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"Shh... Don't mention McGinlay!" - Wolves coach Sellars remembers Burnden years

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
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Scott Sellars normally has to tread carefully recounting tales of his Bolton past for fear of offending the locals.

The former Whites midfielder, a mainstay of teams at Burnden Park and the Reebok in the mid-to-late nineties, now wears the colours of another Wanderers, the Wolverhampton kind.

As head of the Wolves’ academy, Sellars is part of a club that has enjoyed a meteoric rise since his arrival as an Under-23s coach five years ago, riding high in the Premier League and in the last 16 of the UEFA Cup.

“I think it shows what you can do with the right infrastructure,” he told The Bolton News. “When I came in the club had been in League One, had some tough years, but now it’s a very different place.

“We haven’t spent millions to get into the Premier League, it has been about putting the right building blocks in place, and I have had a great time here – even I still get reminded of my Bolton connections. Put it this way, I don’t mention John McGinlay’s name very much!”

The titanic battles between Bolton and Wolves provided some memorable moments and a rivalry that burned as fiercely as any other at Burnden Park.

Tomorrow marks 23 years since Wanderers left their spiritual home, lifting the championship trophy in front of a sell-out crowd after an emotional 4-1 win against Charlton Athletic.

Sellars maintains Colin Todd’s team was one of the best in which he ever played.

“The squad had a great mix,” he said. “If you wanted a fight, we could do that. In fact we did a couple of times – but we won’t go down that road.

“But the team could play as well. You had goals all the way through the team – obviously John and Nathan (Blake), but in midfield as well with myself, Per (Frandsen), Michael Johansen.

“You had a great keeper, solid defenders. All the ingredients were there, and that squad was assembled. It wasn’t an accident.

“But the main thing was that we thought we were unbeatable. By the end of the season we were so confident, we thought we could do anything.”

Though they had steamrollered all before them, bowing out on the right note at Burnden was something Sellars and the rest of Todd’s squad knew would be important.

“You wanted to make sure we won that game for the fans as much as anything else,” he said.

“For the players it had been all about promotion. I don’t think it really dawned on us how hard it would be to leave Burnden Park until we were actually at the Reebok and you realised it was a very different place, great stadium, but a different place.

“The majority of the emotion on the day of the Charlton game itself was from the fans because some of those guys had been going there every other Saturday for 40 or 50 years.

“But to bow out on that note, to win the title in such style. It’s something that I will never forget.”

Sellars’ big moment had come a couple of weeks earlier, his goal securing a 2-1 win at Manchester City which guaranteed the league title.

“The City game is the one that stands out,” he admitted. “They were a massive club, albeit one going through difficult times, and Maine Road was always a hard place to play.

“We didn’t start well, I remember, and I think we were still a bit tired from the previous game where we’d got promotion. But to score the winner in that game – it’s one of my favourite goals I ever scored, that’s for sure.”

The title-winning 1996/97 season saw several records fall by the wayside. But the unofficial target of 100 points AND 100 goals would fall agonisingly short on the final day, thanks to a late goal at Tranmere.

“I worked with Kenny Irons at Huddersfield Town a few years later and I wouldn’t let him forget he ruined that for us,” Sellars said.

“We didn’t get the 100 points to go with the 100 goals but I don’t think it was a bad season, all in all.”

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