Bolton Wanderers’ rollercoaster ride in the 21st century has them on an upward trajectory once more, with the Greater Manchester-based club preparing to open another new era with a fourth stadium name change.
Having yoyo-ed between the top two tiers in English football towards the end of the 1990s, the Trotters established themselves as a Premier League outfit in 2001 and would go on to enjoy 10 memorable years rubbing shoulders with the elite. Their Reebok Stadium home, which swung open its doors in 1997, became a fortress around that time as larger-than-life coach Sam Allardyce enhanced his ‘Big’ reputation.
Any fall from grace was always going to be a painful one, and Bolton tumbled from the top of the Football League ladder in 2012 all the way down to the fourth rung in the space of eight forgettable campaigns.
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A long and winding road must be navigated back to the big time, with automatic promotion out of League Two secured in 2021. After reacquainting themselves with the level above that, League One betting has them priced at 9/2 to find a winning ticket in the 2022-23 play-off lottery.
It could be that Championship football returns to Burnden Way next season, with the Trotters boasting a shiny new address. Having previously called the Reebok Stadium, Macron Stadium and University of Bolton Stadium home, further rebranding is on the way.
A five-year deal has been agreed by Bolton with a local building manufacturer, meaning that the Trotters will be turning out at the Toughsheet Community Stadium from 2023-24. The new name has certainly caused a stir, but Toughsheet’s managing director Doug Mercer sees positives to that. He has said:
We're happy to have a bit of fun with it. Obviously, the brand name is a bit tongue-in-cheek, a bit schoolboy humour. I can't wait to see them try and make each other say it on Sky Sports. It'll be a great laugh.
Given where Bolton has been in the last few years, and how hard they are working to turn collective fortunes around, it is nice to see smiles on faces once more as the club continues to align itself with the surrounding community.
Clawing their way back into the Championship will help to raise spirits even further while enticing more supporters through the turnstiles. The Trotters have averaged attendances of a little over 18,000 in their home games this season, but they took over 34,000 with them to the 2023 EFL Trophy final at Wembley.
Their ground holds 28,723, with it, not all that long ago that the likes of Jay-Jay Okocha, Youri Djorkaeff and Nicolas Anelka were turning out in front of capacity crowds. It is now up to the likes of Dion Charles and Victor Adeboyejo to capture the imagination of a loyal fan base once more.
Not all of those in the stands may be completely on board with the latest developments when it comes to stadium naming rights, but it is Toughsheet through to 2028 and by then Bolton will hope to have completed their scenic tour back to the Premier League.