In Yorkshire near Rotherham, goes the great little traditional song Spencer the Rover***. Well our Spencer’s in Lancashire, near or even in Bolton, and is accordingly a Wanderer. Maybe Monsieur Salut and Spencer Rathbone* should be meeting for a veteran versus upstart game of badminton (BBC Radio Newcastle’s Martin Emmerson may remember what happened when he took the upstart’s role a few years ago) before having an old hack/aspiring hack chat about journalism and watching the FA Cup third round tie together.
I am not sure what to make of the claim I came cross online that Wanderers fans sing a song just for Spencer – but will assume it to be a compliment to either his Wanderers fan site or his drinking habits. As for us, we just need to move on from the disappointments of recent days. A 40th anniversary cup run would help …
Salut! Sunderland: A good run in the Premier, a chance to see Jack Wilshere and other actual or potentially top Premier players in your colours – what then went wrong?
Yes it has been a roller coaster ride for us in our 11 year streak in the Premier League. After staying up in our first two seasons we began to push on fighting for Europe under the Allardyce era and it has been a slow decline since. It has been a privilege seeing these great young players such as Jack Wilshere on our books and now playing at the highest level. In recent years it has been a case of cutting the costs against wealthier clubs in the league and last year a combination of injuries to key players such as Stuart Holden and Chung Yong Lee and a tough run of fixtures early on didn’t help our cause.
It has been a subdued first half to the season for you. Did you expect to go straight back up, did you fear another slide through the divisons or has it gone more or less as might have been predicted?
Promotion back to the Premier League this year is an ambition shared by everyone at the club and most fans would have expected to be right up there throughout the duration of the season. I don’t think anyone would have expected to be in the bottom half of the Championship at this stage. Personally, my start of season expectations were to finish in the play off spots.
If not already dealt with, is Dougie Freedman the man to take you higher again and, if not, who or what is needed?
I do think Freedman can take us higher as he’s already beginning to add some stability at the club. He is focusing from back to front which is good as we have been defensively poor for a few seasons, especially after Gary Cahill left for Chelsea. Dougie is a totally different manager from Owen Coyle as he focuses more on the tactical side of the game. I believe that if Dougie Freedman can bring his own type of players to the club then we can challenge for promotion back to the Premier League, but realistically it will take time and it won’t happen overnight.
We’ve sold 5,000 tickets, Sunderland fans always love days out across the Pennines (except, on most occasions, to Merseyside or Manchester). Is there much excitement among your fans about the game?
Yes there is some excitement about the game because it gives us a welcome break from domestic duties. In the Championship the games come thick and fast with plenty of midweek games so the FA Cup allows us to come away from that and possibly give our younger players such as Marvin Sordell a chance. We do like a good FA Cup run here in Bolton getting to the Quarters and Semi Finals in the last two years.
There are loads of connections, old and more recent, between our clubs: Charlie Hurley, Colin Todd, El Hadji Diouf, Sam Allardyce, Barry Siddall, Jason McAteer, Alan Stubbs – do any, named or omitted, stick out on the memory for any reason?
Being a younger Wanderers fan I’ve got to talk about Sam Allardyce. He joined us back in the 70s as a no nonsense centre half before moving on to Sunderland and a host of other clubs but the memorable times were having Big Sam as a manager. He led us through some fantastic times getting to Europe and a League Cup final amongst many other incredible times. El Hadji Diouf played for both Bolton and Sunderland although he didn’t seem to make the same impact in the North East that he did for Bolton. There were some dark sides to Dioufy’s game – there’s no doubt about that – but his boisterous and temperamental nature often overshadowed his footballing abilities. Another connection between our clubs is Gavin McCann. I remember watching him for Sunderland and enjoying his combative style, something which earned him an England cap in his days on Wearside. He wasn’t every Bolton fan’s cup of tea but he grafted in the centre of the park and helped us survive in Bolton’s ‘Great Escape’ season of 07/08.
