In the fourth round we faced Wolverhapton Wanderers who were in the First Division (now known as the Championship) and we rather unceremoniously dumped them out by two goals to nothing at Molyneux at the first time of asking with goals from Green and yep, you guessed it, Super John McGinlay. In the fifth round we faced off against Derby County and on February 13th, exactly one month after the triumph against Liverpool tired legs and a hectic schedule caught up with us. The 1st Division outfit beat us 3-1 and while we performed well and the scoreline did flatter the Rams the truth is they were the better side on the night. The Rams would play an epic quarter final against Sheffield Wednesday, drawing 3-3 at Pride Park before finally succumbing to the Yorkshiremen by a single goal to nil at Hillsborough. However, while all of that is interesting in its own right and the performance against Wolves was genuinely great it isn't nearly as important as what happened in the league.
Our run in to automatic promotion truly began on January 16th 1993, three days after beating Liverpool and you could have forgiven the players if they'd felt a little tired or perhaps even a bit deflated going back to the hum-drum business of third tier football so quickly. We lined up at Burnden Park to face Plymouth Argyle, a decent side who might even have felt they were in with a chance because we might be worn out after our Anfield exertions. If they did believe it they were deeply mistaken.
I'm not going to bore everyone to death by going through every game in that incredible run in. What I will do is touch on just a few of the highest points starting with the basic facts. After the Liverpool replay we had 22 league games left and here's how we handled them.
P W D L GF GA Pts
22 17 3 2 40 16 54
No, that is NOT a typo, we lost only TWICE in twenty two games and scored FORTY goals. What wouldn't any of us give for a run like that today? During that run in we played what I still think of as the most exhilarating, entertaining football I've ever seen in my days as a Trotter. There may have been individual matches where we played better later on but for sheer consistency of quality, for the way I woke up on every match day with a grin and positively looking forward to the game I still think there's been nothing quite like it since. What makes it even better in my eyes is this was just the start although we didn't know it then.
Along the way on that incredible rollercoaster ride to automatic promotion we didn't just beat teams, we slaughtered them, most notably a 4-1 spanking handed out to Exeter City on 20th March (goals from Kelly, McAteer, Walker and McGinlay) and a 5-0 hammering handed out to Chester City ( Brown, Seagraves, McGinlay, Patterson and Winstanley) on 24th April. In fact one thing that really stands out for me in looking back at the Rioch era is we had goals from everywhere, they seemed to come from all over the pitch in a way that doesn't happen today. The final day of that season saw us confirm second place and automatic promotion with a 1-0 win against Preston North End with a goal from (who else) Super John himself and boy we loved that!
The 1992/93 season was the start of a resurgence that would see Bolton Wanderers charge into the Premier League and all the way to European qualification. Along the way we'd see a World Cup winner in our shirt, we'd see football magic so good it was named twice and we'd see players from every corner of the globe gracing the turf of the Reebok (now Macron) Stadium with their skills and we'd never fear anyone who faced us no matter how big they were supposed to be. Of course there was a downside and as it turned out a big one but speaking for myself I can only say it was one hell of a great ride while it lasted and that we shouldn't assume it cannot or will not happen again.
For me 1992/93 was the season it all began and I for one will never cease to be grateful for the fact I was lucky enough to be there to see it as it happened. I'm hoping that our younger fans might just be in for their own 'White Hot Era' soon, that Phil will be able to lead us on a journey similar to the one we enjoyed under Bruce Rioch's leadership.
Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed reading this and if you haven't done it yet why not head over to the Forum at http:www.boltonnuts.co.uk/forum? It's simple and free to join and you can talk about all things BWFC related in our BWFC banter, news and development sections or you can literally talk about anything that piques your interest in Wandering Minds. Come along and get involved in the conversation. In the meantime this wraps it up until next week for “Piper's Piece” and I hope you'll join me again then when I'll be talking about the summer of 1995 and Bruce's shock departure to Arsenal.