First of all apologies to everyone that has been waiting for this post to be published – yes it is VERY late.
However, we’ve managed to get this finally written up and we hope you enjoy reading about our experience at the Reebok Stadium back in June 2012.
We gave away a few places back in June to a lucky few, who got a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to play on the turf at the Reebok Stadium. Very few have managed to play on this ‘holy’ turf and many continue to dream of one day being able to walk through those tunnels onto the pitch, donning their beloved Wanderers kit to score a goal, to help their team secure a win.
One of our team also had a chance to be a part of this once a year event. Here’s how his day went:
“I arrived at the Reebok at around 8.50am for registration, both my wife and daughter were with me looking to cheer me on from the stands.
At 9am, majority of those who weren’t already taken through to the changing rooms were given directions on where we needed to be. Once all the lads had gathered, our gaffer walked in and gave us the spiel. There were approximately 16 lads who had turned up for our squad.
Paul Rowe (a.k.a Rowie) was our gaffer on the day. Rowie works in the Bolton Wanderers Academy, coaching the youngsters, getting them ready for life in the youth team and above.
Rowie ticked us off on his list and asked each of us where we liked to play. Surprisingly we had a quite few defenders and the majority were midfielders, apart from two or three who preferred to play upfront – you can take a guess at where I preferred to play.
After a short while, we set out onto the pitch for 20 mins or so for a warm up and then back down the tunnel for instructions on how to perform.
Once Rowie had figured out his starting 11, we were given simple instructions on how to perform – we just had to ensure we kept Rowie’s event record at 100% – to win, and of course enjoy ourselves.
We all set out through the tunnels, lined up on the pitch just as the Wanderers do each and every match, shook the hands of our opponents and prepared ourselves for the big kick-off. I unfortunately wasn’t in the starting 11, I was noted to start as the super-sub.
The game kicked off with both sides seeing quite a lot of the ball, and within the first 5 minutes or so, the home side were the first to almost break the deadlock. Ten minutes into the game and the away side were already down by 1 goal to nil. If this was a Wanderers matchday then it would’ve been a cracking start to the match for the home side, but as I was on the away team it wasn’t looking good at all.
All of a sudden we found ourselves 2 nil down with only 12 minutes gone. The home team were making a mockery of us. Then we had our first injury. One of our forwards had pulled a calf and hobbled off. Rowie decided to make a change – I was on, up front, striker (as I looked fast – and Rowie was right) ready to grab my moment and get some goals for the team.
My strike partner and I made some great runs but the ball just couldn’t get out of the middle of the park. The midfield was so packed that we just couldn’t get the ball to the lads up front to make something of it. Then, we got our chance – my strike partner got the ball and headed down the byline on the right. I wasn’t far off and he slipped the ball to me. I took the ball into the middle of the pitch, dragging the marker away from my strike partner and then chipped the ball back to the right flank where my strike partner picked it up.
He then squared the ball back to me, behind the marker but due to the dreaded weather conditions the ball slipped through to the keeper – if only I was that little quicker off my feet we could’ve done something with the ball – maybe even get one back. Eventually – we managed to settle the game down a little and the just before the half time whistle we lost another goal. The home side were very dominant throughout the game, physical and very sharp.
3 – 0 at half time. This was it, we just didn’t know where we were going to get the goals from. The 2nd half started again, and once again I started on the bench. The game seemed to have settled a little. 15 minutes later I was back on the pitch and with the game still at 3 nil, we just had to go all out and get back into this game. Then, out of the blue – we got a goal! One of our midfielders smashed the ball into the net from around 5 yards out. Result! 3 – 1 game on! 6 minutes later we got lucky again, the ball was crossed in by my strike partner for me and I jumped up to get the ball, eventually almost being flattened – penalty!
One of our midfielders wanted to take the penalty – and we let him, only to see the ball guided softly to the left of the keeper for him to make an easy save. That goal would’ve changed the game completely. With the scoreline currently at 3 – 1, we still pushed for more goals – but that was the end of it all. The home side taught us a lesson, we put men forward and eventually paid the price.
Come 90 minutes, the referee ended the game with the result being 6 – 2 in favour of the home side, who truly were fantastic. The level of football played was excellent and it goes to show how much team organisation means to getting a result.
A home side player had scored a hat trick and took away the man of the match award – a home shirt signed by the Bolton squad.
All in all, it was a fantastic day – one I’ll remember for many years to come, if not for the rest of my life. I was a Wanderer for a day, and the best thing of all was that my wife and daughter were there to witness it for me!”.
We hope our winners also enjoyed the day, as much as we did. Huge thanks go out to Bolton Wanderers FC and 188BET for making the day happen, and of course to Sarah for being a fantastic contact and giving us the opportunity to present our readers with a chance to live the dream.
Some photos below from the day itself. It doesn’t paint the full picture of the day (thankfully the scoreboard wasn’t up and running) but it does give you a taste of what the day was like for us on the pitch.
Photos courtesy of Bolton Wanderers FC & 188BET