Bolton Wanderers Football Club Fan Forum for all BWFC Supporters.

You are not connected. Please login or register

Bolton Nuts » BWFC » Bolton Wanderers Banter » 'I loved it at Bolton' - the bottom line with Burnden cult hero Robbie Savage

'I loved it at Bolton' - the bottom line with Burnden cult hero Robbie Savage

Go down  Message [Page 1 of 1]

karlypants

karlypants
Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]

His goal at Wrexham sealed promotion and a terrace chant made him one of Burnden Park’s cult heroes of the late eighties – Marc Iles talks to (the original) Robbie Savage...

[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]

“If you are going to use a picture, be careful where the page folds…” – We’re 15 minutes into the interview, discussing Robbie Savage’s backside, and how it took on a life of its own on the Burnden terraces in the late eighties and early nineties.

Forget the blonde motormouth who fills TV screens and radio airwaves with unsettling regularity, for Bolton Wanderers fans of a particular vintage there is only one Robbie Savage.

If being the scorer of the goal which sealed promotion at Wrexham in 1988 was not enough to guarantee cult hero status for the Liverpudlian, his propensity to drop shorts on command would surely seal it.

If you were a young, impressionable fan stood around the Burnden Paddock in the days when Phil Neal sat in the dugout, a Normid superstore shadowed over the Embankment and the only cameras in the stadium belonged to the Bolton Evening News, you will have heard grown men scream the words: “Robbie, Robbie, show us your a****!”

Copies of Ivan Campo’s hairstyle may have earned a few quid in the club shop back in the day, but it never got its own song.

“And it all started so innocently,” laughed Savage, well aware that the question was coming.

“One day at Burnden Park I was readjusting my shirt and I think I’d forgot there was a terrace full of people behind me, so when I pulled the shorts down, I got a massive cheer.

“I ran out for the next game and there were people singing ‘show us your a***!’ And so I did it again.

“Then it was every week. You’d get people shouting for me to do it in the car park, walking down the street, when I was out shopping.

“I’d get done for that nowadays with all the cameras about, but it was a bit of fun.”

Though Savage was happy to play to the crowd in a time when the gap between Wanderers’ players and the fans seemed so much smaller, it is easy to forget he was a midfielder of some repute.

Schooled in Liverpool’s academy from the age of 13, he struggled to make his way into a world class midfield containing the likes of Graeme Souness, Sammy Lee, Ray Kennedy, Ronnie Whelan and Terry McDermott, and after a loan at Wrexham was sold on to Stoke in 1983.

His time at the Potteries was brief: “I didn’t get on with the manager for some reason,” Savage admitted. But his reputation was earned after moving to Bournemouth, then managed by Harry Redknapp, a few months later.

“I made my debut against Exeter and then had to play against Manchester United in my second game,” he remembered. “We beat them – which was a massive shock at the time. It was all downhill from there.”

After helping the Cherries beat Hull City to win the Full Members Cup, Savage broke his leg at Dean Court and when he returned in 1986 was considering a move back north after being contacted by his ex-Liverpool team-mate Phil Neal.

In the event, Bradford City – then managed by Trevor Cherry – would get there first. And though his six-month spell at Valley Parade would also end in a managerial fall-out, Neal was ready to revive his interest.

“Bolton phoned me on the Friday night and asked if I could come over to Burnden Park and sign right away, play the next day – but I couldn’t, I was having my housewarming party at Bradford!” he recalled.

“So I had this party with all the Bradford players walking around and I’m thinking ‘I’m off tomorrow’.

“I couldn’t wait to play for Bolton, to be honest. I know they had just come down but it was the history that got me, the chance to pull on the same shirt as Nat Lofthouse or Frank Worthington. And it was a good team, too.”

Wanderers were under some pressure in 1987/88 to ensure their first season in the bottom tier of English football would end in success.

“When Phil showed me around I knew right away I was staying there, “ Savage explained. “He knew we had to go straight back up.

