At one point, it looked as three-year-old Mia, in this cute YouTube clip, might be Salut! Sunderland‘s best hope of luring a Bolton fan on to the site for the last but one Who Are They? of the season. Then Sluffy popped up and others we’d approached came back, belatedly offering to pour their relegation-threatened hearts out. David Blackburn*, a Bolton supporters’ association committee member, was so keen to do it that we couldn’t bring ourselves to say no. He pleads for a win on Saturday, remembers thinking Bolton should have gone on to beat us at the SoL before we made it 3-1, reveals the identity of Wanderers fans’ new hate team – and demands an answer to the most pressing question of all: what happened to the away fans’ chippie?
Having watched Bolton for many years, you would have thought that I would have got use to all the high and lows of the team.
But this year, God only knows what I have done wrong in a past life!! Watching the team all over Europe has been a pleasure, ranging from being caught up in the trouble in Madrid, to being held in a hotel in a lorry park in Belgrade for 6 hours, with police surrounding it and not letting us go anywhere… at least we were able to watch the game.
We have been abysmal at times this season and at the same time put in some good performances without any luck, ie the game at the Stadium of Light in which I thought we played very well and were unlucky to loose 3-1, some rank bad defending on our part didn’t help!!
We have had many an encounter over the years, not only at Roker Park, Stadium of Light, Burnden Park and the Reebok. Unfortunately I never got the chance to go to Roker, my only memory being watching a game on TV on a snow covered pitch and if my memory serves me right, we won 1-0 thanks to a Jason McAteer header (now that was a few years ago).
I do have a couple of mates at work who are Sunderland fans and they have had great pleasure in letting me know how well they are doing and how crap we have been playing.
A couple of years ago when we drew 0-0 with you in a league game at the Stadium of Light on a Boxing Day on a freezing cold day, my only memory was me at one end of the ground in the away end and them at the other and we were waving across to each other, that’s how bad the game was.
Also, what has happened to the chippie where the away fans coaches park? Always got way too many chips and loads were wasted, but when I went to the ground this season it was closed – I was absolutely gutted!
And now for your questions….
What did you think of our respective clubs’ prospects before season started? Did you expect to struggle and what do you make of the recent revival, of Megson etc
Before the beginning of the season, I honestly thought you had a chance of staying up as Keano would not have stood for any messing around and he seemed to have spent his money very wisely on players like Jones and Richardson for example. He also showed his intent when he bought Gordon. There were definitely thre worse teams in the league than yourselves and so it has proved.
As for us, I thought that Lee was a very good choice, but how wrong could I have been. He should as they say have stuck to being a number 2, but he could talk a good game. He tried changing things too quickly from the Big Sam era and was upsetting to many of the older heads. Crazy to think that when he did eventually get the bullet we weren’t playing too badly!! I didn’t think we would be were we are now though!! As for Megson, not a lot of people like him, but we beat our local neighbours at Man United (he will always be a hero for that) and we put in some decent performances in Europe, most notably at Bayern Munich. Megson was a hiding to nothing, think about it, Gartside rings him up to say “Gary, you are in a struggling in a Championship team, but we are willing to treble your wages and if we get relegated your job is safe” Blimey, I would have driven that fast up the motorway to sign the contract, my wheels wouldn’t have touched the tarmac!!
If you had told me three weeks ago after the 4-0 thrashing at Villa that we would take seven points from the next 3 games, I would have said you were barking mad – but we still have a chance, we have to beat you boys this Saturday!
When did you last see a SAFC v Bolton game home or away, and what happened? Any other memorable games between us?
My last game between us was this season when we went with high expectation, but you won 3-1. Same old story that we couldn’t defend in the first 20 minutes to save our lives and you were 2-0 up before you had broken sweat. Tactics all wrong again, with players out of position. When this was sorted, we settled down and could have won, but we didn’t. Some people may have heard of me before as I did a piece in the Sunderland programme that day in the away team bit. One of the things I was asked to do was predict the results of the other Premier League games that day and write a brief description of each one, how I didn’t guess that Spurs would beat Reading 6-4, I will never know!!
Also that day, football was put into prospective as on our way home came the news that the Motherwell captain Phil O’Donnell had passed away.
Other games that I can recall are the one in which Big Sam scored with a bullet header for Bolton from a long way out at Burnden Park, and us drawing 1-1 in the FA Cup at the Reebok.
We took one coach to the replay and there were nine police vans/cars to escort us away (116 fans from Bolton in total). It was a freezing night (a theme seems to be appearing here) and Kevin Kyle missed a sitter right on full time, within 30 seconds of the start of extra time he popped up to score (if only he had scored with the previous header). It was that cold even the Bolton fans wished he had scored earlier. You eventually won the game 2-0 (Arca with the other goal).
