In the next stop in our Venue series, we travelled to Greater Manchester and the town of Bolton, a former mill town with a history centred on the industrial revolution and textile manufacturing.
Originally formed in 1874 as Christ Church F.C, the club played under this name for a few years before renaming themselves to Bolton Wanderers in 1877.
They found their ‘Wanderers’ name through their lack of a permanent home in the town, as they found themselves ‘wandering’ from ground to ground over a period of four years. The club eventually settled at Pikes Lane and became a founding member of the Football League in 1888. The club became a further part of history when Kenny Davenport scored the first ever league goal at 3.47pm on September 8, 1888. For a long time it was believed that Gershom Cox’s own goal during Aston Villa vs Wolverhampton Wanderers was the first in the league’s history. However, it was discovered that the game had kicked off late meaning that Davenport’s goal against Derby County was history making.
Fourteen years later, the club saw further change as they moved to Burnden Park, a place they would call home for over 100 years. With a capacity of over 70,000, it hosted matches in all four of the divisions. The club was beginning to create its legacy in the beautiful game with an FA cup final before tragedy struck in 1946 when 33 supporters were killed in a crush.
After decades at Burnden Park, club executives realised after the publishing of the Taylor report that it would be difficult to convert it from standing to all-seating, as the report required all first and second division to do. They felt it would be easier to create a new home. Wanderers decided to move out of Bolton to the town of Horwich. In 1997 the club moved into their new ground, the ‘Reebok Stadium’, a name which many still affectionately use today. The 28,723-seat stadium represented a new era for the club.
The design focused around a bowl shape, keeping supporters as close to the pitch – and the action – as possible. The modern look showed the development of stadium architecture and inspired many grounds that followed, such as Brighton and Hove Albion’s AMEX Stadium.
In 2004, the ground became the Macron, and since 2018 has had the namesake of club Partner University of Bolton.
Outside the stadium stands a statue, one that pays tribute to arguably the greatest player in the club’s history. Nat Lofthouse scored 255 goals in 452 appearances and after his exploits for England, the Bolton local gained the nickname, ‘The Lion of Vienna’.
The turf of this stadium has seen some ridiculous talent pull on the famous white jersey over the years. The likes of Jay-Jay Okcoha, Gary Speed, Youri Djorkaeff, Kevin Nolan and Kevin Davies, Fernando Hierro, Ivan Campo and Nicolas Anelka have all taken to the pitch for the club.
The new stadium hosted football greats in the Premier League and UEFA Cup games, as well as musical legends such as Elton John and Coldplay. It has seen the side play in multiple divisions, and now continues to serve them in their rebuild following administration.
Thank you to Luke and the team at Bolton Wanderers for inviting us to check out the University of Bolton Stadium. If there are places you would love to see us visit, tweet us @BehindSport and let us know!
You can read more from our Insight series here.