“I’d played at a higher level of football but some of the lads in that dressing room should have been playing a couple of divisions above too. I don’t know if maybe that affected a few people, because we didn’t exactly romp the division, but we gave ourselves a chance.”

[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]

Automatic promotion would go to the last day with Bolton knowing they had to beat Wrexham at the Racecourse Ground and rely on Torquay failing to do the same against Scunthorpe United.

Thousands of Wanderers fans flocked to North Wales for what would prove to be one of the dramatic afternoons in the club’s modern history.

“I’ve got to be honest, I can hardly remember the actual game.” Savage admitted. “I can just think that the crowd behind the goal were screaming at us the score at Torquay. We were winning but it wasn’t until we ran off at the end that we actually knew we’d gone up.

“It was just a mad scramble. There had been so much pressure on us but I can’t say I ever really felt it. I just loved putting a pair of boots on and getting out there to play.”

The following season started nervously but once Bolton had found their stride, they embarked on a long unbeaten run which culminated with victory in the Sherpa Van Trophy final at Wembley.

For Savage, it was a more satisfying experience than lifting a trophy with Bournemouth five years earlier.

[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]

“Wembley was amazing,” he said. “It’s a day you can tell the grandkids about – not like the last final, which they made us play at Boothferry Park in midweek!

“Imagine going to collect your winners’ medal in Hull? It wasn’t very glamorous.

“But the Sherpa Van Trophy day was something else. We’d played well, there were thousands of fans there, it was great.”

Despite the success, Savage does not keep any mementoes of his playing days.

“My dad has got the shirt I wore in the final,” he said. “But I haven’t even got a pair of socks. Well, I have, but you know what I mean. I don’t really need any of it.”

To that point, Savage’s Bolton career had been a laugh a minute. Sadly, all that ended in 1989/90 when a bad groin and stomach muscle tear suffered at Rotherham in September kept him out of action for most of the season.

Worse fate was to come, when a handful of games into his playing return in April and with Bolton edging into the play-off zone, Savage broke his leg against Preston North End and would never play professionally again.

“I still say I need some credit for changing the game that day,” joked Savage, showing no bitterness whatsoever. “We were 1-0 down when I broke my leg and that substitution helped us win 2-1.

“I don’t look back with any regrets. I asked my team-mates afterwards whether the challenge had been intentional, but it was not, so I accepted that and got on with it.

“It would have taken me two years to get back, and then who knows how long to get fit again.

“So as soon as I could, I started scaffolding. And I’m still doing it today.”

Savage was 30 when he broke his leg and though he maintained some links to the game through coaching at Tranmere Rovers and with the Liverpool Boys Schools team, he never contemplated a full-time return to playing. Until a drunken bet at the age of 52.

“Yeah, I was having a few drinks with a mate of mine and he said he was setting up a team up. Stupidly, I said I’d play for him.

“I guess I wanted to see if I could still do it, the fitness side of it, and so after my wife (Pam) had given me permission I went and proved a point.

“Nobody was asking to see my backside then, I’ll tell you.”

Wanderers organised a fundraising game in November 1992 for Savage and Frank Worthington – which saw Peter Reid bring his Manchester City side to Burnden for a game watched by just over 2,000 people.

As he said at the time after jogging on for the last 20 minutes: “I had tears in my eyes when I came off because I knew I’d never get out there again. I’ll miss it.”

These days, and despite being a dyed-in-the-wool Liverpool fan, Savage is now missing his 10 grandchildren more than the football during lockdown.

"It's hard for everyone," he said. "But I just take my cap off to the NHS workers and the people who are keeping us going.

"Football is irrelevant at the moment. Liverpool have won it anyway!"

[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]

[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

Norpig

Norpig
Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Used to love watching Robbie but had forgotten he had to pack up the game after his leg break. The old 4th division was my first season watching BWFC so have happy memories of that time.

Back to top  Message [Page 1 of 1]

Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum