Our first victory (and what a relief it was when it arrived) was a 1-0 win at home to Millwall with a goal from the ever reliable Patterson. It was actually a close match as the scoreline suggests but in the end we just about edged it, much to the chagrin of the Millwall fans who felt they had deserved at least a point. Honesty compels me to say they were probably right but in truth every team needs a touch of luck occasionally and this was ours. We had four points, finally a win under our belts and while it would be wrong to say we knew it would kick start our season then in hindsight that is precisely what it did. We saw the first signs of that in the very next league match in which Stoke City came to Burnden Park for what they must have felt was a genuine opportunity to pick up an away win.
In fact they were dismantled, swept aside almost contemptuously by a Bolton display that frankly would have had the pundits swooning and journalists scrambling for a thesaurus to find new ways to describe that brilliant performance. The final score was 4-0 to the Trotters and it could easily have been double that. Goals from McGinlay (as if you hadn't known), two from McAteer and one from Patalainen simply emphasised our all round superiority on the day. It was almost as if the previous matches in the league had been a warm up and things had finally 'clicked' as we played the sort of football every Wanderers fan knew we were capable of but hadn't seen as yet this term. It was a joy to watch and the eleven and a half thousand watching fans (minus those from the Potteries) were treated to a wonderful spectacle. In some ways that win was even better than the ones we'd enjoyed in the FA Cup against Arsenal and Liverpool in the two preceding seasons simply because it came on the back of what had seemed to be a mediocre start.
The next match saw us bump down to earth in a 3-1 defeat away to Sheffield United but this BWFC team was made of stern stuff, perhaps even sterner than we realised at the time because they responded immediately by hammering Luton Town at Kenilworth Road 3-0. Super John bagged a brace and the third was scored by Sneekes, a player who may not be as well known as other members of the 'White Hot' team but who was a valuable part of it nonetheless. In point of fact Sneekes popped up with goals and assists on a regular basis all through that season but for reasons that should be obvious he never quite got the same attention that McGinlay, McAteer, Paataleinen and the likes of David Lee got which in all honesty was a bit unfair to him because he was a good, solid player who never (as far as I can remember) failed to give his best and do everything that was asked of him.
Anyway, by December of 1994 we were rolling along quite nicely, in touch with the leaders and through to the semi-finals of the League Cup having despatched Ipswich, Sheffield United, West Ham and Norwich along the way. As Christmas came and went the Trotters fans were feeling pretty good about things and why not? There was a genuine chance of a trip to Wembley, we were in the top half of the table and the club itself looked to be on a solid financial footing (probably the most important thing of all given how close we had come to extinction just a few years earlier). Not only that but the FA Cup was about to start for us (something we'd genuinely rocked the football world in in each of the two previous seasons by dumping out the holders and beating other top-flight opposition). It was definitely a pretty good time to be a BWFC fan and while we weren't going to say we'd conquer the world we definitely felt this season could be special, that we had a real shot at winning a major trophy and getting ourselves into the Premier League for the first time since its formation. Of course we all knew that it might not go that way, that being a Bolton Wanderers fan involves at least as much disappointment as it does delight but speaking personally I greeted 1995 with a great deal of optimism at least as far as football was concerned.
I'm going to close today's blog here. In the next part I'll cover the League Cup, the run in to what many still believe to be the greatest play off final comeback ever and the earth-shaking shock that rocked our club to its foundations just a month after this remarkable season ended.