Sheffield Wednesday: Former Owls goalkeeper Bob Bolder talks the Boxing Day Massacre, life under Jack Charlton and reunions with former Hillsborough favourites

As the last line of Wednesday's defence, there was always big pressure on Bob Bolder to perform.

Friday, 11th October 2019, 12:57 pm
Updated Monday, 14th October 2019, 4:47 pm
Bob Bolder

But Bolder embraced the challenge and will forever have a place in Owls folklore.

The goalkeeper racked up over 200 appearances for Wednesday after joining the South Yorkshire club from non-league Dover at the tender age of 18 in the late 70s.

Signed by Len Ashurst, Bolder was an integral member of Jack Charlton's 1979/80 promotion-winning team.

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Former Owls Manager Jack Charlton gets a rousing reception at half time as he his introduced to the fans

"We were quite a tight bunch of lads," Bolder told The Star. "Jack [Charlton] put his team together and we had a good bit of experience with Andy McCulloch, Terry Curran and Mike Pickering and some young lads as well in Mark Smith, Kevin Taylor and Charlie Williamson.

"We were all good friends.

"When Jack took over late 1977, he built the team and got the right players in the right positions.

"He liked the big lads; a big goalie, a big centre-forward and he liked his wide men. We had a proper little mix but we were good defensively."

Jack Charlton arrives at Stoke Minster church for the funeral service of England's former goalkeeper Gordon Banks in Stoke-on-Trent, central England on March 4, 2019. - Gordon Banks, goalkeeper in England's 1966 World Cup victory over the then West Germany, died aged 81 his former club Stoke City announced on February 12, 2019. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

The catalyst for Wednesday's success in that memorable campaign? The Boxing Day Massacre.

The 100th Sheffield derby was hotly anticipated, with a third-tier record gate of 49,309 flocking to Hillsborough for an 11am kick-off in the first league meeting between the clubs since 1971.

Bolder said: "It was a morning kick-off which was a one-off in itself," said Bolder. "We met up at the hotel on Christmas Day around 8:30pm but we didn't stay up too long because we had to get up early for breakfast.

"It all happened very fast from the hotel, breakfast, the coach journey to the match.

Jack Charlton leaves the funeral of 1966 World Cup winner Ray Wilson at Huddersfield Crematorium. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 6, 2018. See PA story FUNERAL Wilson. Photo credit should read: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

"It was amazing watching the fans go to the game. Everywhere just seemed to be packed. When we came out to the crowd, we realised how big it was and the adrenaline took over."

Harry Haslam's United outfit entered the contest as favourites but the Owls thrashed their local rivals 4-0 after goals from Ian Mellor, Terry Curran, Jeff King and a Mark Smith penalty.

The clash arguably changed the course of the season for both teams as Wednesday secured promotion to the Second Division while the Blades lost their way and finished mid-table.

"I don't recall too much about the game but I remember the goals and making a save early on," said Bolder. "Speighty (Mick Speight) had a shot and I was in the right position and the ball just hit me and went out for a corner so I knew our luck was going to be in a little bit.

Boxing Day Massacre: Sheffield United v Sheffield Wednesday 1979

"I think we were the better team individually and we got the goals at important times.

"We could sense it was going to be a special season after we won that game."

Not only did mercurial forward Curran score in the Boxing Day triumph, he then bagged a stunning equaliser in the drawn return fixture at Bramall Lane.

Charlton's decision to turn Curran from a winger into a striker proved an inspired move as lifelong Wednesdayite Curran bagged 24 goals in their successful promotion tilt.

Bolder joked: "Terry was a bit of a super-star in his own mind! He loved it. He was a big wind-up merchant."

Charlton, of course, is one of football’s legendary names. He was a World Cup winner with England in 1966, before going on to manage the Owls from 1977 to 1983 and, later, the Republic of Ireland.

Bob Bolder

"There were no grey areas with Jack," admitted Bolder. "You either did what he wanted you to do or he didn't put you in the team.

"He had his set way of playing. He had a lovely way about him and good man-management skills. He had Tony Toms and Maurice Setters so he had a good little team around him.

"He loved the game itself and loved being around players and that really came over to everyone.

"He was a big character and had some funny ways about him. He was very much a players' manager.

"He used to join in training now and again with his wellies on! He loved himself! He thought he was the best player in the world with his wellies on so the lads took the mickey at him for that.

"He always liked to take a penalty with his wellies on and try and embarrass you. You just let him score really to keep him happy!"

Training was "okay" under Charlton, according to Bolder.

He said: "It was nothing amazing. The way he wanted to play was quite basic.

"There were no thrills or spills. If you were a thrills or spills player, you wouldn't play. He wanted players to work hard for the team, win their tackles, get the ball downfield and get crosses into the box. That was it pretty much.

"He didn't want any messing around in your own half or centre-halfs passing it around. He didn't like any of that. He wanted to get the ball down and build into the right areas."

Bolder established himself as a first-team regular under Charlton.

"It was Jack who gave me my chance," Bolder conceded. "He liked big goalies and I was a little bit taller than Chris Turner.

"Once I got into the side, it was brilliant.

"I had a couple of injuries and I got dropped a couple of times but I got back in. The fans were great with me so that gave me a lot of confidence and I pushed on for probably the next four and a half seasons."

He left in 1983 to join Liverpool after failing to agree a new Wednesday deal.

Bolder said: "Times were different then. We didn't have agents in those days so players could ring around the clubs and see if they wanted you. You had to do it all yourself.

"It was all new to me and I was quite naive on that side of things. I was out of contract and Liverpool came out of the blue and Wednesday didn't offer anything substantial in anyway to keep me there or make me feel wanted.

"If Wednesday had offered a good bit of money and a signing on fee, I would probably have signed."

Dover-born Bolder enjoyed his time with the Owls and still keeps a close eye on their results.

"They were my first club and I always look out for them," said Bolder, who is now part of Charlton Athletic's community scheme. "I am still a big supporter of them. It is lovely when they do well.

"Times have changed a little bit but Sheffield Wednesday will always be special to me."

Wednesday are to host a reunion of the class of 79/80, featuring Bolder, Curran, Ian Mellor and Brian Hornsby, on Friday, December 6, at Hillsborough.

The event, which begins at 7pm, will see members of the team give fans the inside story on that eventful season.

The evening includes a three-course meal, silent auction and a raffle with unique Wednesday prizes.

Tickets are priced at £40 per person or a group of 10 can book a table for £350.

All proceeds will go to the Owls’ Community Programme and homeless charity the Cathedral Archer Project.

*****

December 26, 1979Sheff Wed 4–0 Sheff UtdScorers: Ian Mellor (25-yard shot), Terry Curran (diving header), Jeff King (neat finish from close range), Mark Smith (penalty after Curran was fouled).Sheff Wed: Bolder, Blackhall, Williamson, Smith, Pickering (c), Hornsby, King, Johnson, McCulloch, Mellor, Curran.Sheff Utd: Richardson, Speight (c) (Cutbush), Tibbott, Kenworthy, MacPhail, Matthews, De Goey, Bourne, Butlin, Garner, Sabella.