Unreliable History

Initially being formed as Christ Church Sunday School team, the team originally were known as “The Reds” because they wore red and white quartered shirts and later white shirts with red spots on, which were supposed to make them look bigger. They should have just used that silky effect material that was so popular in the 1980’s, which certainly was snug fitting and made even the thinnest player look large.

After a disagreement with the local vicar in 1877, they broke away from the church and wandered in the wilderness without a permanent home for 18 years before settling in at Burnden Park. During this homeless period, one of their pitches was adjacent to a piggery and clearances were forever ending up amongst the slurry in the pig-pens, with players trotting off to retrieve the ball; attracting a new nickname in the process. Burnden Park was originally used as a dump for barrels and cotton bales from the local industry, but was covered with earth and used as a football pitch, even though a railway ran alongside the place in 1895. Within six years, it was to stage a historic FA Cup final replay, when Tottenham Hotspur overcame Sheffield United 3-1. The match holds the record for the lowest attendance at an FA Cup final (surprising after the first match attracted 110,000 at Crystal Palace). The day that the match was held became known as “Pie Saturday”, stemming from the over-estimation by the caterers at the club of the number of meat pies required , leaving them with many surplus, which had to be handed out free after the match. To this day, Tottenham Hotspur still send a case-load of meat pies to the poor and needy in the town to celebrate the great day in their history.

“Professionalism” was a thorny topic in the 1880’s and Bolton were at the forefront of the debate, eventually winning the right to overturn the ban on professional players. Then, in 1888, the club became a founder member of the Football League.

On the pitch, the club spent almost 90 years in the top two divisions league-wise, while in the FA Cup they were finalists in 1894 and 1904, but had to wait until the 1920’s before they tasted cup success. Only 17 men were used to win the trophy three times in 1923, 1926 and 1929. The first of those victories came in the very first Wembley FA Cup final against West Ham United, when approximately 250,000 people (many climbing walls to enter free of charge) packed into the stadium and a Policeman on a white horse called Billy (that’s the horse, not the policeman) calmed the crowd and cleared the pitch. The game kicked off 45 minutes late and despite the ball bouncing off the fans alongside the pitch, the match continued with Bolton coming out on top 2-0 before receiving the cup from King George V.

In 1928, David became the first player to be transferred for £10,000, when he decided to Jack it in with Bolton to join Arsenal.

Another large crowd saw an altogether blacker day in the club’s history, when in 1946 at a FA Cup quarter-final, 85,000 gathered to see the home side take on Stanley Matthew’s Stoke City. Overcrowding occurred as fans got into the ground without paying and a gate was opened for someone to get out, but many fans outside stormed in. The mass of people led to two crash barriers in one corner of the ground giving way and causing a crush which led to 33 people losing their lives. However, most of the crowd (including a young Kenneth Wolstenholme) were oblivious to the tragedy as the match continued, despite the bodies being carried out from the terracing. Extensive changes were carried out at Burnden Park as a result of the disaster and a report produced after the event recommended licensing of grounds and limitation on crowd sizes.

The club then went for a few years without any any achievement of note, before they reached the memorable 1953 FA Cup final losing out to Blackpool, but were more successful in 1958 beating Manchester United, with Nat Lofthouse scoring both goals. The second caused great controversy, as he bundled the ball and the goalkeeper, Ray Wood, into the net. It was thought that a foul would have been given, but none was awarded and following that incident, Bolton thrust forward, really making Wood work.

Bolton Wanderers have mainly resided in the middle reaches of the Football League since the late 60’s, despite a recent flirtation with the Premier League, but their new Reebok stadium deserves a team to match the brave new future the club dreams of. 1999-2000 should have been one to remember, but defeats in the semi-finals of both domestic competitions made it a nearly season for the Trotters, especially when they went and lost the play-off semi-final (in controversial style – two men sent off and three penalties given against them) too .  Sam Allardyce stuck at his task and the very next season, fortune shined on the Trotters who beat local rivals Preston to take their berth in the Premiership via the play-offs.  

Sam will be hoping to avoid the yo-yo nature of the club’s recent past, but will have to have more than the shoestring budget he has been used to in doing so.  Some more shrewd purchases of players who seemed to have seen better days saw Bolton trot into Europe and make a good fist of their UEFA Cup campaign.

Since then, Allardyce came and went, along with a couple of others, before Owen Coyle crossed the Red Sea … well from Burnley anyway and took the club on a new way, which lead to a poor start to the 2011-12 season as the club were plunged into early relegation fears.  Things went from bad to worse, with financial matters plunging the club into ownership battles, points deduction threats and further relegations, despite ending up in League Two with few players, hopefully the new owners coming on board in 2019 could get the club on a solid financial footing and to start moving up the league ladder.

