Bert Tyldesley followed the fortunes of Bolton​ Wanderers through eight decades and kept a diary of his time in the terraces. With the kind permission of his family, we bring you his reflections on that journal, entitled: 75 Years a Wandering.

The Bolton News:

THE team which represented Bolton Wanderers on their return to the Second Division on August 25, 1973, varied in only two respects from that which had defeated Brentford on the final day of the championship-winning season before.

Barry Siddal replaced the retired Charlie Wright in goal and Tony Dunne – who had won virtually everything there was to win in the game at Manchester United – had also joined on a free transfer.

Strangely, it was not until the following season that Dunne moved to wing-half and established himself in the team, with Don McAllister preferred for much of the 1973/74 campaign.

The gate of just 12,708 for the opening home game of the season against Hull City did not compare favourably with those in the last few months of the promotion season, where most had been in the 18-20,000 range and the highest had been 33,000.

So it seems that quality, unless it is allied to hope and aspiration and the possibility of a bauble, or at least promotion, is not enough. But maybe the fickle Bolton public knew something for it must be said that the club’s opening shots in the new division were hardly inspiring. By the end of November 1973 they had lost 10 of their opening 17 games and won only five times.

As I understand it, about this time one of the younger veterans of the previous two years’ climb out of the Third Division stated that he did not want to go through it all again and asked to “get out”. Fortunately, for us, Paul Jones never got his request granted.

Things would improve but it really was an inspired signing from Jimmy Armfield which would put the seal on the seventies.

In December 1973 I was tempted from my sick bed, where I had been for some weeks, by the news that Bolton had tempted Peter Thompson out of his dreams of retirement at Anfield to have one more go with the struggling but nearly successful Wanderers.

This was the tonic I needed for had not I during the euphoria of winning the World Cup in 1966 stoutly maintained that Alf Ramsey’s wingless wonders in no way represented the best of British soccer with the exclusion of Peter Thompson.

And now the same man, albeit on loan, was to grace Bolton’s left wing. He made his debut on a Wednesday afternoon because of Ted Heath’s altercation with the miners and subsequent power cuts, against league leaders Sunderland.

Wanderers won 1-0 and Peter delighted me, as he did for the next three or four years; and I am convinced his signing for £18,000 in January 1974 really signified the start of the Wanderers’ climb towards the big time once again.

Even if I were to have placed too much emphasis on his arrival, it is fair to note that of the 25 games played after Thompson signed on loan 10 were won, 10 were drawn and only five lost.

One person benefitted from his debut against Sunderland, scoring the winning goal after some typical wing sorcery, was a young man by the name of Neil Whatmore.

The Wanderers v Stoke City FA Cup third round tie held on January 6, 1974, was the first in English history to be held on a Sunday. Such was the novelty of the occasion at the time that at a time when the club’s average gate was about 15,000, almost 40,000 presented themselves at the turnstiles.

Apart from the euphoria of victory, and the performance at both ends from the great John Byrom, what I do remember with affection and some sympathy is the fundamentalist Christian from Partington with his placard reading: “Prepare to Meet Thy Doom” parading up and down the turnstile lanes outside the ground. He deflected the ribald witticisms with a few well-chosen words, as he did for many years to come.

And then on to the next round of the cup and on January 26, 1974, Bolton had gone to First Division Southampton and by a dint of two Byrom goals and a Garry Jones penalty had secured a 3-3 draw and a replay at Burnden.

Towards the end of the 1973/74 season I remember beginning relish the quality of the football being played.

With my son now 17 and my daughter going on 16, both dedicated fans, the more and more we travelled far and wide to watch the burgeoning Wanderers.

In March, 1974, the three of us travelled by train via Birmingham to Oxford to see Wanderers win at the Manor Ground by two goals to nil (Whatmore, Byrom).

It was a glorious spring day and I recall walking up Headington Hill, past Robert Maxwell’s house and complex, just in time to meet the team arriving and exchange pleasantries with them. We purchased seats in a stand where the view of one goal was completely obscured so went back into ticket office to demand a better seat, which we got!

How we enjoyed that day out, and what fun we had on the first part of the journey home with some kids who did not realise we were Bolton supporters. Oh, it was heaven to be alive; the sun was shining and we had beaten Oxford!