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Bolton Nuts » BWFC » Bolton Wanderers Banter » RETRO MATCH: When Garry Jones and Wanderers silenced the Roker Roar

RETRO MATCH: When Garry Jones and Wanderers silenced the Roker Roar

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse

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Elvis Presley still topped the UK charts a month after his death and football had grabbed the front pages as Don Revie’s sensational resignation as England manager prompted a ban from the Football Association.

It was September 1977, and locally the region’s biggest bakers Warburton’s had been slowed to a standstill by a factory worker’s strike.

Wanderers had started the season like a train, dropping just two points in their first five league games to lead the early Division Two table from Tottenham, Stoke City and Blackpool.

Ian Greaves’s side had been pounding on promotion’s door, finishing fourth in the previous two seasons, but this would be the year they got it right.

A swaggering 2-0 victory at Sunderland’s Roker Park in September was heralded in that evening’s Buff with the headline: “Bolton switch on the magic”.

And Greaves was equally enthusiastic, adding after the game: “There was just nothing I could criticise. They were terrific and produced exactly what I was looking for.

“Everything we have worked very hard for came right on the day and it was a very, very satisfying feeling to not only win but to win in such a way that a 4-0 score-line wouldn’t have flattered us.”

Garry Jones had been the catalyst for a win that silenced the famed Roker Roar. The front man had found it difficult to hold down a place in the side since the start of the season but impressed the Bolton Evening News’s Frank Booth, who wrote of him: “His close control and strong running baffled the Sunderland defence, who had no answers to him.”

Jones set up an early chance for Willie Morgan and then laid the groundwork for the opening goal on 15 minutes.

He worked his way down the right before crossing deep, and when Jackie Ashurst failed to clear, Morgan lashed a shot at goal that was spilled by former Bolton keeper Barry Siddall and passed into the net by Neil Whatmore.

Peter Reid and Ray Train were dominating in midfield, the latter bringing a fine save out of Siddall after more good work down the right by Jones and John Ritson.

Sunderland had one real chance to get themselves back into the game when Alan Brown spooned a shot over after everyone had missed Wilf Rostron’s cross.

Jones nearly got the goal his performance had deserved, bouncing a shot off the base of the post when Morgan had played him through, but on 66 minutes he predictably had a hand in the decisive strike, conspiring with Morgan to find Roy Greaves, whose header into the six yard box caused Siddall and Whatmore to collide, and left Reid to mop up from close in.

More than 30,000 were in Roker Park to see the eventual champions, who had yet to add the ultimate Elvis fan to their ranks. Just a few weeks later, Frank Worthington would score on his debut against Stoke City and complete the puzzle.

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Fast forward to March 2003, and Wanderers set a piece of club history at the Stadium of Light in their pursuit of survival in the Premier League.

For the first time ever, the Bolton line-up contained NO English players.

Four Frenchmen, two Danes and one each from Finland, Iceland, Jamaica, Spain and Nigeria made up Sam Allardyce's League of Nations.

And though Gudni Bergsson considered himself an honorary Boltonian having been in the town for eight years by that point, he was confident that the dressing room blend was right.

"It's a quite amazing thing," he said of the fact Bolton had no Englishmen on the pitch for the first time in 125 years. "I think we have the right attitude. We are seasoned professionals and we know what is required to stay up."

Simon Charlton had pulled out of the side with a knee injury and Kevin Nolan dropped to the bench for a game that saw the Whites extend their lead over third-bottom West Ham by three points.

After Jay-Jay Okocha had opened the scoring on 50 minutes, Henrik Pedersen shook off a heavy blow to the shoulder to double the lead five minutes later.

"There is a long way to go," Bergsson reflected. "But we must seize the day."

While things were going swimmingly on the pitch for Allardyce’s foreign legion, two of their membership had issues away from the Reebok.

The club refused to comment on back page headlines that Akin Bulent and Bernard Mendy were involved in a massive training ground bust-up – since confirmed by any number of eye-witness sightings at Euxton.

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