It breaks our little hearts to see the recent troubles to have befallen Bolton Wanderers, so in a show of solidarity with Trotters fans and with a large helping of nostalgia for the 1990s, we turn our minds back to one of the great periods in the club’s history.
When football fans think of Bolton Wanderers, a string of great names spring to mind.
Alongside Nat Lofthouse, Jay-Jay Okocha and Frank Worthington, the name of local firm turned international sportswear giant Reebok has become inextricably linked to the club, thanks to their support for the Trotters during their 1990s revival.
Bolton were founded as Christ Church FC in 1874 before adopting their current name in 1877. The Whites were founder members of the Football League in 1888 and interestingly, no club has spent more seasons in the top-flight without winning the title than the famous old Lancashire club.
Prior to their 1990s renaissance, the four-time FA Cup winners were largely remembered as an historic English club who’s greatest moments were recorded in black and white newsreels such as the White Horse Cup Final of 1923, when the Wanderers recorded a 2-0 victory over West Ham in front of 127,000 at Wembley.
Seventy years on from the trio of FA Cup victories of the twenties, and a generation on from the halcyon days of one-club man Lofthouse, Bolton were back on our screens in full colour, handing out bloody noses to the big boys at the old Burnden Park.
Bolton had been sponsored by Reebok for 3 years before they began producing kits for the Trotters and their first set of shirts coincided with a revival in the club’s fortunes between the 1993/94 and 94/95 seasons that would ultimately see the club promoted to the Premier League.
The shirts of that era placed the badge in the centre of the Whites‘ chest with Reebok’s name emblazoned across the middle. A manufacturers logo also appeared in the band of navy-blue on the left hand sleeve of the shirt.
Reebok’s away kits were a stylish red and navy-blue striped affair and underlined the brand’s ability to transition from Union Jack tagged classic trainers to the football pitch.
The marvelous FA Cup run of the 1993-94 season saw Bruce Rioch’s boys beat Arsenal, Aston Villa and Everton as Scots striker John McGinlay’s euphoric, arms-outstretched goal celebration became a regular feature.
The following season saw more success with a Coca-Cola Cup campaign that saw Alan Thompson, Alan Stubbs, Jason McAteer & Co return to Wembley before succumbing to a 2-1 defeat to a Steve McManaman inspired Liverpool in the final.
Yet Wanderers would return to the national stadium for the greatest moment in those first Reebok home shirts, when goals from Owen Coyle, Fabian de Freitas and Mixu Paatelainen earned a 4-3 extra-time Play-Off Final triumph over Reading and brought promotion to the Premier League.
Two years later in 1997, Bolton moved to the state of the art 29,000 capacity Reebok Stadium with it’s futuristic curved roofs and slowly established themselves as a Premier League side under Sam Allardyce, punching their way into European competition with more star names including Nicolas Anelka, Jussi Jaaskelainen and Youri Djorkaeff.
Bolton’s finest sporting goods company Reebok would ultimately become part of the Adidas stable, the stadium would be renamed the Macron and then the University of Bolton Stadium and sadly, following relegation from the Premier League in 2012; the club has faced financial difficulties leading to their current predicament and uncertain future.
Whilst the immediate future has considerable challenges on the horizon, we at Sartorial Soccer wish fans of Bolton Wanderers a swift return to fortune, good times and more classic football shirts like those made by home-town heroes Reebok.