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Bolton Nuts » BWFC » Bolton Wanderers Banter » ON THIS DAY: Disaster haunts Neal after semi-final win & PM drops by the Reebok

ON THIS DAY: Disaster haunts Neal after semi-final win & PM drops by the Reebok

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
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1989: THE horror of Hillsborough took the edge off Phil Neal’s celebrations as Wanderers booked their date at Wembley in the Sherpa Van trophy.

Steve Thompson’s penalty ensured a 2-1 aggregate victory against Blackpool at Bloomfield Road and sent Bolton into the final as strong favourites after unfancied Torquay beat Wolves on the same night.

But given the tragedy that had struck the previous weekend and the manager’s ties to Liverpool, Neal found it difficult to channel his thoughts.

“I’m a little bit emotional and if I strike a solemn note it’s because I have had thoughts of Hillsborough on my mind as well,” he apologised.

“I was concerned that my thoughts were not with the lads. But I got through to them as extra time approached.

“We battled and we earned our reward. I’ll make sure the players enjoy Wembley.

“I said I would lay all my medals on the table if it meant taking Bolton Wanderers to Wembley again but that won’t be necessary now.”

Neal also led the tributes to his keeper David Felgate, who had been magnificent against Blackpool in the 1-1 draw.

Felgate had missed the 1986 final because the Football League refused to relax the rules when his three-month loan from Grimsby Town expired.

“I just had a funny feeling about David,” Neal said. “I was aware of the circumstances last time when he couldn’t play and so I fancied him to do well.

“Full credit to the lad because he did everything we asked of him.”

Along with Neal, Thompson was the only surviving member of the side beaten by Bristol City three years earlier – and he was setting his targets on going one better.

“Hopefully we’ll win it this time,” he said.

Club captain Phil Brown was also dreaming about walking up the Wembley steps.

“I’d just love to lift that trophy for Bolton Wanderers,” he declared.

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1997: AN hour before John Major was due in town to put the seal on their new stadium, Bolton Wanderers signed the biggest naming rights deal ever seen in the UK.

Reebok – the sportswear firm with Bolton roots – agreed the lucrative deal, which would see them associated with the club’s futuristic new £35million home for many years to come.

The contract was signed by Wanderers' chairman Gordon Hargreaves and Dave Singleton, Reebok vice-president for Northern Europe - a Bolton fan who said of the sponsorship: "Bolton is our local club. They are also a club with a great following and a great history.

"We will all remember the magic days at Burnden Park but now we should look forward to a tremendous future.

"The Reebok Stadium will be the envy of the country with superb facilities for the players, the fans and the community."

The Prime Minister's election battle-bus stopped off in Horwich, where he was welcomed to lay the stadium's foundation stone and unveil a plaque commemorating the £3.45 million donation to the project from the Football Trust.

The Premier, a Chelsea supporter, also supervised the completion of the first of four giant floodlight towers that have become such a familiar sight on the local skyline.

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On the same day the club announced that winger Stuart Whittaker was being released by the club.

Born in Liverpool and a former Anfield trainee, Whittaker had been on the Bolton books for four seasons but managed only three League appearances.

Neil Marsh, who has played in midfield and defence, and midfielder Stephen Quinn were also released from the professional ranks.

Trainees Gareth Feeney, Marco Minchella, Chris Hallatt, James McLeod and Craig Haley were also told they will not be retained.

1892: James Cassidy scored a hat-trick in Wanderers’ final game of the season as Everton were beaten 5-2.

It proved to be the last time that Bolton would play against the Blues at Anfield, as the following season they met at Goodison Park – the first major football stadium to be built after the formation of the Football League.

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