That same season we played you when it was Mick McCarthy’s first game in charge at the Stadium of Light and we were very worried. A packed stadium waiting with anticipation, but we won it 2-0 with goals from Pederson and Okocha and we stayed up and you went down.
What do you think of Sunderland itself?
I have never actually ventured into Sunderland itself so I don’t know what I am missing and the sort of welcome I would get. I have always gone on the coach apart from this season when I went in the car. In the coach, the nearest we got to find out what life is about is when the coach stops for its police escort and we all get out at Washington services. I know there are stories that parking is crap, but I found somewhere OK. I like Sunderland’s ground; it is one of the best in the league, apart from the bloody weather (have I mentioned that before?)
What about the signings each club made this season?
You were very ambitious and spent a lot of money in all areas of the park. You went for experience and some youth as well. It has worked out very well for you and I think you will survive in the league for several years to come and will no longer be a yo-yo club. It will be interesting as to what happens this pre-season, as the 2nd season is always the hardest.
Bolton, although defensively in January made decent signings with Steinsson and Cahill, we never bought the striker needed to replace Anelka and that could ultimately cost us. Some of the signings were exciting i.e. Braaten and Wilhelmsson but unfortunately they never paid off. Lee made too many signings and it backfired on him.
Your predictions for both clubs for rest of season
You have done your ultimate goal and stayed up, please let us win or we will be DOOMED against Chelsea away in our last game. We need to stay up and hope that this season was only a blip.
Do you regard Bury, Man Utd, Blackburn or anyone else much as we regard Newcastle? Or are you more grown-up about such things?
We probably look at Bury like United look at us and not really think of us as rivals, just a small team in big pond. I have always been brought up on hating United although it would never get to the nasty stage. When I was younger, I wanted to watch a game (like I’d seen on) Match of the Day and asked to go to watch United, but Dad said never and took me to watch Bolton and the rest is history. We do have a rivalry with Blackburn, but the team creeping into the scene is Wigan and we do hate Wigan!! Although I like to think that I am grown up about these things, we do have rivalries.
Memories of players and/or management linked to both clubs? Todd and Reid are obvious ones, Allardyce another but there will be many more (including, as your fellow Bolton fan reminded me, Charlie Hurley). And do you have any memories of Nat Lofthouse from relatives, older friends, encounters with him as an individual?
I never got to properly meet Nat Lofthouse, but I believe he is a true gent from listening to stories from other people and he is a very modest man, there is a campaign at the moment backing him for a knighthood. What England would do today for a record like his of 30 goals in 33 internationals.
I will never forget Peter Reid and when he played for Bolton, a superb player and was sold to Everton very cheaply and Everton went on to win the league. Man mountain Allardyce who will always be loved at Bolton for the way he played and in management and I am too young to remember Charlie Hurley. Other players include Michael Bridges, Carston Freedgaard, Jason McAteer, Paul Atkinson, Barry Siddall and Frank Worthington. (Did Steve Whitworth and Ray Train play for you boys?) There are probably many more, but their names escape me at the moment.
Club vs country. Who wins for you?
For me, it club all the way! I also would prefer to watch a Bolton game rather than England or even a non-league game for that matter. When Michael Ricketts made his one and only 45-minute cameo (if you can call it that) against Holland, I was watching Bolton reserves versus Manchester United. AT the end of the day, the club pays the wages and I would rather my club won a trophy before England. Yes, I want England to do well, but my club always comes first!!
Who will win? Score?
Hopefully Bolton by at least 1-0, we just need a win and I don’t care how we score!! The nerves will be jangling. I have only missed three away games all season (Pompey away because I was going to Prague on a stag do, still managed to watch the first half in the pub, Derby away as the swines invited me to the whole day of the marriage and I didn’t have the heart to say thanks but no thanks and Birmingham away as I went to watch my local non league team (Chorley) in a cup game instead).
* David Blackburn on David Blackburn
I am 38 years young and have been watching Bolton for 32 years, my first game being against Plymouth Argyle in February 1976 in a 0-0 draw at Burnden Park. I have seen us in all divisions in the football league and have been privileged enough to see them at Wembley and the Millennium Stadium on numerous occasions. My favourite and most memorable time in watching Bolton was when Bruce Rioch was the manager, the football was exceptional and you would turn up expecting to win. In those days we were also had many giant killing moments. My favourite players to pull on the famous white shirt include Frank Worthington, John McGinlay, David Lee, Andy Walker, Youri Djorkaeff, Jay Jay Okocha and Gudni Bergsson to just name a few. I am on the committee of the Bolton Wanderers Supporters Association so have appeared on many t.v. and radio programmes recently including being interviewed on Match of the Day 2, Setanta Sports, Radio 5 live and Sky sports news.