Bolton Wanderers
The Reebok Stadium


Ground No. 26 (return visit)
Visited - Sunday 11th February 2007
Result - Bolton Wanderers 2-1 Fulham
Competition - FA Barclays Premier League
Attendance - 24,919

It had been 3½ years since my last visit to the Reebok Stadium, and with not having taken any pictures from that trip, I was itching to get back, so when their game against Fulham was moved to a Sunday, with ticket prices reduced to Category C, I decided to go for it, and make a return trip up to Horwich.

Being a Sunday, not to mention a 1:30pm kick-off, the normal train up there (via Manchester), meant I wouldn’t have got there until just before kick-off, so I decided to go via Preston, and come back down from there to the ground, which went well, only taking about two hours, including the wait to change trains.

From the outside, the ground looks superb, the train station (Horwich Parkway) is perfectly situated, with the approach road running right down to the ground with the West Stand dominating the skyline as you walk towards it. With the rising and dipping steelwork for the floodlights, it makes for an impressive sight, and certainly not as boring as many modern out of town grounds like say the Madejski Stadium for example. The rest of the exterior is just as good, with no two stands the same, from the light, white brickwork of the West Stand, to the dark blue glass of the North Stand, the mixture of red, white and blue bricks on the Nat Lofthouse Stand and the grey steel finish of the South Stand which houses the hotel, all of it looks fantastic, and one of the better efforts of any ground.

After going in, whilst the individuality of the stands lessen, the effect doesn’t. All four stands are two-tiered, with the corners joined in the lower section, and the upper tiers sloping down toward the ends, to create the famous arch effect of the roof. In between the two tiers is a row of executive boxes running all around the ground, although in the South-East corner a couple seem unused with a videowall standing in front of them. The only thing I didn’t really like was at the end of the upper tiers, in the corners was grey steel covering the very last sections, meaning the seats didn’t run right to the end. If painted in the club colours, then it might not have looked so bad, but it only really helped to make the upper tiers look smaller, and unnecessarily reduce capacity. Anyway, last time I had been sitting in the visitors section in the South Stand, but this time I had chosen to sit at the opposite end of the ground with the home fans in the North (or Bolton Evening News) Stand. Like with the away end, facilities were superb, with a wide and spacious concourse, and plenty of legroom in the seats, I was sitting towards the back of the lower tier, and the view was fantastic (you probably couldn’t have picked a better seat!).

When the game got started, both teams had been playing some good stuff recently, but it was the home side who looked most dangerous, and Fulham were made to pay in the 23rd minute, when Michael Brown conceded a penalty, which Gary Speed was able to despatch with ease. After that Bolton dominated the first half, and were unlucky not to be ahead by more at the break, but the second half soon saw them increase the lead, when Stelios’ header hit the post, only for Kevin Nolan to strike home the rebound in the 51st minute. They didn’t have it all their own way after that though, and Zat Knight got one back for the visitors in the 66th minute, before Fulham had a late rally with only the agility of Jussi Jaaskelainen ensuring that the hosts held on to the three points, pushing them into a Champions League spot ahead of Arsenal (albeit for only a couple of hours).

After the game, I made my way back to the station, and didn’t encounter any of the long waits that there had been last time, getting straight onto the train back to Preston, before changing there and getting back home in good time.

Overall, it had been a fairly good day out. It was good to see the ground again, as it does somewhat defy the notion that all new grounds fail to live up to the charm of their predecessors. The only thing better about it would have been if it was actually built in Bolton instead of several miles outside in Horwich, but that aside it’s as good a trip as any in the Premiership, with a relaxed atmosphere helping make it a pleasant day (seemingly more so for a Sunday lunchtime!).

Incidentally, for the eagle-eyed out there, the exterior pictures were taken at a different game to the Fulham match, when I’d stopped off prior to an FA Cup game against Arsenal a couple of seasons previously. I hadn’t actually been to that game, with Wolves at Preston, just stopping off on the way there, but with the sky somewhat overcast before the Fulham game, it didn’t make for the best of conditions to take pics in, so these are the best!

View from Horwich Parkway station

Rear of the West Stand

Rear of the West Stand

Rear of the South Stand

Rear of the Nat Lofthouse Stand

The Club Shop

Rear of the North Stand

The Nat Lofthouse Stand

The South Stand

The West Stand

The West Stand

The South Stand

The Nat Lofthouse Stand

The diamond shaped floodlights

The Reebok Stadium Panoramic 1

The Reebok Stadium Panoramic 2

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