Team spirit can propel Whites to glory - Whitlow
WANDERERS face a crunch final eight Championship fixtures if they are to make a last-ditch bid for a top-six place.
But one veteran of their last play-off success in 2001 is confident they can do it if they are all pulling in the same direction.
Stalwart Whites defender Mike Whitlow came off the bench in both play-off semi-final matches against West Brom and then the final at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium when Sam Allardyce’s side beat Lancashire rivals Preston 3-0 thanks to goals from Gareth Farrelly, Michael Ricketts and Ricardo Gardner.
He believes one of the key factors in winning promotion 12 years ago was the team spirit and togetherness in Big Sam’s squad – something the current group have stated is there again this time around.
Whitlow says that could bring about a similar outcome.
“Everyone was an honest hard worker on the pitch and it does make a huge difference. It always gives you a chance to win games.
“When everyone is pulling in the same direction it has a massive impact and we certainly had that under Sam Allardyce.
“What we also had was superb preparation because the gaffer was so thorough – we were well-prepared for every game.
“That play-off final was memorable and we went into it with momentum having won three of the last four league games and then beating West Brom in the semi-final. We were on a roll.
“Football never changes and the same factors will come into play again for the current Bolton team.
“When you have confidence running through the camp, everyone wants to play and it rubs off on the whole squad.
“It was a great place to be in that dressing room in those days, and I suspect that the run the current team had been on before the defeat at Ipswich means it will be similar now.”
The Wanderers of 2000-2001 certainly showed good enough form in the second half of that season to earn their promotion.
Just two league defeats, at home to Blackburn and at Crewe, after the turn of the year meant they finished the campaign in third, nine points ahead of their play-off final victims Preston in fourth.
Whitlow did not play in every game in the second half of that season but says the response to those two defeats was evidence of their determination to succeed.
After the 4-1 Blackburn reverse, the Whites went seven matches unbeaten and then they responded to a 2-1 loss at Crewe with five games to go by winning the next three.
Watching the current team from afar, the man who is now head of youth football at Burton Albion sees similarities. He added: “We had a good run in the second half of that season and fingers crossed the current side can do the same.
“They lost at Ipswich but had been unbeaten in eight games before that.
“It is how they respond in the next game because thay still have eight matches to play.
“It will not be easy because there are some really good teams in that division but it is not out of the question.
“You just have to look at where Bolton have come from in the last six or seven weeks from down the wrong end to near the play-offs.
“It is the same with Nottingham Forest since Billy Davies rejoined.
“If you are in and around the play-off picture, you always have a chance “You need momentum at the right time and Bolton have shown they have that momentum with one defeat in nine games.
“I hope they can do what we did in 2001 because I want to see them back in the Premier League as soon as possible.”