10 YEARS AGO: Sam Allardyce was the latest victim of the curse of the Manager of the Month award.

The Wanderers boss, acknowledged as the top Division One boss in January, reckoned his promotion-chasing players had become “complacent and over-confident” after they were lucky to escape with a 2-2 draw at home to relegation-haunted Huddersfield.

They needed a last-minute goal from salvage expert Per Frandsen to rescue a point and although visiting manager Lou Macari suggested they had just had an off-day and were still his tip for automatic promotion, Big Sam was less confident.

But although he laid into his team – particularly his defenders – he acknowledged that the Reebok pitch wasn’t helping matters.

Just a fortnight after the club announced they were leaving well alone, Allardyce said: “I think we have to look at the possibility of re-turfing.

“While the experts said it wasn’t right at this moment in time, I’d ask the chairman to get them back in again, because what we’ve got today will only get worse.”

Although he stopped short of blaming the pitch for the poor performance, he warned of the perils of continuing to play on a poor surface: “Players will look for excuses. If that pitch is not right and we fail to produce results, they will blame that pitch. I was a player once!”

There was some reassuring news for Wanderers fans with confirmation that Colin Hendry, the Scotland international who had been a revelation while on loan from Coventry City, had finally secured a permanent transfer – just in time to play in the FA Cup against his former club Blackburn Rovers.

And striker Dean Holdsworth laughed off speculation that he was heading back to Wimbledon.

Some reports claimed the record signing had actually re-signed for the Dons after they sold John Hartson to Coventry. And it didn’t help matters when his name did not appear on the team sheet for the Huddersfield game, Allardyce explaining that he had slipped on a patch of ice the night before!

But Holdsworth insisted: “I haven’t signed for Wimbledon – or anyone else.

“I’ve hurt my ankle, that’s all. I heard some of the reports and couldn’t believe it.”

Nick Daws and Steve Redmond got the goals as Bury won 2-1 at Walsall to become the first visiting team that season to win at the Bescot Stadium. And there were more woes for the Saddlers with the threat of an FA rap after Shakers keeper Paddy Kenny was hit by a coin thrown from the crowd.

15 YEARS AGO: Sasa Curcic pledged his future to Bolton Wanderers, whether they survived the drop or not.

It wasn’t looking good. A 2-0 home defeat to Aston Villa was seen as another nail in the club’s relegation coffin and there was no getting away from the fact that relegation would be a bitter blow for the Serbian star who was living the dream with every game he played in the Premier League.

Nevertheless, he claimed his feelings for Wanderers far outweighed all other considerations and in answer to those who believed he would be tempted to jump ship if they lost their top-flght status, he said: “I want to make my future here at Bolton. I am not interested in going anywhere else.

“Bolton is my second home. I am here for a long time, not just for now.

“Bolton have given me everything and I want to repay them. I am fortunate that they brought me here and my feelings for the club and the supporters make me want to help them win something.”

It was looking increasingly likely that, if Curcic stayed at Burnden Park, he would be playing second-tier football. In fact, Wanderers needed a miracle after the Villa defeat left them five points adrift at the bottom of the Premiership, 11 points from safety.

Dwight Yorke did the damage, scoring both Villa goals, and it took a string of saves by Keith Branagan to prevent a more humiliating scoreline.

They had become whipping boys and, it seemed, they were in danger of becoming a laughing stock as Alan Stubbs revealed: “One of their players – and I don’t want to say who – was laughing at us.

“He was really taking the micky and I was gutted. I’m captain of the team and hearing that hurt me a lot. I’ve never felt that way since I’ve been at the club.

“Hopefully, it’s a one-off.”

The search for a new England manager ran into trouble with young candidates Bryan Robson, Glenn Hoddle and Kevin Keegan all ruling themselves out, sparking reports of “panic” at the Football Association’s Lancaster Gate headquarters.

Nevertheless FA chief executive Graham Kelly insisted there would be no attempt made to persuade Terry Venables to reconsider his decision to quit and stay on for the 1998 World Cup.

“The last thing we want now is any more uncertainty,” Kelly said. “It is now for us to find a new man.”

Peter Reid denied he was ready to quit Sunderland because of a shortage of transfer market funds. “I will be staying to do the job to the best of my ability,” Reid said.

Wigan’s 43-game dominance of rugby league’s Challenge Cup ended in a 26-16 defeat at Salford.

The Willows scoreboard summed up the significance of the result which ended one of the most impressive runs in sport, declaring: “We’ve knocked out Wigan!”

40 YEARS AGO: John Byrom’s future with Bolton Wanderers was shrouded in mystery after the striker “guested” for Crystal Palace in a friendly against the Dutch side PSV Eindhoven.

Twenty four hours after the London club announced they were including a former First Division striker in their line-up, Byrom – who had already been linked with a move to Palace – arrived at Selhurst Park with Wanderers chairman John Banks and general manager Nat Lofthouse.

Lofthouse said: “Palace manager Bert Head asked our permission to play Byrom in this game and the Wanderers agreed to his request.

“While it is possible Byrom may sign for Palace it is not true that the clubs have agreed terms and talk about a £10,000 fee is absolutely ridiculous.”

The man who stunned both the BBC and ITV by refusing to allow home screening of the Cassius Clay-Joe Frazier fight hit back at his critics when he explained candidly: “This is a profit-making venture. We are not doing it to entertain the public for free.”

With those words Jerry Perrenchio, a 40-year-old father of six from Los Angeles and president of the showbusiness consortium Chartwell Inc, knocked out any lingering hope that the “fight of the century” would be seen on anything other than theatre screens.

That left British boxing fans who wanted to see the heavyweight showdown “live” having to visit one of 39 selected cinemas. Even the prospects of the fight being shown on TV the following night were jeopardised when Perrenchio’s asking price of £145,000 for the film rights was dismissed out of hand by negotiators for the BBC and ITV.

Fears over the future of the Grand National were eased when Tophams Ltd, the owners of Aintree Racecourse, revealed ambitious plans to develop the world famous Liverpool venue. A large shopping complex, a hotel, offices, housing and an industrial area were planned in addition to new stands, terracing, stabling and other horse racing facilities.