Kevin Olsson - never forgotten

ONE might say Blackpool and Bolton have history.

Most of it is good. There have been some fabulous footballing encounters between the Lancashire clubs over the years, the best at Wembley in 1953, when two Stanleys famously combined to swing events in the Seasiders favour.

There has been one awful, bleak moment though. August 1974, when 17-year-old Blackpool supporter Kevin Olsson was stabbed on the terraces at Bloomfield Road during a game.

Jimmy Armfield, then the Bolton manager, after ending his Seasiders playing career just a few years before, called at the house of Olsson's parents to speak to them in person. He stayed almost an hour and was said to be devastated.

It was an awful tragedy, which still weighs heavily on the club's mind and only last year the Olsson family returned to Bloomfield Road for an emotional unveiling of a memorial plaque in Kevin's honour. It bears the words 'Never Forget' – and we won't.

But it is important to remember that one random act of terrible violence isn't a true reflection of the relationship between Blackpool and Bolton.

The clubs have met 91 times (and on 18 occasions since Kevin's death) and the majority have passed without incident.

Hopefully it will be the same tomorrow, when Pool will be hoping to improve their record against Wanderers – they've won only 30 games compared to Bolton's 37.

But to do that they have to defeat one of the Premier League's most in-form teams. Owen Coyle has transformed a team struggling under previous boss Gary Megson.

Proving his success at Burnley was no fluke (he took the Clarets into the top flight for the first time in 33 years in 2009), Coyle has moulded together a team which is pleasing on the eye, a pleasure for the fans after years of watching physical, route-one football.

Explaining how he's turned things around, the Scot said: "When I arrived in January we were second from bottom and their confidence was fragile. We managed to keep ourselves safe with something to spare and the job in the summer was to build up that confidence and belief.

"Every player has bought into what I am trying to do.

"You can see that togetherness and work rate and intensity and we have the quality to go with it. When you bring that together you have a chance of getting points."

In Kevin Davies and Johan Elmander, Coyle has one of the most potent strike duos around.

Both grabbed a brace in last weekend's impressive 5-1 demolition of Newcastle, which lifted Wanderers to fifth in the Premier League.

Davies has six goals for the season, and is displaying the kind of form which has earned him a call-up to Fabio Capello's England squads.

And here's something you might not know – Davies' first ever game as a professional footballer was against Blackpool.

Then 19 years old, he came on as a 75th minute substitute for Chesterfield at Bloomfield Road in August 1996 in a game the Spireites won 1-0. At the end of that season, he was snapped up by Premier League Southampton for 750,000.

Elmander, though, is the real threat. Bolton's record 8.2m signing is in a rich vein of form and the club's top scorer with eight goals.

Jussi Jaaskelainen continues to be one of the top flight's most consistent keepers, while England's Gary Cahill and Zat Knight have formed a strong partnership.