Today marks 18 years to the day since Bolton Wanderers overcame Preston North End in the 2001 play-off final to secure a spot in the Premier League, laying the foundations for the club’s best era in recent times.
The 2001 play-off final in Cardiff saw Sam Allardyce’s Wanderers side trounce Preston 3-0 with Gareth Farrelly (’17) opening the scoring for Bolton and two late strikes from Ricardo Gardner (’89) and Michael Ricketts (’90) trebled Wanderers’ lead ahead of the final whistle.
The victory marked the beginning of the club’s 11-year stay in the Premier League that saw Bolton qualify for UEFA Cup football twice, make it to the 2004 League Cup final and the 2011 FA Cup semi-final.
Bolton finished third in the 2000/01 First Division (what is now the Championship) campaign and fully merited promotion after ending the regular season nine points ahead of the teams in fourth (Preston) and fifth (Birmingham City).
Wanderers’ route to the play-off final saw them come up against West Brom in the semi-final, a tie Bolton won 5-2 on aggregate.
But obviously, it’s the play-off final at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium that will be best remembered by Bolton fans.
Hopefully, it won’t be too long until Wanderers can taste similar success in the coming years.
After such a torrid time over the past year, it’d make a nice change to be fighting at the top end of the table for once.