Bolton Wanderers appear to have become the latest victims of a far too-common malady now inherent in the modern game. A statement made on their official website by chairmen, Ken Anderson, has outlined that the club are entering administration, which could see them deducted 12 points. This news will be devastating to their supporters, who have been forced to endure immense uncertainty since the club’s relegation from the Premier League at the end of the 2011-12 season.
Survival is the aim
It will also be a major blow to manager Phil Parkinson, who has done an excellent job since becoming Bolton manager in 2016, securing promotion from League 1 and then keeping them up under financial constraints last season. The Trotters had made a promising start to the campaign, winning at West Brom on the opening day and losing just once so far, leaving them in eighth place heading into the first international break of the season.
However, this news could see them fall back down to the wrong end of the Championship table, with a 12-points-deduction leaving them forced to play catch up for the rest of the campaign. They have shown, though, that they have enough quality in the squad to avoid relegation this season, even if they are deducted points. That said, the increasing financial pressures may cause the club to have to sell off key players in January, which could leave them vulnerable to the drop. The main aim for the club now should be to survive beyond the season, whatever league they happen to be playing in.
Bolton’s memorable decade
It’s disappointing to see a club that for decade added so much in the way of entertainment to the Premier League, struggling so much. For most of their time in the top flight they looked to do more than merely survive, which has become an ever-growing trend amongst sides outside of the Premier League’s top six in recent seasons.
Under Sam Allardyce, who managed Bolton from 1999 to 2007 and led them to promotion via the playoffs in 2001, the club flourished in the top flight. They signed the likes of Jay Jay Okocha, Youri Djorkaeff, Fernando Hierro, Ivan Campo and Nicolas Anelka, to name just a few, giving them the platform to show their quality in the Premier League.
Those exciting editions added to a core of experienced British players, such as Kevin Davies, Kevin Nolan and Gary Speed, enabled Bolton to challenge in the top half of the Premier League. They reached the League Cup final in 2004, where they were narrowly beaten 2-1 by Steve McClaren’s Middlesbrough, which saw them qualify for the UEFA Cup.
In the 2005-06 UEFA Cup, they reached the Last 32, where they were knocked out by Marseille. The following year they finished seventh in the Premier League, qualifying for the UEFA Cup again for the 2007-08 season. The Trotters reached the Last 16 this time, before being knocked out by Sporting Lisbon. They managed to hold Bayern Munich to a 2-2 draw away from home in the Group Stage, before knocking out Atletico Madrid in the Round of 32.
Allardyce departed the club at the end of the 2006-07 season and Bolton began to find life more difficult in the Premier League in the following seasons. First Sammy Lee and then Gary Megson were sacked with the club struggling down the bottom end of the table. Owen Coyle arrived from Lancashire neighbors Burnley during the 2009-10 season. Despite a promising start to his reign that saw their form improve and them reach the FA Cup semi-finals in 2011, they were eventually relegated after a disastrous 2011-12 season.
Plenty of warning signs
There have been plenty of warning signs over the club’s financial struggles since their relegation from the Premier League. After a couple of seasons of pushing for a place in the play-offs, propped up by the support of parachute payments, the club began to struggle financially throughout a turbulent 2015-16 season, which saw them sack manager Neil Lennon and then get relegated to League 1, finishing bottom of the table.
Relegation to England’s third tier caused ever deeper financial pressures on the club. Player’s and staff’s wages weren’t paid at various points throughout the 2016-17 season and they were issued with a winding up petition for the second time in less than a year in July 2017. They eventually appeared to settle their financial problems and with promotion back to the Championship looked to have avoided any further damage.
However, despite staying up last season there were signs during pre-season that things were still not right, with players going on strike over unpaid wages. That seems to have foreshadowed the latest news of them entering administration, and leaves the club’s future in major doubt moving forward.