They walked on to the pitch to face table-topping Coventry City as strangers but left as heroes – a rare note of hope in what had become a dark chapter in Wanderers’ history.
The youngest team ever to line up for a league game in a Bolton shirt with an average age of less than 19, the group that became known as the Junior Whites were a product of unsettled and unhappy times.
Two days before the match, a proposed takeover by the Football Ventures consortium had been stopped in its tracks by a court injunction gained by spurned investor Laurence Bassini.
It later turned out that the precise detail of the order granted in the Manchester High Court did not preclude a sale – but the immediate shock was enough to spark a condemnatory statement from the club’s administrators, David Rubin and Partners, which detailed their “outrage and disgust” at the former Watford owner.
The same statement said the suspension of the sale had “threatened the club’s very existence” – a sentence which served to spook Bolton’s senior players, who had not been paid properly by the club for six months.
Several pros who had played against Wycombe on the opening day withdrew their services, although manager Phil Parkinson attempted to take the sting out of the situation by insisting that he had made the final decision not to play them against Coventry.
Tickets for the game had been suspended, then reinstated, but a crowd of 8,901 still turned up to watch a side with relatively few recognisable faces.
Nicky Spooner and Gavin McCann were in the dugour, rather than Parkinson and Steve Parkin, owing to their familiarity with the players.
The match itself was tense. Coventry had three goals disallowed but in the end Wanderers fully deserved their point.
This weekend Wanderers will be facing the Sky Blues once again but what happened to that fresh-faced team after their standing ovation as they left the pitch?
MATT ALEXANDER – One of the heroes of the day. The young stopper continues to mix first team football, where he has been understudy to Remi Matthews, with appearances in the development squad.
HARRY BROCKBANK – Became one of the youngest captains in Bolton Wanderers’ history after signing a new deal at the start of the season. Returned recently from injury and looks set for a bright future.
LIAM EDWARDS – One of the real finds early in the season, Edwards now has seven first team games under his belt and also bagged an extended contract with the club.
YOAN ZOUMA – The Frenchman has been a mainstay of the first team until a recent injury and now has 22 senior appearances to his name. Urged on a number of occasions to improve his concentration by Keith Hill, the 21-year-old has the tools to become a very decent defender.
JOE WHITE – Liverpudlian left-back who started the season at Wycombe and made five appearances in all for the first team before dropping back down to play in a more advanced role for the Under-23s.
JAMES WEIR – Signed by Phil Parkinson on the opening day but cut free by Keith Hill five months later after failing to establish himself as a regular. At 24, he was the senior statesman of the Junior Whites and went on to make 12 appearances at Bolton.
SONNY GRAHAM – Still not 18 but the defensive midfielder has managed to push his way into Hill’s plans and looks like he can handle football at senior level.
DENNIS POLITIC – Signed up to an extended contract recently, the winger celebrated said fact with a thunderbolt against Tranmere – his fourth strike of the season. Politic has comfortably established himself under Hill and, excitingly for Bolton fans, looks like he can progress much further.
RONAN DARCY – Had just two substitute appearances for Bolton by the time he bossed the midfield against Coventry but is now regarded as a firm first team option. Wanderers want him to commit to his first professional deal and the signs are he could be an important part of the club’s rebuild.
CALLUM KING-HARMES – Immortalised with the supporters’ chant “his name is a pub” King-Harmes showed some glimpses of real talent in his seven senior outings so far this season. Now back working with the Under-18s and 23s, the winger is highly regarded by the coaching staff.
EDDIE BROWN – Hard-working striker who had a real baptism of fire at the start of the season, playing seven times and often leading a very lonely life up front. At 19 he is working to establish himself at development squad level.
SUB – LUKE HUTCHINSON – Youth team keeper who continues to progress under Nicky Spooner and Gavin McCann’s watch.
SUB – JORDAN BOON – Strong defender involved in five first team games in August and September, who has now gone out to gain some experience in the Northern Premier with Atherton Colls.
SUB – ADAM SENIOR – Home-spun youngster who has had chances under Hill and continues to impress with his hard-working attitude.
SUB – D’NEAL RICHARDS – The 17-year-old was called up to the bench on a few occasions early in the season and remains a prospect in the youth team.
SUB - FINLAY HURFORD-LOCKETT – Given a dream debut off the bench against Coventry. Featured twice more against Rochdale and Ipswich before dropping back down to the youth ranks.
SUB – DE’MARLIO BROWN-STERLING - Striker, now 18, unused against Coventry but did get a run of appearances including a first senior start against Ipswich Town. Now scoring goals for the Under-18s
SUB – REGAN RILEY - Made his senior bow in the 5-0 defeat against Tranmere Rovers the following weekend but the 17-year-old midfielder has since stepped back into the Under-18s.