From Player to Manager: Sam Allardyce

In this feature we’re profiling those who played for Wanderers before going onto become manager of the club after hanging their boots up. Today it’s Sam Allardyce.

A man who had significant and largely successful periods with the club as a player and as a manager, the Dudley-born defender arrived at Bolton Wanderers in 1969 signing scholarship forms before going onto sign a professional contract and become a part of the first team squad.

Becoming a professional footballer on his 17th birthday in 1971, Allardyce was given his senior debut by manager Jimmy Armfield a couple of years later in a 2-1 League Cup defeat to Millwall at Burnden Park.

Not always a regular in the team in his formative years with Wanderers, he established himself in the team under the management of Ian Greaves and went onto earn the Young Player of the Year award at the end of the 1974/75 season.

Wanderers reached the fifth round of the FA Cup during the 1975/76 season with the team missing out on promotion at the climax of the campaign by just a single agonising point.

Allardyce continued to develop as a player and his partnership with Paul Jones led to interest from the England manager at the time, Don Revie – but the West Midlands man never quite earned a call up to the national team.

Helping the club to finally earn promotion to the First Division as Second Division Champions in 1977/78, Allardyce decided to leave the club in 1980 shortly after the dismissal of Ian Greaves which resulted in the appointment of Stan Anderson.

After making over 200 appearances for the club, he signed for Sunderland and went onto spend time with Millwall, Tampa Bay Rowdies, Coventry City and Huddersfield Town before a brief return to Burnden Park for the 1985/86 season.

Having being allowed to leave the club again by Player-Manager Phil Neal, Allardyce joined Preston North End and ended up as the club’s caretaker manager after he’d had a spell as player-manager with Irish club Limerick.

His first job in full-time management came with Blackpool in 1994 and he guided the club to a mid-table finish in Division Two before reaching the Play-Offs the following season (1995/96). However, his time at Blackpool came to an end after surrendering a 2-0 lead to Bradford City in the Play-Off semi-final to fall to a 3-2 aggregate defeat.

Allardyce had a brief spell on the coaching staff at Sunderland before going back into management with Notts County in January 1997. The spell didn’t get off to the best of starts and he was unable to save County from relegation to the Third Division; he did however guide his side to the title the following season (1997/98).

Keeping County in the Second Division the following season (1998/99), he resigned to return to Bolton Wanderers as the club’s manager in October 1999. Inheriting a talented squad that included the likes of Jussi Jaaskelainen, Eidur Gudjohnsen, Ricardo Gardner and Michael Ricketts, he guided the team from the bottom half of Division One to the Play-Offs, before eventual defeat in the Semi-Finals to Ipswich Town.

The following season, Wanderers returned to the Premier League after a convincing 3-0 Play-Off Final victory against Preston North End at the Millennium Stadium and the top flight proved to be the perfect platform for Sam Allardyce to take his team forward and eventually onto the next level of European qualification.

Wanderers got off to a flyer winning the first three games of the 2001/02 season, beating Leicester City, Middlesbrough and Liverpool. The team then went six games without a victory until a memorable 2-1 win against Manchester United at Old Trafford, and it was eventually a 16th place finish and another season in the Premier League.

Staying in the division by the skin of their teeth the following season (2002/03), Allardyce guided his team to a top 8 finish in 2003/04 with the likes of Stelios Giannakopoulos, Kevin Davies, Ivan Campo and Mario Jardel added to a squad already possessing players of a level of pedigree and quality that the club had not perhaps seen in many years, if ever before.

Bolton Wanderers were going places. Under Big Sam the club was continuing to grow and go from strength to strength, and whilst competing with the nation’s big hitters on a weekly basis the team managed to reach the lofty heights of 6th in the Premier League table (2004/05).

Finishing 8th in the league in 2005/06 whilst managing to reach the Round of 32 of the UEFA Cup, Wanderers were a force to be reckoned with and for a time amongst the best clutch of sides the country had to offer.

The top eight of the Premier League is where Wanderers were consistently residing but with two games remaining of the 2006/07 season, Sam Allardyce left the club with the team completing the campaign in 7th position and under the guidance of Sammy Lee.

Allardyce took over the managerial vacancy at Newcastle United and went onto manage Blackburn Rovers, West Ham United, Sunderland, England, Crystal Palace and Everton. His last job in management was with the Toffees, but he left Goodison Park in 2018.

The 65 year-old sure made a real impact during the best part of two decades as an employee of Bolton Wanderers as either player or manager.


As a player (1971-1980 and 1985-86)

Appearances: 231

Goals: 24

As a manager (1999-2007)

Matches: 371

Wins: 153

Draws: 104

Losses: 114

Read Time: 5 mins