Sporting Memories: Fans vent fury after derby shame

First published in Sport Archives

15 Years Ago THEY had been ridiculed as a laughing stock, contemptuously dismissed as whipping boys and were smarting after a humiliating 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Manchester United.

But Colin Todd’s relegation-doomed Wanderers showed they still had some fighting spirit when they won 1-0 at Leeds United to register only their fifth win in their first ever season of Premier League football.

QPR, Southampton, Manchester City and Coventry were suddenly looking over their shoulders at the team they all thought were dead and buried. It would clearly take a lot more than a single-goal win to heal the wounds of their record-breaking derby defeat but Gudni Bergsson’s 16th-minute header and a masterclass in goalkeeping by Keith Branagan at least put a bit of pride back in Todd’s team.

Understandably, however, many supporters were in unforgiving mood after seeing their team given the runaround on their own pitch by their bitterest rivals. The letters page of the Bolton Evening News offered a cross-section of their views, summed up by the main headline: “Derby shame”.

One correspondent called for Todd to resign, another, suggesting it should not only be the manager who paid the ultimate penalty, wrote: “Those involved in Sunday’s horror show should pack their bags and get out now.”

The near-hopeless plight Wanderers found themselves in led to rumours of unrest in the camp, giving the tabloids a field day. One tale doing the rounds claimed Todd had had a bust-up with Alan Stubbs after the skipper allegedly refused to play in the reserves.

But Todd was quick to put the record straight, insisting: “Alan was never meant to be playing in the reserves, so he didn’t pull out and wasn’t pulled out. His attitude has been first class.”

Lancashire’s Neil Fairbrother was flying home from Pakistan after being ruled out of England’s World Cup bid with a hamstring injury.

40 Years Ago WANDERERS supporters were unhappy and it appeared general manager Nat Lofthouse felt the same after the Bolton directors sold the club’s star striker Paul Fletcher to Burnley for £60,000.

For years the Burnden Park hierarchy had been assuring fans that the club’s youth policy would be its salvation. And in recent months chairman John Banks had insisted he was only interested in selling older players.

Less than a week earlier Mr Banks said: “We could sell a young player tomorrow and put money in the bank. This is not our policy. We don’t want money in the bank, we want our a team out on the field.”

But the sale of young centre forward Fletcher, the former Bolton Schools player and the cream of Wanderers’ young talent, flew in the face of what the chairman had been saying and what Lofthouse passionately believed was the way forward.

However, in the immediate aftermath of the Fletcher transfer there was speculation that the chairman had been over-ruled by a show of hands in the boardroom.

In a hard-hitting editorial, the Wanderers board was accused of seriously misleading the fans.

“The Evening News and the public of Bolton had been led to believe that the club had turned the corner as far as cash was concerned. But this move means that the Wanderers have failed in their fight to solve their problems. They have also failed the public, for promises that young players would stay at Bolton have not been kept.”

With less than a week to go to was being billed as the “Fight of the Century”, the protagonists – Cassius Clay and Joe Frazier – were slugging it out in a fierce war of words.

At his training camp in Miami, former world heavyweight champion Clay said: “Frazier has two chances: slim and none.”Frazier’s riposte was equally forthright. “Clay is a phoney,” he said.

10 Years Ago In his second season as manager at the Reebok, Sam Allardyce was making more use of his backroom staff with every passing week.

One department had taken charge of the newly-installed Prozone system which provided a computer-generated rundown of every player’s movement during the course of a game. The data it produced showed, among other statistics, that the modern day midfield player would run 13km in a game. More pertinently, however, it enabled the manager to pinpoint precisely where a player was and what he was contributing at any given time, prompting the headline “Big Sam is watching you!”.

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