“Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to… The Reebok Stadium. The home. Of. Bolton. Wanderers! ♫ Insert dramatic music here… and maybe repeat it a few times if you have misjudged the time it would take for the players to emerge ♫.
Before I start though, I would just like to wish Fabrice Muamba good health. I was coming back from Barnsley last weekend with Zack when my Mum texted me, telling me what had happened to Fabrice. My initial reaction was that of shock and disbelief. After the news had sunk in, I couldn’t help but cry. Fabrice is such a lovely person, and for something like that to happen to him was heartbreaking.
Although Fabrice may not be our most skilful or technical player, he has always given 110% to the Wanderers cause, and that’s why the fans around here love him. On the occasions when I have met Fabrice he has always had a huge sparkly smile on his face, and that smile has touched many people. He has played 130 times for our club, scoring 3 goals. We are all truly grateful for your hard work, and we thank you so so much Fabrice.
So with last weekends events, it was only fitting that the club put on a pre-match tribute to Fabrice. The pre-match tribute accompanied the wide selection of football shirts that had been left outside the stadium by other teams:
I have been visiting Fortress Reebok since 2003. My first match was when Bolton lost 1-0 to Birmingham; Mikael Forssell scoring the winning goal. It took a couple of years for me to really get into supporting the whites, but soon enough I was hooked on my local team. 9 years on, and today I reached a milestone…
JOSEPH GIBBONS HAS NOW ATTENDED 100 BOLTON WANDERERS MATCHES!
This means that;
- I have wasted 6 days, 6 hours watching Bolton Wanderers.
- I have spent around £300 on Bolton Wanderers matchday programmes.
- I have sworn at either Johan Elmander or David N’Gog around 1,897,658,256 times.
- I have missed around 10 goals by ‘nipping’ to the toilet.
- I have had a flowing conversation with Fat Frank on around 12 occasions.
- I have refused to buy an overpriced pie on 96 occasions.
As you can see, I am now part of the BWFC Family. However, don’t worry Blackburn fans! This blog entry won’t be biased as I don’t dislike you that much…
I got a rare lift up to The Reebok off my Mum, picking Jordan up from the bus stop along the way. We arrived 15 minutes later, and were dropped off in the usual place on Tesco car park. It felt strange getting a lift to the match! Jordan and I have been regulars on the luxurious Number 5 service over the past few years. If you are not familiar with the Number 5, it sets off in Swinton and is driven by the speed demon himself – Chaddy!
Jordan and I went off in separate directions as usual. I like to go into the stadium and read my matchday programme, whereas he likes to go to ASDA or Subway with the rest of ‘Mad Corner’. Mad Corner is a section of the Lofthouse Stand where our more ‘vocal’ of fans are. When I say ‘vocal’, I of course mean they are the most likely to be arrested or ejected.
Walking around T’Reebok I bumped into fellow fan Kerry – You may recognise her from this years Season Ticket Renewal Booklets! I talked to her for a few minutes about things before pressing on to meet Blackburn fan Carly. I had arranged to meet up with Carly at Horwich Parkway Station. Her friends found it funny that my last name is Gibbons, so they decided I was a monkey… In plural form of course!
Carly and I went in McDonalds where we fought through the crowd of strange looking people, before she finally bought a McFlurry. It was 20 degrees outside, and it soon turned into water. We then pressed on to Starbucks where I revealed my plan…
Starbucks launched their brand new ‘Customer Cohesion’ scheme last week; which involves writing a customers name on their cup. I thought it would be humorous to say my name was Venkys. However, after much deliberation, Carly suggested I should call myself Steve Kean.
“Can I have a Venti Strawberries and Cream please?”
“Yes, and what’s the name?”
“Steve Kean – K E A N”
“Sorry love, you can only have one name per drink”
I’m sorry? What? You’re only allowed one name per drink? After waiting a few minutes, my drink came through – nameless. The woman was obviously that confused she just abandoned the whole scheme. Not to worry though! The bloke who served me the drink lent me his pen, so that I could rectify the whole situation.
We then walked back to the ground, and I dropped the Blackburn clan off at their turnstile.
I bought my matchday programme off the normal woman – the type who even the Jeremy Kyle show would sniff their noses at. It was then time to walk inside T’Reebok.
Entering through Turnstile D I felt a sense of excitement around the place. Everybody seemed to be up for this crucial match at the bottom of the Premier League. Everybody seemed to want to win this match for Fabrice. Everybody seemed to want to take another 3 points off our Lancashire neighbours.