FAMOUS PLAYERS :- David Jack, Teddy Vizard, Nat Lofthouse, Tommy Banks, Eddie Hopkinson, Francis Lee, Peter Reid, Herbert Nutson, Stanford Gimblett.

FAMOUS FANS : – Fred Dibnah (Demolition expert), Emma Forbes (TV presenter), Paul Nicholls (Actor – TV EastEnders), Vernon Kay (TV Presenter – UKPlay, Boys and Girls, Family Fortunes), Peter Kay (Comedian), Stu Francis (Former Crackerjack presenter), Kenneth Wolstenholme (Former Football commentator).

Club Records

Formed 1874

Turned Professional 1880

Became a Limited Company 1895

Previous names Christ Church FC = 1874-1877

Previous grounds Park Lane Recreation Ground
Cockle’s Field
Pike’s Lane = 1881-1895
Burnden Park = 1895-1997

Nickname “The TROTTERS”

Motto “Supera Moras” = “Overcome Delays”

Club Colours
[Images courtesy of the wonderful Colours of Football website]


Record Football League Win 5-0  v    Leicester City     (Away)        18.08.2001
5-0  v    Stoke City     (Home)        06.11.2011

Record Premier League Win 8-0  v   Barnsley    (Division 2)   (Home)   06.10.1934

Record Football League Defeat 0-7  v  Burnley  (Division 1)  (Away)   01.03.1890
0-7  v  Sheffield Wednesday  (Division 1)  (Away)   01.03.1915
0-7  v  Manchester City  (Division 1)   21.03.1936

Record Premier League Defeat 0-6  v    Manchester United   (Away)       25.02.1996

Record Cup Win 13-0  v  Sheffield United   FA Cup R2     01.02.1890

Record Fee Paid £8.2 million to Toulouse (France) for Johan ELMANDER (June 2008)

Record Fee Received £15 million from Chelsea for Nicolas ANELKA (January 2008)

Record Appearances 578  –  Eddie HOPKINSON   (1952-1970)

Record League Appearances 519  –  Eddie HOPKINSON   (1952-1970)

Record Premier League Appearances 379  –  Jussi JAASKELAINEN   (1997-2012) 

Record all-time goal-scorer 285  –  Nat LOFTHOUSE (1946-1960)

Record League goal-scorer 255  –  Nat LOFTHOUSE (1946-1960)

Record Premier League goal-scorer 68  –  Kevin DAVIES  (2003-2012)

Record goal-scorer in a Premier League season 12  –  Nathan BLAKE    (1997-1998)
12  –  Michael RICKETTS    (2001-2002)
12  –  Kevin DAVIES    (2008-2009)

Record goal-scorer in a League season 38  –  Joe SMITH    (1920/21)   Division 4  

Most goals scored in a League match 5  –  Tony CALDWELL  v  Walsall   (Division 3)  (Home)    10.09.1983
5  –  James CASSIDY  v  Sheffield United   (FA Cup Second Round)  (Home)    01.02.1890
5  –  Billy STRUTHERS  v  Bootle   (FA Cup First Round)  (Home)    04.11.1882

Record Home Attendance  (Burnden Park) 69,912  v  Manchester City  (Division 1)     18.02.1933  

Record Home Attendance  (Reebok Stadium) 28,353  v  Leicester City    (Premier League)   28.12.2003

Record total of goals in a League season 100  –  Division 1  (1996-1997)   (46 games)

Record total of goals in a Premier League season 52  –  2010-2011

Record League points total 2 points for a win  :  61  –  Division 3   (1972-1973)    (46 games)
3 points for a win  :  98  –  Division 1   (1996-1997)  (46 games)

Record Premier League points total 58  –    2004-2005    (38 games)

Most Capped Player while at club 72  –  Ricardo GARDNER  (Jamaica)

Youngest Player Ray PARRY  –  15 years and 267 days  v  Wolverhampton Wanderers   (Division 1)  13.10.1951

Oldest Player Peter SHILTON  –  45 years and 239 days  v  Wolverhampton Wanderers   (Division 1)  15.05.1995


Stadium details 

Address :  University of Bolton Stadium, Burnden Way, Bolton BL6 6JW

Telephone :   01204 673 673
Ticket Office :  01204 328 888

Capacity :  28,723
Away Allocation :  3,000-5,000
Pitch size :   100.6m x 65.8m  (110 yards x 72 yards)
Official website :   bwfc.co.uk


There are good directions to the University of Bolton Stadium on the Bolton Wanderers website or details of more about the ground and travel to it can be found on the Away Games website.


