Reebok Memories: Gudni Bergsson's Final Farewell

  • May 30, 2014 | By Chris Mann
  • URL Short URL: http://b-ac.es/090e7

Just weeks before the Reebok Stadium turns into the Macron Stadium, we look back at one of the most memorable afternoons in its 17-year history.

Reebok's near quarter-century affiliation with Bolton Wanderers comes to an end in July, so we have stepped back in time to take a look at some of your favourite Reebok Memories - dating from 1997 to the present day.

On May 11, 2003, Bolton played host to Middlesbrough, knowing they had to match, or better, West Ham United's result at Birmingham City if they were to retain their Premier League status and avoid relegation to Division One.

An interesting side note to the game was that Gudni Bergsson, Bolton's legendary club captain, was to play his final game before hanging up his boots. Bergsson had put off retirement in each of the previous two summers, but finally decided to call it a day - regardless of the outcome of Wanderers' final-day game against Boro.

Fingernails were bitten and nerves were shredded, and that was before the game had even started. The atmosphere inside the Reebok was as tense as it had ever been, but, ultimately, things couldn't have gone much better for Sam Allardyce's side.

Middlesbrough, who went into the game placed 10th in the Premier League, made the journey to the North West with the best defensive record outside of the top-five, but they were two goals down inside 21 minutes as a rampant Bolton made sure there would be no repeat of their final day relegation of 1998.

Bernard Mendy and Henrik Pedersen both provided early warning signs to the Boro defence, with their shots narrowly missing the target, but Bolton went ahead in the 10th minute as Per Frandsen robbed possession from Jonathan Greening before drilling a 25-yard strike into the bottom corner of Mark Schwarzer's goal to send the home supporters wild with delight.

11 minutes later, Wanderers doubled their advantage - courtesy of another error from Greening. The former Manchester United midfielder was booked for a clumsy challenge on Ricardo Gardner and, from the resulting free-kick, Jay-Jay Okocha bent the ball up and over the Boro wall and into the bottom corner of the net.

The visitors' response came in the form of Juninho, whose free-kick brought a smart save out of Jussi Jaaskelainen, but a disappointing first-half resulted in a triple substitution for the visitors at the break - one of which saw former Trotters forward Michael Ricketts enter the fray.

Ricketts, who had scored seven goals for Wanderers before his January move to the Riverside Stadium, latched on to Stuart Parnaby's low cross on the hour to turn the ball past Jaaskelainen for his first goal in Boro colours.

After dominating the majority of the play up until that point, Bolton were now on edge. With West Ham 1-0 up at St Andrew's, Wanderers knew that conceding again would condemn them to relegation.

Their task was made a little easier when Franck Queudrue was shown a straight red card with 12 minutes to go, after a two-footed lunge on Ivan Campo left referee Rob Styles with little option but to send him off.

Meanwhile, over in Birmingham, West Ham had fallen behind thanks to two goals inside eight minutes from Geoff Horsfield and Stern John - although they replied with a minute to go, thanks to a Paolo Di Canio equaliser.

With news of a 2-2 draw at St Andrew's beginning to filter through, Wanderers knew that only defeat would see them relegated to the second-tier. Sitting on a 2-1 lead, going into stoppage time, Okocha brought an excellent save out of Schwarzer from a thumping volley, with what proved to be the final act of an enthralling final day.

Victory meant Bolton escaped relegation by two clear points, eliminating the need for goal difference to come into force, providing Wanderers and Bergsson with reason to celebrate - after securing a third successive campaign of top-flight football for the first time in 40 years.

After joining Bolton from Tottenham Hotspur in March 1995, Bergsson went on to play 317 games for Wanderers - scoring 26 goals. He may have made his debut in a major Wembley cup final, but he wouldn't have experienced many days like the one which brought the curtain down on a legendary career at the Reebok Stadium.

Bolton Wanderers: Jaaskelainen, N'Gotty, Whitlow, Bergsson, Mendy (Nolan 72), Gardner, Frandsen, Okocha, Campo, Djorkaeff (Charlton 89), Pedersen (Andre 66)
Subs Not Used: Poole, Ballesta
Booked: N'Gotty, Mendy, Frandsen
Goals: Frandsen 10, Okocha 21

Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Parnaby, Riggott, Queudrue, Southgate, Boateng, Greening (Doriva 46), Wilkshire, Juninho, Maccarone (Downing 46), Christie (Ricketts 46)
Subs Not Used: Crossley, Davies
Booked: Boateng, Greening
Sent Off: Queudrue
Goals: Ricketts 61

Referee: Rob Styles
Attendance: 27,241

Sky Bet League One Standings

Pos Team Pld Pts
14 Charlton Athletic 21 26
15 Cambridge United 21 26
16 Bolton Wanderers 21 26
17 AFC Wimbledon 19 24
18 Lincoln City 20 21
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