I shuffled through the concourse, and walked up to my seat where Callum was waiting for me.
A montage displaying goodwill messages in support of Fabrice was shown on the big screen. The mosaic was lifted high in the Lofthouse Stand Lower. The Blackburn fans began to sing Fabrice’s name, and then the teams began to walk out. The teams usually march out to a fanfare, however, on this emotional occasion the club decided to play ‘Shakira – Waka Waka (This Time For Africa). A song which on reflection, is fitting for Fabrice.
I was sat in my season ticket perch in the West Stand Lower.
Opposite was the Nat Lofthouse Stand. Unfortunately, the club don’t seem too bothered about enforcing this name on the stadium. As a result, it is more commonly known as the East Stand. At most stadiums there would be a huge sign, stating that you are in the stand named after your clubs greatest player. Instead, at The Reebok, they have a small green sign which is dwarfed by advertising boards such as ‘Gordons Honda’ – You know Gordon? He was our Japanese star signing of January 2004.
To my left was the North Stand. This is where you can find the more family orientated atmosphere, and the instrumental drummers. Along with a shabby version of Lofty The Lion; the club claim it’s Lofty’s son.
To my near right was the South Stand. Both tiers are used for away fans, but only a small number of teams ever need both. Blackburn were a credit to themselves though, they sold out both tiers, and created a great atmosphere.
The match started off in typical Lancastrian fashion – with full-blooded challenges. Andre Marriner is a referee who I am largely critical of, but on this occasion, he kept his cards in his pocket, not producing one all afternoon.
The first talking point of the afternoon came when the highly rated Junior Hoillett was tripped in the Bolton area. He did well to dribble into the box before Bolton right back Gretar Steinsson tripped him. If Hoillett hadn’t of over ran the ball then maybe he’d have received a penalty, but Marriner waved play on.
Moments later and the mighty whites took the lead. Blackburn failed to clear their lines after a corner and the ball fell to Martin Petrov out wide. The Bulgarian then swung the ball in to find the head of centre back David Wheater, who duly converted into the bottom right hand corner.
I’m being honest with you, I didn’t know of the Olsson twins until today. I just presumed there was one of them! The duo played very well, and helped set up Yakubu for a header which he should have finished to bring the teams level.
Bolton then proceeded to double their lead. Arsenal loannee Ryo Miyaichi curled in a free kick, and David Wheater was on hand to score his, and Boltons second of the afternoon.
The Blackburn faithful then lost interest in the match, and instead focused their attentions on the more pressing matters in life… such as beer. The Greater Manchester Police had banned all sales of alcohol from ASDA and Tesco prior to kick off, and had also banned the club from selling beer on the away concourses. As a result, the Rovers fans were singing – ♫ Sh*t ground! No beer! Sh*t ground! No beer! ♫
During half time I received a text message off my mate Zack who had travelled to Anfield with Wigan, he was charged £42 as there were no concession tickets on the day! After hearing that, I was thankful that I had chosen to go to The Reebok rather than travel with those lot to Merseyside!
This weeks halftime guests were John Byrom and Colin Hendry; who played for both Bolton and Blackburn.
The first chance of the second half fell to David NGog. Great wide play by Petrov resulted in a cross being fired over from the left. The former Liverpool man was unable to steer his header into the back of the Rovers net, much to the despair of an anxious capacity Reebok crowd.
56 minutes – Blackburn equalised when Morten Gamst Pedersen launched a long throw to the near post, where Steven Nzonzi was there to climb above a lackadaisical Bolton defence. This goal encouraged the away side to search for an all important equaliser.
Bolton had one last clear chance in the match, and it came when the impressive Mark Davies headed just wide of the post.
Nigerian forward Yakubu thought he had nicked a point for Rovers when he improvised well to flick the ball towards the Bolton net. He was unlucky to see his effort trickle just wide of the right upright.
The match ended, and the Bolton team formed a big huddle on the pitch – after what has quite clearly been an emotional week for all involved with the club.
It had been a very good day in the basking sunshine in Horwich. Not only had we sealed a crucial 3 points against our fellow strugglers, but I had finally met Carly – who turned out to be very nice for a Blackburn fan.
So if ever you feel like coming to The Reebok, just get in touch with me and I’ll meet you before kick-off, or I may even go to the match with you! Also, if you need any advice on ticketing or where to drink just find me on Twitter @JoeBillGibbo and ask me!
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 6 miles
- ADMISSION: Season ticket holder
- PROGRAMME PRICE: £3