IT should come as no surprise to the Wanderers fans who watched him scamper round Burnden Park for five successful years that Mark Patterson is still grafting to this day.

A combative midfielder who provided the heartbeat of the team in two promotion campaigns for Bruce Rioch, the Darwen lad, born and bred, has now detailed his playing career in a new book, entitled Old School.

Since finishing his last coaching job with Accrington Stanley in 2011, Patterson has been working full-time for his landscaping company – a job he actually juggled during his days at Bolton in the nineties.

Now 56, he has found time to jot down some of the tales from his days at Blackburn, Bury, Bolton, Sheffield United and Scarborough, an exercise he hopes will bring back some memories for the folk who watched him in the White Hot days.

“What we achieved at Bolton will always make that time special for me,” he told The Bolton News. “Writing the book has been a bit of a journey, it’s taken us a few years, myself and Kev O’Hara who co-wrote it with us, it’s nice for it to be out there last.

“There’s a few stories in there and some great memories from the clubs that I’ve been at.

“People asked me why I did it and there’s two ways of looking at it - the comical answer is that when I’m in an old people’s home and I can’t remember who I am, someone can shove a book in front of me and say ‘that’s you’.

“Then there’s a chance to put it down on paper because it’s nice to occasionally look back and something to remind you of what you’ve done in your life because we can easily forget.”

Following Patterson’s career from a trainee at Blackburn in the early eighties, through to his latter days coaching non-league sides like Leigh RMI, Chorley and Scarborough, the book covers a period of great change in the game.

“We looked at it from the aspect of the changes from the late 80s to early 90s, the tackles that you used to be able to do, the banter that used to take place, the fighting that used to go on down the tunnel, and the stuff you got away with before the cameras came on you. You used to get away with murder,” Patterson recalled.

“The grounds as well, how much they have changed, it’s all in there regarding these things, it brings you right up to date from playing at Old Trafford for the first time as a kid to playing there after they built the new stand in the Premier League and Anfield as well.

“Then there’s the apprentices and young professionals and what they don’t have to do now in comparison to what we had to do. In our days we had to clean the stands, clean the balls, it grounded you. I think that’s a great thing.

“Nowadays these kids are managed better, and they have to be because of the money they’ve got, but are they grounded, have they got the same principles as we were?”

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Patterson saw first hand how managerial techniques now regarded as commonplace in the top flight were introduced to an unsuspecting squad at Burnden, when Rioch and Colin Todd came in to replace Phil Neal in 1992.

“Bruce was one of the fore-runners of the diets and the health side of things,” he explained.

“I think he’d been in Germany for a short spell, then he came back and educated us all.

“He sat us all down with Colin Todd and he gave us a diet, we started training mornings and afternoons which is a usual thing to do now, and it benefited us greatly.

“We bought into his philosophy, we had two promotions in three seasons which culminated into us getting into the Premier League.

“You’ve got to buy into what he’s wanting, but results make it a lot easier. When the results start coming you believe in what he’s doing and what he’s saying and it does make things easier.

“Without that discipline we might not have got those results.

“You have got to give him full credit.”

Rioch’s intervention helped turn Patterson from a left-sided midfielder into the ball-winner who proved so pivotal to the Whites’ success of the time.

And he still regards the 215 appearances made for Bolton over five years as the best time of his career.

“I was never going to be the best footballer in the world, but my commitment, my enthusiasm, the discipline that Bruce instilled into us, the fitness levels rose, and for those three season it was the best football,” he said.

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“It was enjoyable to play with the lads and it was great for myself because I really did flourish in that time.

“Did I ever think I’d play in the Premier League? Maybe not. I always thought I had a little bit of something missing, maybe composure on the ball, I didn’t have the pace as a left winger, but I thought I had enough ability about me.

“When I did get there I did realise how tough a league it was and it was a level above.

“The 12 or 13 games I played I thoroughly enjoyed, but without exceptional players around me I wouldn’t have survived.

“The players we had at Bolton were great players, the kind of player that someone like me needed.”

That Rioch transformed Wanderers’ fortunes so quickly is, of course, the stuff of legend at Wanderers – but while Patterson gives his former boss full credit for creating a winning mentality, he also mentions Phil Neal’s time as an important precursor for building the squad.

“It all came together,” he said. “Phil Neal took me from Bury, Bury at the time were skint and needed some money, and I was the one person who was available to go for the right fee.

“Phil Neal also brought in Andy Walker, then once Phil went the players started to come in and Bruce took us to the next level.

“They say ‘right time, right place’, sometimes you get a group of players together and I do believe in that to an extent, but then you have to have the right coach to push you in the right direction and we had that.

“We brought David Lee back from Southampton in the Premier League, his career was dwindling a little bit, and Bruce gave him that belief.

“John McGinlay, amazing, Andy Walker came in and scored for some, Tony Kelly resurrected his career, and there were a lot of lads there who really did play their best football in that period.”

Patterson played 13 times for Bolton as a Premier League player but saw the writing on the wall as his chances became more limited, and Sasa Curcic became the new midfield darling under new management team Todd and Roy McFarland.

“It came as a I bit of a surprise how it happened,” he said. “I’ll be honest I did anticipate myself going because of the players the club was bringing in.

“My very last kick for Bolton was a missed penalty against Norwich City in the cup, and it wasn’t the best way to leave, a cold Tuesday night and I missed a penalty that meant we went out of the cup.

“On the Thursday Colin Todd pulled me in and said ‘Sheff United want you and we want Nathan Blake from Sheff United’ and Howard Kendall was back up there so I thought that if Howard was up there then they would have something going on so I didn’t hesitate.”

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Patterson made nearly 500 career league appearances spread over 20 years but looks back with a tinge of regret that he had not managed money better when he played at the top level.

“Most of my career I was average earning in that division, two and three, and then when I got a taste of the Premiership and Bolton were doing well the money started to come in,” he said.

“We enjoyed it so much but you just don’t know what’s happening in the future.

“The only thing I would change is to have managed my money better then I wouldn’t have had to be working as hard as I am now.

“I don’t mind working hard now because I’m a realist, that’s life, but that’s the only thing.

“If I looked after myself more, had an agent maybe, someone to look after me, who knows, but we don’t look back, we look forward and always stay positive.”

Though the anachronistic title of the book, Old School, sums up Patterson’s style as a player perfectly, he believes some of the old-fashioned values of his own playing days could be just as effective in the modern game.

“It’s not derogatory because you can still have success with old school tactics,” he said.

“In fact, I would much rather see that. When I’m watching Premier League football now I can’t be bothered sat watching 45, 50 passes. I’d rather it be a few passes and get the ball into their box, crosses into the box, and crosses make you goals.

“You can pass it as much you want, bit of old school football, mixing it, that can do no harm at all.”

Mark Patterson will be at Bolton Central from 1pm on Saturday, November 27, to sign copies of Old School and meet with Wanderers’ supporters.

Copies of the book are available to purchase from the club shop, priced at £11.99, and also from Amazon, WH Smith and the publishers, Vertical Editions.

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