Bolton fans had a perfect nickname for tough-tackling Sam Allardyce when he played for the Trotters in the 1970s.
They called him ‘Super Sam Bionic Man’ because he always got up first from collisions with opponents – usually leaving them in a heap on the ground!
The name came from the popular TV series The Six Million Dollar Man starring Lee Majors as an American airman rebuilt after a flying accident. His new artificial limbs gave him superhuman strength.
Six million dollars was considered a hefty sum when the programme launched in 1973. Now it wouldn’t pay the transfer fee of even a mediocre professional footballer!
Allardyce’s nickname summed up his never-say-die spirit during his time at Bolton as a player from 1971 to 1980, and as a manager from 1999 to 2007 – glory years when he guided the club back to premier tier of English football.
Born in Dudley in October 1954, the 6ft 3ins defender played for semi-professional side Dudley Town in the West Midlands (Regional) League when he was still at school.
After training with West Bromwich Albion and his childhood favourites Wolverhampton Wanderers, he joined Second Division Bolton as an apprentice at the age of 15.
He worked in a factory making record decks while playing for the under-18s team which reached the quarter-finals of the FA Youth Cup.
After a spell in the B-team, ‘Big Sam’ signed as a full professional on his 17th birthday on wages of £14 a week.
He made his senior debut on November 6th 1973 when Bolton lost 2-1 to Millwall in a League Cup match at their former home ground of Burnden Park. Allardyce’s league debut came 11 days later in a 2-1 defeat to Notts County.
It took a while for Allardyce to become a first team regular under manager Jimmy Armfield and his replacement Ian Greaves. But things looked up towards the end of the 1974-5 season with Big Sam being voted Bolton’s Young Player of the Year.
The 1975-6 season saw Bolton reach the Fifth Round of the FA Cup, losing to Newcastle United after two replays, and missing out on promotion by one point.
The Trotters lost out on promotion by the same margin the next season, but finally clinched a return to the First Division as champions in 1978.
After finishing 17th in 1979, Bolton went through a barren pitch of seven months without a league win in the 1979-80 season. Greaves was sacked as manager and replaced by Stan Anderson.
The side were relegated at the end of the season and Allardyce signed for Sunderland for a transfer fee of £150,000. In all, he made 184 league appearances for the Trotters, scoring 21 goals.
He then played for Millwall, Tampa Bay Rowdies, Coventry City and Huddersfield Town before rejoining Bolton briefly in 1985 under manager Charlie Wright. He was goalkeeper during Allardyce’s initial spell at the club.
After Wright was sacked, Allardyce found himself on the bench as new manager Phil Neal preferred to play at centre-half himself. Allardyce left for Preston North End in 1986.
Allardyce became Bolton’s boss in 1999 when he resigned as manager of Notts County to replace Colin Todd at the Trotters’ new Reebok Stadium.
The club were in the lower reaches of Division One at the time, but finished high enough to make the play-offs where they lost to Ipswich Town. They also reached the semi-final of the FA Cup, losing on penalties to Aston Villa.
Bolton clawed their way back to the Premier League by beating Preston North End 3-0 in the play-off final at the Millennium Stadium in 2001.
By now, Allardyce had brought in a clutch of big impact players. They included striker Michael Ricketts, utility player Ian Marshall, defender Bruno Ngotty from Marseille and French World Cup-winner Youri Djorkaeff.
Allardyce flirted with relegation in 2002 and 2003, but strengthened the team further with the signings of Nigeria captain Jay-Jay Okocha and striker Kevin Davies. Nicolas Anelka arrived in August 2006.
The Trotters reached the League Cup final in February 2004, but lost 2-1 to Middlesbrough.
Bolton became an established Premier League team, even qualifying for the UEFA Cup in 2005-6. A run which included wins over Zenit Saint Petersburg and Besiktas came to end in the knock-out stages with defeat by Marseille.
The Trotters were still in fifth place in the Premier League when Allardyce resigned in April 2007. He was replaced by assistant manager Sammy Lee.
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