Remembering Bolton Wanderers in the Premier League

It was over 10 years ago, back in the 2011/12 season that Bolton Wanderers were last in the Premier League, having lasted 13 seasons in the top flight of English football. In this post we look back at their best bits, including some of the massive names they had playing for them over the years.


Bolton Premier League finishes

Bolton managed 13 seasons in the Premier League, and actually managed to finish 6th in the league back in the 2004/05 season. The table below shows their history in the Premier League:

2011/2012106223618Owen Coyle
2010/20111210164614Owen Coyle
2009/2010109193914Owen Coyle
2008/2009118194113Gary Megson
2007/2008910193716Gary Megson
2006/200716814566Sammy Lee
2005/2006151112568Sam Allardyce
2004/2005161012586Sam Allardyce
2003/2004141113538Sam Allardyce
2002/20031014144417Sam Allardyce
2001/2002913164016Sam Allardyce
1997/1998913164017Colin Todd
1995/199685252920Colin Todd

What was Bolton’s highest finish in the Premier League?

Bolton’s highest premier league finish is 6th, in the 2004/05 season (source:

The Allardyce era

Most football fans will remember Bolton under Sam Allardyce. In charge for just under 6 seasons, Bolton became a tough team to beat, known for their physical style of play, tough to break down, and they had a unit upfront in Kevin Davies who wasn’t afraid to put himself about and give defenders a tough time.

He also had an immense goalkeeper in Jussi Jaaskelainen:


Sam Allardyce League Positions at Bolton

In his first 2 seasons, Allardyce helped Bolton avoid relegation, before kicking on into the top half of the table, with finishes of 8th, 6th, and 8th again. In his final season, he left before the season ended, and Bolton finished 6th again. He won 4 “Premier League manager of the month” awards during his time at Bolton:

  • August 2001
  • November 2003
  • January 2004
  • December 2006

His biggest achievement was taking Bolton into European football – getting out of a tough group in the UEFA cup that included Zenit, Sevilla and Besiktas, before getting knocked out in the first knockout round by Marseille.

Allardyce fell out with Rafa Benitez following a game in which he felt Benitez was gesturing that the game was over at 2-0. Rafa later explained that his players had ignored his instructions, however Big Sam had already got his excuse out in public. Rafa wasn’t the first manager he had public disagreements with – he even tried to claim Jose Mourinho had copied his tactics and formation (source:

Allardyce eventually left after falling out with Bolton owner Phil Gartside over transfers, before moving to Newcastle United.

Post Big Sam

Sammy Lee, Gary Megson and Owen Coyle all managed Bolton after Allardyce, however it was under Owen Coyle that they were relegated to the Championship. Coyle brought in Jack Wilshere on loan from Arsenal, who helped the club play some progressive football,  and helped make a name for himself with some first team minutes under his belt, including this impressive performance against Chelsea:

Under Owen Coyle, Bolton managed a great run in the FA Cup, beating York, Wigan, Fulham and Birmingham to make it into the semi final, where they unfortunately got hammered 5-0 by Stoke City.

Bolton were eventually relegated at the end of the 2011-12 season, losing out by one point on the final day of the season.

Famous players who played for Bolton

It’s actually quite surreal when you look at some of the players who played for Bolton at some point in their careers, including the following, many of which have won the Champions League or played in some of the biggest games in World Football

  • Jay Jay Okocha
  • Youri Djorkaeff
  • Fernando Hierro
  • Ivan Campo
  • Nicholas Anelka
  • Didi Hamann
  • Marcos Alonso (yes , that one from Chelsea!)

They had other players who went on to make big names for themselves, but looking at that list you can see they managed to stay in the top flight so long – not included in that list were Kevin Nolan, and Kevin Davies, who carved out successful careers following playing for Bolton Wanderers.

Jay Jay Okocha at Bolton

“So good they named him twice” was the way to describe this wonderfully talented footballer.

Okocha signed for Bolton on a free from PSG (before they were mega rich!), and went on to make 124 appearances in the Premier League for Bolton, scoring 14 goals. Okocha was a flair player, with skills in abundance, which he used to make most Premier League defenders look like complete idiots. His best skills and goals can be seen below:

He left the club in 2006 to go and play in Qatar, after falling out with club staff when he was stripped of the captaincy at the Reebok stadium.

Okocha was voted Bolton’s best ever player in 2017.

Some amazing goals from Bolton players

The first goal that springs to mind is Johan Elmander’s stunning goal against Wolves – if a player did that today it would get played over and over and over again:


Remember Stelios Giannakopoulos?! he was known for an important goal back in the day, including this curler below:


We have to include Jay Jay Okocha in this – he scored 2 free kicks in one game against Aston Villa, the 2nd of which shows just how incredible a player he was:

What’s happened to Bolton since getting relegated from the Premier League?

After getting relegated from the Premier League, Bolton spent 4 seasons in the Championship, with their highest finish being 7th. In 2016, they were relegated to League One. They made it back into the Championship at the first time of asking, finishing 2nd in the 16/17 season. Due to ongoing financial problems, they faced several winding up orders , didn’t pay their players and eventually had to forfeit matches, meaning they finished bottom of the Championship and were again relegated to League 1.

They eventually went into administration, meaning a point deduction for the following season, and eventually ended up as far down as League Two – a long way from the top flight of English football. They made it back into League One at the end of the 20/21 season, and last season finished 9th in League one.

It’s hard to imagine them ever being back in the Premier League – at the time they had a decent sized stadium (capacity 28,723), some big names and some decent league finishes. Today they need to get 2 promotions, and would need serious investment in the squad to get to that point, as the lower leagues have become more and more competitive over the years, and often big clubs miss out on promotion to the Premiership by the smallest of margins, so unless there’s a big turnaround fortunes for Bolton Wanderers, it’s likely going to be a very long time before we see their famous white kit back in England’s top flight.

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