THE mood aboard Wanderers' plane heading for a winter break in Spain was buoyant after Sam Allardyce's side racked up a 10th win in 12 games in pursuit of Premier League football.

In January 2001, Bolton were chasing hard to catch runaway league leaders Fulham, chalking up their first win at Hillsborough in 19 years in fearless style.

First-half goals from Ricardo Gardner and Michael Ricketts and an acrobatic third from substitute Ian Marshall a few minutes from the end outclassed a Wednesday side that had been playing top flight football just 12 months earlier.

But it wasn't just the attackers who were grabbing the headlines for Wanderers, who were enjoying an eighth week in second spot, a back four marshalled by the experienced an incomparable Gudni Bergsson and the experienced loan signing Colin Hendry were frustrating strikers much more potent than those on display that afternoon in South Yorkshire.

Allardyce was taking nothing for granted and as Jean Tigana's Fulham continued to dominate the division, he felt it would take a record-breaking points haul in the New Year to follow them into the promised land.

The Bolton News:

"The worry is that in a normal season we would be top of the league and clear of second place," he said, putting Bolton's own run into perspective. "It is going to be an unusually high points season. We have got 60 from 29 games, which is two points ahead of our target of two points per game, but it looks like being the highest second-placed total ever to get automatic promotion.

"Ninety-two points won the title last year and 89 got second; this could be one of those seasons where you need more than 90 to get second spot and that really puts the pressure on."

Counting in Wanderers' favour was a new formation which had caused issues for Paul Jewell's Wednesday, and just about everyone else in the previous few months.

"We are playing in a system which is unusual for this country," Allardyce said of a 4-3-3/4-5-1 formation that could be adapted with Kevin Nolan, Per Frandsen and Robbie Elliott playing in the central midfield roles and Gardner, Ricketts and Bo Hansen spearheading a three-pronged attack.

"It causes a lot of teams problems because they don't know how to play against us.

"It works very well when you haven't got the ball and it is extremely effective when you have the ball, especially away from home in terms of chances being created and breaking on the opposition."

Wednesday would avoid relegation to the third tier that season, and Allardyce's prediction on runners-up spot would prove correct as Blackburn Rovers followed Fulham up. Bolton, thankfully, would secure promotion in style against Preston in the play-off final.

The Bolton News:

Life outside the Premier League was proving anything but simple for Owen Coyle and his expensive squad, and the knives were out in the Steel City after a poor start to the campaign.

By September 12, 2012, Bolton had won two of their first six league games and crashed out of the Capital One Cup to lowly Crawley.

The Scot had gone into the loan market to bring in experienced defender Stephen Warnock from Leeds United but it was the man he was potentially signed to replace, Marcos Alonso, who would get Bolton off to a good start, looping in a header from Chris Eagles' corner.

All went well, with another new addition, Jay Spearing, adding some of the midfield steel which had been missing when the club slumped out of the Premier League the previous May.

That is until referee Keith Stroud pointed to the spot just after the hour mark for minimal contact from Keith Andrews on defender Anthony Gardner. Everton loanee Ross Barkley slotted the penalty home and there was suddenly a familiar uncomfortable feeling in the away end among 2,000 travelling fans.

Thankfully, it didn't last long. David Ngog hassled a mistake out of Martin Taylor, and Kevin Davies moved the ball on for Mark Davies, who set on a scampering run, finishing with the outside of his left foot past Chris Kirkland.

The Bolton News:

The game proved Coyle's last victory in charge of the Whites and by October 6, defeat at Millwall saw him sacked and eventually replaced by fellow Scot Dougie Freedman.

A few years later, Davies would pull out of a game at Wednesday and watch alongside his ‘future’ team-mates as Phil Parkinson's side were beaten 3-2.

The move collapsed, however, in strange circumstances as the Owls reported medical issues only for Davies’s representatives to deny that any medical had been done.

Wanderers ended up reporting Wednesday for their conduct but, sadly, just seven months later Davies picked up a knee injury in a game at Charlton which would eventually spell the end for his playing career.