2019/20: An Incredible Journey. Match Day 3 – Saturday 10 August 2019: Bolton Wanderers v Coventry City
As is becoming increasingly common in the football world, the season starts with news of a few clubs in financial difficulty and 2019/20 was to prove no exception, with two former North-West leading lights, Bolton Wanderers and Bury this time under the financial spotlight.
When I worked in London, I had a colleague there, Phil, who was a big Bury fan, so I used to follow their results and others in the league so I could talk to him about his club as he would mine. This was back in the early 1980s, so it meant getting football updates reading the national papers, as the internet was still a pipedream, and Sky and Channel 4 were in their infancy. A historic old club, the Shakers, who won the FA Cup twice (1899/1900 and 1902/03), held the record for the biggest victory in an FA Cup Final, when beating Derby County 6 – 0 in 1903, a record only equalled in 2018/19 when Manchester City put six past Watford. An additional impressive fact about Bury is that they are the only club to have scored more than 1,000 goals in each of the top four tiers of the Football League. Since those glory days, they’ve flitted between the third and fourth tiers for the last 50 years, but I have always kept an eye on them. Then strangely enough I discovered a new work colleague, this time in Leeds called Tim, who was also a Bury fan and who went to watch them, so my chats all things Shakers related resumed and I used to look forward to those Monday morning football chats. Sadly Bury due to financial issues, didn’t start the 2019/20 season, and were expelled in December 2019 from the Football League. Fans have created a phoenix club, Bury AFC, and hope to take the field in the North West Counties League in 2020/21. Very much a case of watch this space.
Whilst Bury disappeared from the Football League ranks, Bolton Wanderers on the other hand were clinging on to their league status by their fingernails and had managed to make it to the opening day of the campaign, losing 2-0 at Wycombe Wanderers. I then decided to get tickets for Bolton’s first home game of the season against Coventry City. I don’t think that they were expecting such a big crowd and as a result the programmes at the ground had sold out, thankfully though I managed to get hold of one later on the internet. The University of Bolton Stadium (previously the Reebok Stadium and Macron Stadium), was another new ground for me – this is a recurring theme as I have deliberately avoided grounds I have already been to – rules eh!
Due to their financial difficulties Bolton Wanderers had gone into administration, been deducted 12 points, and had to field their youngest ever team. The Trotters did not name a single senior player in their starting line-up, with the 11 players on the pitch at kick-off having an average age of just 19.
Despite their lack of experience, Wanderers fared valiantly against an attacking Coventry side, who thought they had taken the lead when Wesley Jobello turned in from close range before it was ruled out for offside. The Sky Blues had another goal disallowed for offside soon after the break when Amadou Bakayoko bundled home from a deflection off Jordy Hiwula. You can imagine the look on his face as he came sliding towards the Bolton fans on his knees in celebration when the goal was chalked off.
Bolton’s best chance of the match came after Finlay Hurford-Lockett’s cross was almost fired home by Eddie Brown deep into the second half. Incredibly, Coventry then had a third goal disallowed for offside as the game moved into the closing minutes, after Maxime Biamou slotted in from point-blank range. At the whistle, the Trotters had held Coventry City to a goalless draw to claim their first point of the League One season. A most enjoyable match primarily due to the tireless running of the Bolton youngsters and well appreciated by a large crowd of almost 9,000, swelled by 2,500 Coventry fans who joined in the appreciation for the Bolton players. I don’t know if it’s a record, but the Bolton squad numbers that day added up to over 500, including goalkeeper Matt Alexander wearing No: 43 and the substitute keeper, Luke Hutchinson wearing No: 46.
Saturday 10 August 2019
Sky Bet League One
Bolton Wanderers 0 Coventry City 0
Venue: University of Bolton Stadium
Bolton Wanderers: Alexander, Brockbank, Edwards, Zouma, White, King-Harmes (Hurford-Lockett 67’), Graham, Weir, Politic, Brown, Darcy
Unused substitutes: Boon, Senior, Brown-Sterling, Richards, Riley, Hutchinson
Coventry City: Marosi, Dabo, McFadzean, Rose, Mason, Westbrooke (Bapaga 87’), Kelly, Shipley, Jobello, Bakayoko (Godden 61’), Hiwula-Mayifuila (Biamou 60’)
Unused substitutes: Wilson, Hyam, McCallum, Eccles