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What is Phil Gartside's Legacy at Bolton Wanderers?

With his departure from the role seemingly imminent Chris looks back at his reign as Chairman

Ben Radford/Getty Images

So it appears that Bolton Wanderers will soon be looking for a new chairman - either with or without the arrival of new owners.

As friend of the site Marc Iles tweeted yesterday, incumbent Phil Gartside is recovering from a serious illness and whilst of course all right-minded Bolton fans wish him the very best in his recovery, we are also looking to the future and wondering what it may bring.

With this in mind, I think it would be interesting to consider and discuss Gartside's reign in charge of the club. He joined the board in 1989, rising to the role of chairman in 1999.

Let's break it down into three categories:


When things were good they were really good.

I would find it hard to decide between his role in the move to the Reebok Stadium, or in the appointing of Sam Allardyce as Bolton manager in October 1999.

Under Big Sam, the club gained promotion to the Premier League, established themselves as a regular top 8 finisher in the highest division of English football against a wealth of better funded and better supported clubs.

Gartside was supportive of Allardyce's revolutionary approach on and off the field, and his loyalty was rewarded with Wanderers becoming a mainstay in the higher echelons of the top division.

Also, with hindsight being 20/20, the appointment of Gary Megson which, although deeply unpopular, achieved that which it set out to do - in saving Wanderers from relegation the ex-Leicester City manager kept us fighting at the top for a season longer than perhaps we deserved to.


When things were bad they were really bad.

Relegation to the Championship in 2012 saw Bolton finally leave the land of milk and honey, and find themselves instead scrapping amongst the footballing dregs for any morsel thrown from the top table. His appointing of Owen Coyle to replace the outgoing Gary Megson stands, in hindsight, as one of the poorer decisions made in the club's recent history.

Similarly, the appointment of Dougie Freedman as Coyle's replacement provided initial success, but will also be looked upon poorly as time passes by. Gartside's record in hiring managers is, Allardyce and....whisper it....Gary Megson has been poor to say the least. The same could be said in his hesitation in sacking managers in the post-Allardyce era.

The breakdown of his relationship with Allardyce and the manager's departure for Newcastle United can be pinpointed as the precise moment that Lisa Simpson broke Ralph Wiggum's heart. It's that obvious.

The accumulation of a debt which today stands at approximately £176m has largely been placed at his door, and it is difficult to argue against his responsibility. The club's annual accounts have been scoured for years by fans looking for details regarding his salary, and using this as another stick to beat him with.


When things have been ugly, boy have they been Jay Spearing.

His decision to remove himself from any media duties in the past two years hasn't sat well with Bolton Wanderers supporters across the world.

This in itself isn't a problem, but given his liking for a soundbite in the years that preceded our fall from grace it has been noted on several occasions how an interview with the local press regarding our present plight could have put Wanderers fans minds at rest during troubling times.

I believe that his passion for the club has been evident and has been obvious, and I understand that behind the scenes his work in attempting to obtain external funding in the shape of investors and potential takeover targets has been tireless.


What has been Phil Gartside's legacy?

The Reebok Stadium is a good one. So could be the thousands and thousands of happy memories that our glory years at the very top have provided.

Could it be the struggles of the past five (or so) seasons?

I leave it to you, dear readers, to decide. Leave a comment below the line and let's try and reach consensus as to the legacy of one Phil Gartside - Bolton Wanderers supporter and chairman.