I don’t want to have a good view at Bolton – Carl Marston’s Travels with Town
PUBLISHED: 16:57 22 August 2019 | UPDATED: 17:16 22 August 2019
When a player of Matt Holland’s class and repute describes a match as “the most embarrassing defeat of his career,” you know it’s been a bad day.
Midfielder maestro Holland was referring to one miserable afternoon at Bolton Wanderers' then-named Reebok Stadium, on April 6, 2002, and more specifically a calamitous 4-1 defeat.
Personally, I have had far "more embarrassing" days as a football journalist.
There was the occasion when I got locked in at Chesterfield's old Saltergate stadium, having spent too long writing my match report, and another when I was refused entry to Doncaster Rovers' former home at Belle Vue Ground, for a grim fourth tier match. I had to make several telephone calls to establish my identity and so eventually gain admittance - it would have been easier to blag my way into the FA Cup Final at Wembley!
There was also the time when I, and my colleagues, stumbled into the press box at Wrexham's Racecourse Ground, midway through the first period, after being stuck in heavy traffic on a Friday night (I didn't miss a goal, fortunately).
And there was another occasion when I forgot where I had parked the car, while attending a match at Gillingham's Priestfield Stadium. It felt like I had walked around the whole of the Medway, before finding my car by chance down a side alley.
But this has nothing to do with Bolton Wanderers, the subject of this week's column, to coincide with Town's visit tomorrow.
So back to Matt Holland, and his own "embarrassing" day.
I must say that although I have a long list of 'favourite grounds,' the home of Bolton Wanderers is not only NOT one of them, it is also towards the top of my list of 'least favourite' grounds.
Much of that has to do with the dismal experience of just over 17 years ago, when Town were utterly outplayed by Bolton on their way to certain relegation out of the Premier League.
I hated the whole experience, from high up in the press box looking down on Town's dire performance, and I didn't exactly relish the prospect of chasing up a post-match interview with one of the Town players.
Fortunately Holland, ever the gentleman, obliged with an interview, and he did not hold back.
"I think I can honestly say that this was the most embarrassing defeat of my career," rued Holland.
"It was perhaps not the worst performance, but the most embarrassing. It's not as if we were playing Manchester United!
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"It was a must win game for us, and we weren't good enough.
"You can say that Bolton had four shots and scored four goals, but the table does not lie."
Holland, then aged 27, cut a forlorn figure, but then so did I in the Bolton press box that Saturday evening - it's never easy having to write about an impending relegation.
Town had really needed all three points from that fixture - a draw not have sufficed - but they ended the day stuck in the relegation zone, two points adrift of fourth-from-bottom Blackburn, having also played two more games.
George Burley's strugglers had just four fixtures remaining to save themselves, and given the nature of their run-in, it is not difficult to understand why they DID get relegated.
Those last four matches featured away trips to Arsenal and Liverpool, and home games against Middlesbrough and Manchester United.
The Nationwide Football League beckoned!
The only saving grace was that it would be another 10 years before Ipswich would need to visit Bolton Wanderers again!
Ground: University of Bolton Stadium (formerly Reebok Stadium)
Club: Bolton Wanderers
Town's first visit: 0-0 draw on August 19, 1961
Town's last visit: 2-1 away win on April 6, 2019
Town's overall record at P22 W7 D9 L6
Bolton Whites Hotel, which is fully integrated into Bolton Wanderers' University of Bolton Stadium (opened in 1997), includes a rather dubious claim to fame on its website, where it describes many of its excellent rooms as 'boasting a pitchside view.' It also offers Executive Boxes with 'stunning views over the stadium.'
Given Wanderers' current plight, you would expect that guests might pay extra for a view which doesn't overlook the playing surface!