NICKY Spooner had flashbacks watching his young charges make their Wanderers bow.

The youth team coach, who came through the Bolton ranks to play for the club in the early nineties at Burnden Park under Bruce Rioch, couldn’t hide his delight as several members of his Under-18s got a surprise call against Coventry City.

Spooner and Gavin McCann joined Phil Parkinson in the dugout for the game – in which the youngest-ever Wanderers side dug in to earn the first point of the season against all odds.

“I am very, very proud,” he told The Bolton News. “It hit home when I went to the referee’s room with Brocky (Harry Brockbank) as captain and I said to him ‘I’ve been holding your hand since you’ve been seven years old!’ “I’m so pleased for him because he hung on at Bolton. He has been made captain of his local club, his club, so what more could you ask for?”

“We knew technically we could cope with them, physically you start worrying when it gets late in the game. Funnily enough, the biggest worry I had was the goalkeeper (Matthew Alexander) because he’s so young and what an outstanding game he had.

“We said to them before the game there are so many lads who have gone through this football club who never got that opportunity, and probably should have done. But that’s football.

“Has that opportunity come too soon? Yes, probably. But they stood up.

“At youth level we tend to find when we praise them at half time they go out and get beat. This time they have turned into men, took information in, held on to the point.”

Spooner admitted the supportive atmosphere at the UniBol was the perfect environment to help the young players along.

The crowd backing jogged a few more memories among coaching staff who can remember happier times.

“It’s all coming back now - the fact it’s a football club again,” he said.

“I don’t want to talk about what’s been going on but you can see the supporters there, the town is together. All those years ago we’d have that at Burnden Park.

“I remember breaking through, Julian (Darby) did, Jimmy (Phillips) did, and we all remember what it was like to have that backing from people. It’s like repeating history.

“We are talking football again. As an academy the manager just went for it and said ‘right, let’s forget everything else and talk about the game’. The kids have stood up to it.

“It was a great effort from all the staff – Gav McCann, all the way up – we tried to keep it as normal as possible with the Under-18s because we didn’t want them getting ideas above their station.

“We wanted to keep things as familiar as possible and it’s worked out well.”