By the time you reach my age, there are so many anniversaries to honour, some happy, some sad. Sometimes you miss one. On the third of January, it was seventy years since I first watched Bolton Wanderers. My Dad decided that at seven I was old enough. We were playing Blackpool, my place of birth and my Mum’s team. We’d moved to Southport about six months before. We caught the train from Chapel Street. There was a tricky manoeuvre at Wigan Wallgate, necessitating us to run up the stairs, queue at the ticket office, buy a cheap day return to Bolton Trinity Street, run down the stairs and catch the train we’d just got off. There were no cheap tickets from Southport to Bolton. We caught it as stationmaster blew the whistle. We walked down the Manny Road to Burnden. Dad decided I was too young for the Railway Embankment and splashed out on seats in the Wing Stand. Mum had stitched a number 9 on an old white shirt, and I was wearing this under my jumper and windjammer. I was Nat Lofthouse. The tannoy announced the team changes from programme. Nat was injured. Johnny Wheeler was moved up from right half to centre forward. He got three goals with Willie Moir getting the other. There was no doubt I was to be a Wanderer, despite the heartbreak of the Cup Final a few months later. We could get the train back without needing to run up and down the stairs at Wigan. We had the tickets.
Dad’s first game was 1926. He died in 1998. 72 years he was watching, so I’m not quite there yet. He’s missed the last 25 years though, including the great Big Sam years and the shameful Anderson ones. I know he was there throughout. I looked up to the sky when we beat Preston at the 2001 play-off final and he was looking down.
It was an anniversary to be celebrated. Better late than never. I’ll be ready for Dad’s hundredth as a Bolton fan in 2026, God willing.