Perhaps one of the most famous memories of Bolton Wanderers’ old ground, Burnden Park, is one of tragedy as opposed to success.
FA Cup disaster
In 1946 during an FA Cup quarter-final second leg tie between Bolton and Stoke City, thirty-three people were crushed to death and around 400 others injured. There was no exact number on attendance but some predict it could have been as many as 85,000, which was about 20,000 more than the ground was expected to hold.
With Bolton being the only Lancashire team at the time, many people flocked to watch them. That day they also wanted to catch a glimpse of Sir Stanley Matthews who was one of the biggest stars of that era and playing for Stoke.
The ground was opened in 1895 with the first league match against Everton drawing 15,000 spectators and saw the home side win 3-1. The ground’s capacity was severely reduced over the years to adhere to legislation to make all English stadia saffer for fans.
Burnden Park has seen many ups and downs; from being relegated from the Third Division in 1971 to watching manager Jimmy Armfield lead the club to promotion at the second attempt. The hard times were never far away for Bolton and when they were relegated to the Fourth Division 1987 fans were left wondering what the future held.
There was one shining light however, the great Nat Lofthouse. Lofthouse wowed supporters at Burnden Park during his one club career, as well as making a number of appearances for England. From 1946 to 1960 he scored 255 goals for the Club and was very much an iconic figure.
New year’s day win
On New Year’s Day 1973 Bolton produced one of their greatest upsets when they defeated Manchester United 3-0. It’s games like these that makes you appreciate football and just what it can do for the average person. Old grounds such as Burnden Park shared great camaraderie between supporters, many of whom didn’t know each other. But for one afternoon a week they came together as one big family.
The final match to be played at the ground was a joyous occasion in 1997 as Bolton won promotion, beating Charlton Athletic 4-1 with John Mcginley scoring Burnden Park’s final goal.
The ground was demolished in 1999 to make way for shops and retail outlets. The Club moved to the Reebok Stadium in 1997 which closed the book on over a century of footballing memories at Burnden Park.