20 Years at BL6

It’s been 20 years since we moved across town from the Burnden terraces to our futuristic looking stadium. Where has the time gone? I thought it would be nice to all share our memories of the move.

I love Burnden park. It’s where my dad took me to watch the Whites of the 90s. The supermarket in the corner. The drop from the touchline on the terrace side. It was amazing, but the time had come, Bolton were on the way up and they needed a stadium to suit.

I remember begging my dad to take me to the last game against Charlton. He said no. This was a celebration for him and his pals, and I don’t blame him really, his last chance to have some beers at Burnden with his buddies after all those years. I watched on TV at my friend’s house, the victory, lifting the trophy and Nat digging out the centre spot. Then it was gone.

We all know what happened in the first game in our new home. A phantom goal that would later prove to be the deciding piece in a tight relegation battle. But I want to hear everyone’s personal memories, not just the seasonal story lines.

31st January 1998. This would be my first visit to the Reebok. I couldn’t sleep the night before, I couldn’t wait to see that pitch for the first time since we used to go and check on the building progress and the walls went up. North upper, I remember vividly climbing the stairs and seeing the pitch emerge from behind them. It was awe inspiring. 1-0 up after 20 minutes things looked good. 70 minutes later I was despondent as the scoreboard read 1-5 to Coventry. A bittersweet feeling.

From then on I would go as often as possible. Saving up my paper round money, then when I turned 16 and getting a job as a glass collector. I could go when I wanted.

My dreams came true when I was selected in the Junior Whites raffle to be a ball boy for the 1999-2000 season. They gave me an incredible spot just behind the goal in front of the away fans. I still have the video from the FA Cup 6th round vs Charlton on Match of the Day. We were 1 up from a Gudjohnsen goal, then Dean Holden was sent off for an off the ball head butt, and you can see a policeman telling me off for celebrating a goal line clearance in front of the Addicks fans!

There was the time I was goalkeeper in a Boxing day half time penalty shootout, and I got thoroughly booed for saving Lofty the Lions penalty in front of the North Stand. 

The time tickets sold out for a game against Grimsby as they were all a fiver, so I snuck in wearing my old ball boy uniform, and wandering around the players tunnel before the game mixing with the players and staff. I found a seat near my friends and after a dour draw, the woman next to me told me to pass on her criticisms when I go back down the tunnel. Love, I had no intention of going back down there. I’d get arrested! I left with the rest of the fans. 

01-02 we were back in the big time and with a youthful look I blagged a junior season ticket for 90 quid even though I was over the 16 year limit. What a season that was. Sitting at the top of the pile after a win against Liverpool, surviving relegation with games to spare. 

And even right up to the promotion game last year. I hadn’t been since my move to Spain 5 years prior, but I flew in and out in a day with my girlfriend to see the boys secure the win against Peterborough. Everyone said I was crazy but I didn’t care. My better half knew how much it would mean and she booked the flights. I don’t know if you’ve ever been on 2 budget flights in one day… One is bad enough… But I didn’t care. Because I was back home. 

So please, let’s hear your stories from the last 20 years, and here’s to another roller-coaster 20 more.

by Simon (@originalbrown84)

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