Can anything stop the Bolton juggernaut? This could be one of Rovers’ toughest fixtures! Bolton are the form side of the division at the moment with 25 points from their last 9 matches. Ominously, Bolton’s form has been (like Rovers) slightly better away from home.
The season started badly for Bolton with 3 straight losses including an opening day 1-0 defeat at home to Rovers (Carl Winchester’s 50th minute strike giving Rovers all 3 points). Since those early days Bolton have rallied, and are now the top form side in the division by some margin. A recent run of 6 straight wins was stemmed when they drew 1-1 away at Bradford on 6th March (Bradford were the division’s 2nd form side at the time). But a 2-1 home win against Cambridge, a 1-0 away victory at Port Vale and a 2-1 home win against Walsall have put them back in winning ways.
Bolton’s strike duo of Eoin Doyle and Nathan Delfouneso have been their main threats this season with 13 and 8 goals respectively. Midfielder and captain Antoni Sarcevic has also chipped in with 6 goals.
Delfouneso, has quite a pedigree. He scored 19 goals as a regular player at England youth level and spent the first 5 seasons of his career at Aston Villa. Since then he has played for Blackpool, Leicester and Burnley, amongst others.
Rovers fans will remember Delfouneso’s strike partner Eoin Doyle from his days on loan (from Bradford) at Swindon last season – this was a loan spell which cemented the Irishman’s reputation as a goalscorer. Doyle scored twice for Swindon at The New Lawn last season in a 2-2 thriller – Jo Mills’ 95th minute equaliser won’t be quickly forgotten!
The football league was started by Aston Villa Football Club in 1888 along with 11 other founder members. These founder members were all from the North and Midlands. Bolton Wanderers were one of these founder member clubs.
Bolton have played league football ever since 1888 with more years spent in the top tier than outside it. They had a brief visit to the 4th tier in 1988 but won promotion straight back to the 3rd tier in 1989. In 2012 they had been a Premiership side for a decade before they started a steep decline. Last season they were relegated back to the 4th tier for just the second season in their history.
One look at the University of Bolton stadium, tells you that Bolton are a club that may be punching well below its weight these days. The stadium has been Bolton’s home since they moved from Burnden Park in 1997. It has a capacity of almost 29,000 and is the largest in League 2 (only Bradford’s Valley Parade at 25,000 comes close).
Rovers fans will remember the club being in conflict with Bolton 2 years ago over the Christian Doidge transfer fiasco. Bolton were then in the Championship. Dale Vince said of the then Chairman, Ken Anderson, that he is “a rogue chairman, a slippery character and untrustworthy” and that Anderson’s attitude to running up debt was “shocking” and “a sign of somebody who has been round the block on this kind of thing”. T-shirts were released by Rovers with proceeds going to Bolton’s Supporters Trust while Wanderer’s fans travelling to see FGR play at home against Bury were rewarded with free beer!
Agreement between Bolton’s new owners and FGR over Doidge’s aborted transfer was reached in December 2019. Christian has gone on to make more than 50 appearances for Hibs in the Scottish Premiership, scoring 17 times in his 2 seasons so far.
In May 2019, Bolton went into administration and came close to being liquidated before being sold in August 2019. In the pandemic-affected 2019/20 season Bolton were bottom of League 1 when the season was halted and they therefore dropped into League 2.
Thankfully for this famous old club the stewardship of Anderson is over. No longer are players going on strike frequently after being unpaid for 20 weeks, the water in the stadium is now drinkable and the showers are now working. An owner, described by some as “tyrannical”, has gone, and few in Bolton will be sorry.
Wanderers are now owned by a consortium called Football Ventures, who bought the club out of administration. Bolton must be unusual in having a female Chair, Sharon Brittan, and a female CEO, Emma Beaugeard. One of the backers of the consortium is Pink Floyd drummer, Nick Mason.
Bolton itself is a large town in Greater Manchester, a few miles north-west of its larger neighbour. The town was founded on textiles and became a 19th century boom-town. At its peak in 1929 it boasted 216 cotton mills. Nowadays, this has all gone. Several regeneration projects are planned for the town over the next 10 years.
Born and bred in Bolton are a number of well-known personalities including steeplejack Fred Dibnah, boxer Amir Khan, and comedian Peter Kay.