And I seem to recall David N’Gog was reportedly a target for us though nothing came of it. I cannot think of him without recalling one of the most amazing dives in footballing history, for Liverpool versus Birmingham, but how has he been for you?
It has been a mixed start for David in my opinion. Last season I don’t think we saw his full potential, offering some good play in parts. The £4m transfer deal seemed rather steep in comparison to what he offered going forward and goals wise last season. This year however he seems to have stepped up his game a few levels and when fit he holds the ball up fantastically and has started to chip in with a few more goals. However, the main question remains is whether he can play with skipper Kevin Davies. As they are fairly similar players Dougie Freedman has opted for one or the other this year.
See also: Monsieur Salut talks all things Sunderland at ESPN FC:http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/sunderland?cc=5739
You are far too young to have seen Nat Lofthouse and other stars of his era play, Who have been the best and worst you’ve seen in Wanderers colours?
The best player I have seen in a Wanderers shirt is by far Fernando Hierro. Although he wasn’t here long, the moment he stepped on the field he oozed class and ability in whatever he did. It is absolutely amazing how a club of our stature managed to secure a player with over 400 appearances for Spanish giants Real Madrid. Another great player to wear the Bolton jersey was Nicolas Anelka. We had lacked an out and out finisher since Michael Ricketts left in 2003 so it was money well spent to tempt the Frenchman away from Fenerbache. Other notable players that were held in high regard were Youri Djorkaeff, Jay Jay Okocha and Jussi Jaaskelainen. On the not so good side I could be here for quite a while! A couple that stick firm in the memory are Mario Jardel and Gerald Cid. Jardel came to Bolton boasting European golden boots but was overweight and failed to replicated his goal scoring form in the Premier League. With Gerald Cid I think the majority of fans believe he was one of the worst players to play for us. He was very shaky at the back and subsequently retired at 27 years old!
What are the highs and lows of your time as a supporter?
One of the major highs has to be our European run in the 07/08 season. A 2-2 draw at the Allianz Arena against Bayern Munich was memorable. A late Kevin Davies equaliser sealed the draw which was an outstanding moment for us. Beating Atletico Madrid later on in the same competition was another great high. The atmosphere at the Reebok was absolutely electric and we beat them 1-0 courtesy of that man again El Hadji Diouf. Another great moment was in the 2002/03 season. The battle for survival went down to the last day of the season against Middlesborough. We were 2-0 up with goals from Frandsen and Okocha but former Wanderer Michael Ricketts pulled one back to make it a nervy 15 minutes for supporters. We held on to win 2-1 and stay afloat. The obvious low point was relegation in May. I was at the game against Stoke and we should have won. Some poor refereeing allowed Stoke to get a draw and provide a bitter twist to an extraordinary run in the Premier League.
Do you have good, bad, funny memories of any games between us, home or away?
There have been some mixed results against Sunderland over the years. A good memory for Bolton fans will be the 2-0 win in 2008 which kept us in the league, meaning we didn’t have to get a result at Stamford Bridge on the last day of the season. Another positive game was the 4-1 Bolton win at the Stadium of Light in the 08/09 season. An Elmander double sealed the win which effectively saw the end of manager Roy Keane. Sunderland however have enjoyed some good victories over Bolton in recent times. The last three games at the Reebok have finished 2-0, 2-1 and 1-0 to the visitors, playing some good football in the process.
And do you have any particular thoughts on Sunderland – the club, the fans, the city, the region?
The passion of supporters in the North East is there for everyone to see. Although you won’t like me saying this, the black and white side as well as the red and white are delirious about football. I’ve been to the North East a few times and everyone seems to love their football. I have respect for Sunderland as they always support their team vocally and in numbers too. The club have now settled in the top division well after coming in and out of the league in the early 2000’s. They now have players such as Adam Johnson, Seb Larsson and Stephane Sessegnon who are definitely Premier League quality, along with a brilliant manager in Martin O’Neill.
