What did the Vikings ever do for Bolton?: Michael Johansen recalls the Danish invasion

The Bolton News: Great Danes Per Frandsen, left, and Michael Johansen check out the Bolton Evening News Great Danes Per Frandsen, left, and Michael Johansen check out the Bolton Evening News

MICHAEL Johansen hopes Wanderers leave Denmark in better shape than they did last time they visited Scandinavia on tour.

The diminutive midfielder had just left Bolton at the turn of the millennium when Sam Allardyce took an experimental squad to play three warm-up games in preparation for another season in Division One.

Allardyce used games against Odense, Lyngby and Brondby to run the rule over several trialists including former Nottingham Forest midfielder Ian Woan, Dutch star Rob Maas, Germany international Matthias Hagner, Scotland Under-21 striker David Graham and Cameroon midfielder Alphonse Tchami.

But the tour went spectacularly wrong as the Whites tumbled to three defeats, conceding 14 goals in the process.

“I remember getting a lot of phone calls,” said Johansen, affectionately known as “Smurf” in his days at Burnden Park and the Reebok.

“People couldn’t believe how bad they had been. They got absolutely hammered.

“But I am very sure that it won’t go like that again for them. That was their first trip away that summer and they had not done a lot of training beforehand. You could certainly tell that in the games.

“I am sure that this year’s team will be much better prepared.”

Even if Wanderers fail to win a game on their three-match tour, they might take solace from the fact that Allardyce’s squad gained promotion later that season.

Dougie Freedman’s side have a busier summer than they experienced 12 months ago – perhaps in an effort to avoid the slow start that cost them so dearly last time around.

Johansen hopes that a tour of Denmark can be an omen for success.

“I know they are not in the Premier League any more, and I am quite sad about that, but the squad is a good one, even if I think you need a couple of Danes over there,” he said.

“I hope Bolton can get back to where they belong soon. Maybe Denmark will be lucky for them once again?”

Wanderers fans need no reminding of the club’s rich back catalogue of Danish players.

Johansen was part of an era under Colin Todd that also brought us Claus Jensen, Bo Hansen and Per Frandsen. A few years later we also got Great Danes Henrik Pedersen and Stig Tofting.

While the first wave of foreign imports included the likes of Mixu Paatelainen, Fabian De Freitas and Richard Sneekes – it would be the Scandinavian connection who really helped establish the club as a Premier League force.

And Johansen is proud of the impact he and his fellow Danes had at the time.

“Bolton made some very smart moves – like signing some of the best players in Demark,” he joked. “I like to think we changed the club. I hope we did.

“Whenever me, Claus and Per get together the talk always ends up about the good old days at Bolton and Burnden Park.

“I do see Toddy now and again – he is doing very well now at Randers after his heart operation.

“John Jensen had been in charge of the club and thought I don’t want to criticise him at all, when Toddy came in, he took the team to a completely different level.

“He is a very good representative for England over here in Denmark, that is for sure.”

Johansen’s Bolton career took in 170 games, 21 goals, a promotion to the Premier League and one relegation from the top flight.

But his name may always be synonymous with a missed penalty against Aston Villa in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley in 2000.

“If you ever want to make sure you are remembered by a football club then you miss a penalty in front of 45,000 fans like I did. They won’t forget me now,” he admitted.

“Yes, that happened. I do think about it from time to time when I see a penalty shootout.

“But my main memories of Bolton was the promotion under Colin Todd and leaving Burnden. They were great days.

“We had a fantastic squad and I’m very proud to say that there were a couple of Vikings in there too.”

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