no Wanderers' fan can say that the entertainment factor is anything short of breathtaking!
Today saw Wanderers' beat Oxford United 2-1 but the scoreline doesn't even begin to tell the story! The fans were witness to almost 30 attempts on goal, 35 crosses and 15 corners among numerous attacking surges, counter attacks and continuous inventive passing from both sides. And this is not an anomaly, indeed Bolton have scored 9 goals in the opening 4 league games but have also conceded 7, with two of the games ending in 3-3 draws. Every match is played at break neck speed right up until the final whistle.
Back in November 2020 when Bolton sat just above the relegation zone in the bottom tier of English football, Ian Evatt said, "I was brought in to provide, counterattacking and attacking football with pace, intensity, tempo (and) precision" - and that is what we are seeing now.
Compare this to start of the Bruce Rioch era where Bolton were teetering just 3 points above the drop zone in the lowly old second division before suddenly turning a corner and going on a long unbeaten run. The season culminated with the Wanderers clinching promotion on the final day after winning 5 games on the trot. In the FA Cup Bolton went on to beat Arsenal, Everton and Aston Villa - all Premier League teams - over the course of a couple of seasons. Bolton's strikers were bagging goals for fun and topped out at 100 goals in the league in a single season during the same spell.
Evatt's team have played out a similar story, from looking like relegation scrappers with the potential to drop out of the football league entirely, at Christmas, to going on a huge unbeaten run an hauling themselves up the league. In May a 4-1 victory against Crawley Town, with 78% possession to the whites, clinched automatic promotion on the final day of the season. Last week in the league cup, Evatt's newly promoted Bolton beat Championship outfit Barnsley who - whilst not exactly giants - finished in the playoffs earlier this year. Could this be the start of a new white hot era for the Wanderers?
Whatever happens from here on in, as long as we continue to play with the same enthusiasm and whilst the crowds go home thoroughly entertained, I think it is finally safe to say that Bolton have turned the corner. Twelve months ago nobody would have believed that Premiership football could once again be on the horizon but it truly is (dare I say). I, for one, am relishing the prospect of pulling a big team out of the hat in an FA Cup draw - I can't wait to see if Ian Evatt's super white army can emulate the dizzy achievements of Bruce Rioch and the gang. Being true underdogs is something that Manchester United , Liverpool and Arsenal fans will never be able to experience and nothing can ever beat the feeling of real giant killing. Will Evatt, Afolayan, Doyle and Sheehan be ready to write themselves into the eternal hall of fame and bring brand new white hot moments to a new generation of Bolton fans?
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