Bolton v Crystal Palace has always a big one for me. When I were a lad, I’d go to just about all the home games, but the only away game we’d travel to was… Palace.
My uncle lived in the south London area and worked at a school where Ron Noades, ex Palace chairman, was a governor. Or something like that. Anyway, we’d get complimentary tickets to the directors’ box at Selhurst Park, and I used to love going.
One of the trips brought one of my fondest memories. It was 1994, February. Arguably Bolton’s finest pre-Premier League team in recent memory. McGinlay; McAteer; Stubbs; Thompson; Walker; Lee; Kelly; Branagan. Legends, them all.
I got to meet them, in the bar housed behind the posh seats.
I was 11 years old, and that’s about as good as it gets for an 11-year-old. The game itself is a vague memory – Owen Coyle himself salvaged us a point, and I (dressed in Palace colours, for our away kit that season was blue and red that season) lept to my feet. A bloke behind me thought I’d only come to cheer the goals, not realising the badge on my shirt featured the red rose of Lancashire.
It was moments like that which made Coyle a folk hero. He scored important goals at an important time in Bolton’s history, and when he became manager these memories stirred in us all. It was perfect – our saviour from Megson.
Alas, things have soured. It’s been 18 months since the game agains Stoke. The 0-5 loss that seemed to mark a change in Bolton’s fortunes. And Coyle has not demonstrated that he knows how to re-float a sinking team.
Saturday was a debacle. Slim to nil created up front, and a penalty (our third conceded in three games) ultimately deciding it against us. And there you have the entire game, from a Bolton perspective, summed up in 20 words.
I wanted him to succeed. I really did. But I fear that tomorrow’s game against Leeds may be a bridge too far for him. For me, as enjoyable he was to watch as a player, and as well as he performed in his first year at the club as manager, in my opinion it may finally be time to Owen Coyle.
Come in, number 9. Your time is up.