So much has been said about, and in tribute to, Fabrice Muamba, but let’s give his book a plug and hear from you what he means to Bolton supporters. Will his links to the club be maintained?
Our chairman Phil Gartside has made it clear that Fab will always have a role here at Bolton. Fabrice will be considered a legend at Bolton I’m sure of that. I remember watching the game on TV when it happened. Even just watching from home it was a very surreal moment and it was enlightening to see the football world pull together in support of Fab. Everyone’s heart was in their mouths and the world stood still hoping for good news. He had the courage and personality to bounce back and the Muamba mosaic against Blackburn at the Reebok was a sight to see. We have seen a development in his footballing abilities showing his athleticism and physicality. We could have done with him on board last season but the main thing is that he came through the other end alright.
Who will go up from the championship this season, who is going down and, if not mentioned, where will Bolton finish? Similar question for the Premier – top four in order, bottom three, where SAFC will end up
This is a tough one. Cardiff are looking good at the top and I think Middlesborough could join them. I also fancy Leicester through the play offs. At the other end of the table I think that Barnsley and Bristol City will go down. The last relegation spot is open and despite Peterborough’s recent good run it could be them. Bolton have got to start picking up points and being optimistic, although it’s a big ask I don’t see why we can’t put a run together in the new year and nick a final play off spot. As much as it pains me to say it I think Manchester United will win it now. City a distant second, Chelsea third and Arsenal to nick 4th spot. Its very tight at the bottom now. I think QPR will go down along with Reading in 20th and 19th place. I’m worried about the rapid decline of Aston Villa and I believe it could be them instead of Southampton. Sunderland are far too good to be dragged into the mire and I see them finishing a comfortable 12th place.
Does the number of MUFC and other non-BWFC tops seen in Bolton bother you?
Yes it does. I don’t like the fact that the big club culture is being drilled in to younger kids by the media. Look at Manchester City, their fanbase has grown rapidly since the money was pumped in.
I’ve mentioned diving. When players, backed by some pundits and managers, can say there is an “entitlement” to go down and claim a penalty on the least contact, is time to stop worrying about cheating at all? If not, how do we stamp it out?
The diving debate is a difficult one to tackle. Obviously I don’t agree with it and we are seeing players going down from pretty much anything. Its quite hard to stamp it out though because we have seen players booked for diving when they possibly shouldn’t have. An encouraging solution could be retrospective punishments for players caught cheating.
Name one step BWFC or the football authorities could take that would improve the lot of the ordinary supporter.
Something that recently came to attention was the terracing debate. I believe that standing up at football matches livens up a stadium. If BWFC and other clubs reintroduce terraces then we may see better atmospheres in these modern stadiums.
The club v country debate. Who wins for you and why?
100 per cent club football. International football seems to be declining in prestige. Whether that is down to the increasing amount of friendlies in the domestic calendar I don’t know, but I don’t feel as passionate about England games as Bolton games.
Will you be at our game and what will be the score?
Yes I’ll be at the game. I think it may be a close encounter and going for a 1-1 draw on the day.
* Spencer Rathbone on himself: I really enjoy my sports. I like playing and watching tennis and badminton as well as football. I have always had a passion for writing and I have always enjoyed writing match reports and articles related to BWFC. I have recently created a blog on Bolton Wanderers and I’m looking to expand its contents. I am currently at college and aiming to take a degree in journalism at university. I have had many highs and lows as a Bolton fan. From European adventures and cup runs to relegation last year sums up the mixed emotions of being a Bolton fan. I remember going to my first Bolton game when I was about 5 or 6 years old. That game was coincidently against Sunderland, a 1-1 draw with Michael Gray’s opener cancelled out by a comic own goal from Phil Babb.
** No idea what Fabrice Muamba’s book, I’m Still Standing, costs in the shops but I’d guess the under-a-tenner Amazon price offers a decent bargain. Get it at this link if you fancy it: http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/1908695404/salusund-21
*** No reason really except that I love it:
Interview: Colin Randall