Who Are These Jobbers?
Summer is full of blockbusters. All the stars of Hollywood keep their powder dry until releasing their behemoths of the silver screen onto the unsuspecting public as soon as the sun comes out. And this year, who knew the epic thriller would be set in north west England?
Two old battleships were in danger of sinking. The SS Bolton Wanderers and HMS Bury repeatedly sent out distress calls as they continued to take on water. While the crews of both ships frantically tried to plug the holes in the galley, more and more freezing cold, salty water poured in.
Meanwhile, above deck the super villains bashed holes in the bow. While evil Father Christmas, Steve Dale, managed to successfully condemn the HMS Bury to bottom of the ocean, Ken Anderson and Laurence Bassini were determined to let the stricken SS Bolton Wanderers continue on the same course.
However, out of the darkness came the lycra-clad hero in the shape of Football Ventures to pull this treasured sinking ship from the lair of the Kraken. And, to celebrate, then handed them the gift of Keith Hill and Daryl Murphy. Yes, The Trotters are back and while they may limp on to a likely relegation, at least they have a football team.
The whole situation did present the uncomfortable question of - what would you do if your football team disappeared? What if Sunderland AFC just went? Like there was nothing left, no stadium, no players, no managers, no away days, no moments of sheer jubilation when the ball hits the back of the net, no laughing at beating Newcastle, just nothing.
It is something no football supporter would ever really want to comprehend. So, thankfully, Bolton are back from the brink and, hopefully, ready to receive an absolute bodying by Jackie Ross’ gorgeous boys.
What’s The Ground Like?
There was a rumour when Bolton’s new stadium was opened, that it was built on a marsh and so, as each year passed, it would sink further and further into the ground. While it may be an apt representation of the fortunes of the football club, the actual legitimacy of this claim is yet to be confirmed.
Among the more ambitiously designed stadia of the mid-1990s, the University of Bolton (nee Reebok and Macron) Stadium is quite a stunning feat of architecture. Despite being on a retail park in Horwich, seven miles away from the town it’s meant to represent (holler at me Oxford United!), it is actually a solid venue to watch football.
Sunderland will be afforded a healthy allocation with 4,000 tickets already snapped up. You handsome lot will be housed in both the lower and upper sections of the South Stand, an incredible vantage point to roar the Lads to a 1-1 draw.
How Do I Get There?
The UBOL may be on a retail park in the middle of nowhere but, boy, that accessibility, right! If you’re driving down, it is a lovely straightforward route down the A1(M) and onto the M62 heading west until you reach the M60. Exit at junction 15 for the M61 before leaving at junction 6 on to De Havilland Way and there’s your stadium.
There is car parking available outside the away end priced at £7 per car. Alternatively, you’ll be able to find parking in the numerous industrial parks around the ground. If you get lost (not that you can) smash BL6 6JW into your sat nav.
If you’re on the train, prepare for exasperation and bad organisation as you attempt to get on a Northern service from Horwich Parkway station after the match. Trains run back to Bolton and Manchester Victoria every 15 minutes after the match.
Where Can I Get The Sesh Started?
Typically football stadiums situated on retail parks aren’t that accommodating to visiting football supporters thirsty for some amber nectar. However, venture a little further up De Havilland Way and you’ll find the welcoming surroundings of The Beehive. Alternatively, swing a right down Lostock Lane and into The Barnstormers.
Don’t be one of those people that do all your socialising in Manchester before the match, don’t be that person. If you do, you’ll be missing out on the excellent Ye Olde Man & Scythe on Churchgate. One of Bolton’s oldest pubs, you can enjoy a pint of hearty ale paired with a locally made Carrs Pasties and, come on, what could be better than that.
If you enjoy a pub that doesn’t serve food and doesn’t let children in but has wall-to-wall sport on TV, a fine selection of crisps and the cheapest pint of Guinness this side of Garstang, then Hogarths on Churchgate is for you. And should you really need to satisfy your Wetherspoons needs, The Spinning Mule is on Nelson Square.
Is There Anything To Do Round Here?
For a town synonymous with steeplejack extraordinaire Fred Dibnah (whose statue proudly stands on Oxford Street), it is no wonder Bolton has an affinity with all things steam. Learn everything about this golden age of British industrialism at Bolton Steam Museum, a showcase of over 30 steam engines recovered from across the region including a Crossfield mill beam engine dating back to 1840.
If you prefer your days out to include a load of Egyptian mummies and an encyclopaedic knowledge of Lancashire, then set your sights on Bolton Museum. Soak in the Victorian vibes in Bolton Market, a brilliantly preserved market hall with a wide range of local produce and artisan gifts.
And should you have a little more time on your hands, take a trip out to Hall i’ th’ Wood and enjoy a lovely through a park and visit the famous 16th-century manor house which was once home to Samuel Crompton. Crompton, as you all know, revolutionised the textile industry by inventing the spinning wheel, which was good for the world but bad for Sleeping Beauty.