Division One Champions  (Second Tier) 1996-1997

Division Two Champions  (Second Tier) 1908-1909, 1977-1978

Division Two Runners-up  (Second Tier) 1899-1900, 1904-1905, 1920-1911, 1934-1935

Division Three Champions  (Third Tier) 1972-1973

Division Two Runners-up  (Third Tier) 1992-1993

League One Runners-up  (Third Tier) 2016-2017

FA Charity Shield Winners 1958

FA Cup Winners 1923, 1926, 1929, 1958

FA Cup Finalists 1894, 1904,1953

League Cup Finalists 1995, 2004

Football League Trophy Winners 1988-1989

Football League Trophy Finalists 1985-1986



Tom RAWTHORNE 1 August 1874 – 31 May 1885

John BENTLEY 1 August 1885 – 31 May 1886

William STRUTHERS 1 August 1886 – 31 May 1887

Fitzroy NORRIS 1 August 1887 – 1 December 1887

John BENTLEY 1 December 1887 – 31 May 1895

Harry DOWNS 1 August 1895 – 31 May 1896

Frank BRETTELL 1 August 1896 – 31 May 1898

John SOMERVILLE 1 August 1898 – 1 January 1910

Will SETTLE 1 January 1910 – 31 May 1915

Tom MATHER 1 August 1915 – 31 May 1919

Charles FOWERAKER 1 July 1919 – 1 August 1944

Walter ROWLEY 1 August 1944 – 1 October 1950

Bill RIDDING 1 October 1950 – 1 August 1968

Nat LOFTHOUSE 1 December 1968 – 1 November 1970

Jimmy McILROY 1 November 1970 – 19 November 1970

Jimmy MEADOWS 13 January 1971 – 30 April 1971

Nat LOFTHOUSE 1 May 1971 – 1 August 1971

Jimmy ARMFIELD 1 August 1971 – 4 October 1974

Ian GREAVES 7 October 1974 – 28 January 1980

Stan ANDERSON 28 January 1980 – 31 May 1981

George MULHALL 1 June 1981 – 1 June 1982

John McGOVERN 1 June 1982 – 7 January 1985

Charlie WRIGHT 7 February 1985 – 6 December 1985

Phil NEAL 18 December 1985 – 8 May 1992

Bruce RIOCH 29 May 1992 – 8 June 1995

Roy McFARLAND 20 June 1995 – 2 January 1996

Colin TODD 2 January 1996 – 22 September 1999

Sam ALLARDYCE 19 October 1999 – 29 April 2007

Sammy LEE 30 April 2007 – 7 October 2007

Gary MEGSON 25 October 2007 – 30 December 2009

Owen COYLE 8 January 2010 – 9 October 2012

Dougie FREEDMAN 23 October 2012 – 3 October 2014

Neil LENNON 12 October 2014 – 15 March 2016

Phil PARKINSON 10 June 2016 – 21 August 2019

Keith HILL 31 August 2019 – 30 June 2020

Ian EVATT 1 July 2020 – 


League Record

The Football League structure has historically been as follows …

1888-1892 1892-1920 1920-1921 1921-1958 1958-1992 1992-2004 2004 to date
First tier Football League Division One Division One Division One Division One Premiership Premier League
Second tier Division Two Division Two Division Two Division Two Division One Championship
Third tier Division Three Division Three
(North) and (South)
Division Three Division Two  League One
Fourth tier Division Four Division Three League Two

Elected to Football League  (Top Tier) 1888

Football League/Division One  (Top Tier) 1888-1899

Division Two  (Second Tier) 1899-1900

Division One  (Top Tier) 1900-1903

Division Two  (Second Tier) 1903-1905

Division One  (Top Tier) 1905-1908

Division Two  (Second Tier) 1908-1909

Division One  (Top Tier) 1909-1910

Division Two  (Second Tier) 1910-1911

Division One  (Top Tier) 1911-1933

Division Two  (Second Tier) 1933-1935

Division One  (Top Tier) 1935-1964

Division Two  (Second Tier) 1964-1971

Division Three  (Top Tier) 1971-1973

Division Two  (Second Tier) 1973-1978

Division One  (Second Tier) 1978-1980

Division Two  (Second Tier) 1980-1983

Division Three  (Third Tier) 1983-1987

Division Four  (Fourth Tier) 1987-1988

Division Three  (Third Tier) 1988-1992

Division Two  (Third Tier) 1992-1993

Division One  (Second Tier) 1993-1995

Premier League  (Top Tier) 1995-1996

Division One  (Second Tier) 1996-1997

Premier League  (Top Tier) 1997-1998

Division One  (Second Tier) 1998-2001

Premier League  (Top Tier) 2001-2012

Championship  (Second Tier) 2012-2016

League One  (Third Tier) 2016-2017

Championship  (Second Tier) 2017-2019

League One  (Third Tier) 2019-2020

League Two  (Fourth Tier) 2020-