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ON THIS DAY: Club v country, offside experiments and FA Cup exits

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
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FROM The Bolton News – March 28, 1998

COLIN Todd called for a rethink on international schedules that prevent players preparing for important club games.

Frustrated by the loss of four of his key players in the build-up to a game against Leicester City, the Bolton boss wanted national organisations to consider switching from traditional midweek games to the weekends.

"Isn't it stupid!" Todd moaned in exasperation, having lost the services of Mark Fish (South Africa), Per Frandsen (Denmark), Nathan Blake (Wales) and John McGinlay (Scotland). "Surely it would make more sense if internationals had been played on the free weekend.

"Instead we had a situation where we had our international players with us for a few days after the Sheffield Wednesday game before they flew out to join up with their national squads. "Then we lost them for the best part of a week and only had them back for one day's training before today's game."

A decade later, Gary Megson was making the same call.

Ali Al-Habsi had been given special dispensation by the Oman national team to fly out separately – business class, no less – so as not to disrupt his club training too harshly.

But what irritated Megson most was that the other four players tied up on international duty - Gretar Steinsson, Tamir Cohen, Stelios and even the disgraced Abdoulaye Meite - were tied up in meaningless friendlies.

"What can you do - try to bend the rules and say players are injured?" the manager said. "We haven't done that, we've spoken to people.

"Ricardo Gardner wouldn't have been available because of his broken rib, but we'd already spoken to the Jamaican FA who were prepared to give him leave.

"We've got really good relations with all the FAs but we can't really do a great deal. You don't want to stop players playing, but it's a nonsense."

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FROM The Bolton News – March 28, 1995

AS Wanderers waited for the thumbs up for Wembley, Bruce Rioch turned the spotlight on the man who would certainly not be there – Simon Coleman.

The Bolton boss was determined to keep people guessing before he announced his Coca Cola Cup final line-up but he asked those who were there to spare a thought for the centre-back, who would have been a certain starter had be not broken a leg against Derby County a month earlier.

“The players know we can only have 14 on duty and that some are going to be disappointed,” he said. “But they should think about Simon Coleman and Nicky Spooner, who can’t be there.

“I’m sure Coleman will have a lump in his throat this week.”

Coleman had been a revelation after his £350,000 move from Sheffield Wednesday the previous October but was recovering after needing a 15-inch steel rod inserted into the shaft of his tibia Rioch also rubbished the suggestion that Wanderers were ‘lucky’ to be in the final.

“The efforts to get the team to Wembley and the town’s response has been phenomenal,” he said. “But you can’t say we have been lucky. We might have had a stroke of good fortune along the way – the late own goal at Sheffield United, maybe – but it takes good play from players and damned hard work on the playing field to reach a Wembley final.”

On this day – March 28, 1925

WANDERERS and Manchester City took part in an experimental friendly at Burnden Park in which there were no offsides called by the officials beyond the 40-yard mark from goal.

Changes to the new rule – which meant that two, and not three players including the goalkeeper had to be in front of the player receiving the ball – were causing issues in English football.

They had time to get used to it. The rules was not significantly changed again until 1990 when a player could be level with the last defender and still be onside.

Wanderers ran out 3-0 winners in the game against City. But the experiment was never repeated at Burnden Park.

On this day – March 28, 1914

JOE Smith netted his third hat-trick of the season as Bolton ran out 3-0 winners against Bradford City at Burnden Park.

It had been sweet revenge for Wanderers, who were beaten 5-1 earlier in the season when the two sides met at Valley Parade.

On this day – March 28, 1896

WANDERERS tumbled out of the FA Cup at the semi-final stage, losing 3-1 against Sheffield Wednesday at the Town Ground in Nottingham.

The Town Ground was the original home of Nottingham Forest and closed just two years later. It was the first football stadium to host a game using crossbars and goal nets when ‘The North’ met ‘The South’ in a friendly game in 1891.

Bolton had drawn the first game 1-1 but despite Robert Tannahill’s goal, they couldn’t reach the final this time.

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