COLIN Todd spent just over seven years in the dugout at Bolton​ Wanderers in the 1990s – both as assistant to Bruce Rioch, co-manager with Roy McFarland and then as a manager in his own right.

The Bolton News caught up with him this summer to relive a time of excitement, controversy, promotions and relegations, as the club said farewell to Burnden and launched a new era down the road at the Reebok.

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THOUGH he had nearly rescued something from an impossible situation at Wanderers midway through their first season in the Premier League, Colin Todd went into the summer of 1996 with a big decision to make.

Three Lions blasted from every car stereo, Britpop was nearly at its peak and as Nat Lofthouse cut the first footings of a new stadium in Horwich, his beloved club faced a dilemma as they regrouped after relegation.

Todd had restored some order in the latter months of the previous season. His cooperative reign with Roy McFarland had looked doomed from the start but after taking sole charge, wins against Chelsea, Middlesbrough, Sheffield Wednesday, Leeds United and Coventry at least meant Bolton went down with more than a whimper.

The terrace hero – and one who had caught the eye in a difficult campaign – was Sasa Curcic, an enigmatic but unquestionably talented Serbian, whose skills had also attracted interest from Chelsea manager, Glenn Hoddle, who it has been claimed was hoping to sign him the following summer before being replaced by Ruud Gullit.

Todd knew what was in store if he looked to sell the silky Serb. But if he was to change the dressing room mentality to one capable of bouncing back at the first attempt, he knew Curcic and the similarly unpredictable Dutchman, Fabian DeFreitas, would have to be shown the door.

“It’s funny when you look back at it,” Todd told The Bolton News. “After the events that had taken place, promotion, promotion, a final, Bruce leaving, me taking over, going down again – that season started with a lot of people asking questions.

“The big one was about Sasa Curcic, and whether he was staying at the club or not.

“The media, the radios were asking and I said: ‘Yeah, he’ll be a part of us trying to get back up.’ “But behind the scenes I had an offer from Aston Villa. Supporters might not know what is going on behind the scenes, on the training ground, and he was causing absolute havoc.

“I sold him for £4million and that made the players happy as well. It was knowing that we had got rid of someone that didn’t want to be there.

“It had been the same for Fabian DeFreitas, we needed to move them both on. The squad then came together and we never looked back.

“I can remember going down to Burnden the day after we sold Sasa and one or two people spat at me, we had season tickets being ripped up and thrown at us. But you become stronger in adversity and I am pretty sure those same supporters will have looked at the team at the end of that season and said it was one of the most exciting ones they had watched.”

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Of course, the 1996/97 season would enter the record books. Wanderers would score 100 goals and only fail to get 100 points by tripping up at Tranmere Rovers on the final day.

But by removing Curcic, Todd not only lightened the mood in a squad whose pride had been stung, he also shared out the responsibility for creating and scoring goals.

Todd is convinced that the unprecedented success his side had that season would not have been possible had they not decided to move on their star playmaker.

“What had happened, his agent had got into his head, he wanted to move,” he said.

“When he first arrived he was very modest, his football came first. But then things started to interfere in his life and it went in different ways. Football was second at times.

“He wasn’t popular in the dressing room at the time and as a manager you have to make strong decisions. The offer came in and I couldn’t turn it down.

“It was the right decision because I think we would have had problems down the road if it hadn’t happened.

“When I first took over from Bruce I made a lot of chances and got rid of players who weren’t happy with the decision. It needed to be done, though, the change was necessary.

“I know that it isn’t always what the fans want to hear but by moving him on I think other players in that team grew in stature and became more important to the team.

“We could score goals from everywhere. We did score them from everywhere.

“I look back with a lot of satisfaction on the players I signed. Fairclough, Taggart, Sellars, Alan Thompson when Bruce was there. They were winners.

“In life you look at the positive things, you keep you mind active, and you remember the good days. And we certainly had them at Bolton.

“That season, that team, was something special for everyone. We were moving on from the old Burnden Park and the script was written well. The Reebok was being built for the new season and we had a title-winner’s trophy to take there, so you couldn’t have asked for it to go any better than that.”

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