On 12 October 2014, Neil Lennon arrived at Bolton.
A man with a sometimes dubious past but with Champions League pedigree and used to success. Everything seemed right, from his interviews, touchline passion, team selections and performances.
Fast forward 17 months and finding that the challenge was beyond him, a dispirited Lennon was gone, his team being spanked on the pitch and rooted at the foot of the Championship. A lot wasn't his fault, of course, but what he could influence his lack of experience let him down.
In May 2003 Phil Gartside convinced Bolton shareholders to sell up to Eddie Davies. Local lad made good, die hard Bolton fan with the club at his heart. He did provide funds and under Big Sam enjoyed huge success, but when Sam left and the Sky millions stopped, we found out that his business plan was written on the back of a fag packet with cuckoo land thinking.
The club was £200m in debt, failing both on and off the field, assets being sold and minutes from being wound up.
Why mention these points?
Well most Bolton fans have got savvy, cynical and simply will no longer just accept everything blindly at face value. Those days have gone. So when people question the new owners, it isn't fans moaning for moaning sake, it's that talking the talk is now no longer enough. Fans will get behind the owners, next manager, whatever, BUT words need to be backed up by actions and we need to see that the club is being run properly.
Business plan oversight used to be board room only. No longer, whether the current custodians like it or not.
So, on to Ken Anderson. After an understandable delay, considering the mess the precious incumbents left behind, Ken finally faced the press. Let's review what he had to say.
KA: 23-24 man squad with a half dozen Dev players to support. Speaking to four Premier League clubs about potential loan signings. High earners and disinterested players to go.
Sounds like good thinking to me. With the club losing close to £1m a month, the quickest way of reducing costs is ridding the club of high earners, pruning the squad, use the loan system to fill the gaps or more importantly provide the quality we can no longer afford to buy.
We currently have at least 42 players in our squad with around 20 whose contracts end this summer. The average salary in League One is £2.5k per week. We have at least 15 players earning £8-18k per week and some contracted to 2018/19!
However, as previous regimes have found out, the desire to move on unwanted contracted players is easier said than done. If Ken can't do this, then it will put a massive hole in the clubs ability to rebuild our squad and put huge pressure on our finances. Remember that we have also got a £5m income reduction due to relegation.
KA; 50+ applications down to three candidates for a second interview. A decision this week. Said Kevin Nolan hadn't applied for the job despite him no longer managing, but still playing for, Leyton Orient.
We need an experienced manager who knows the lower leagues. Too many young one team wonders (Coyle, Freedman and Lennon) have fallen at the Bolton hurdle. We tried promoting coaches but Sammy Lee and Phillips haven't made the grade. Megson should be discounted because he is the devil incarnate. Also his 'success' was through spending a fortune.
Phil Brown is an obvious candidate but with a pissed off Southend asking £500k compensation, it seems unlikely to me. It is absolutely crucial that Anderson gets the right man in.
A hugely difficult ask at the best of times and to do it with no money is all the harder.
KA; Members to be announced later this week and will be known names.
Gee and Massey remain from the old board. Will they get replaced? It will be a shit storm if any of the previous board have seats in the new regime. It was a bit unnerving hearing Anderson lavish praise on a previous board that had failed so badly. We will see.
KA; staff have one months grace during which a redundancy assessment is to be made. Emphasis that costs have to be cut as per playing staff. Previous statement did say that hard decisions will need to be made.
Along with everyone else I'm gutted for the staff. After what they've been through during the takeover, especially not getting paid prior to Christmas, this is another kick in the teeth. Alas, due to the perilous state of the clubs finances and loss of income due to relegation, redundancies are inevitable. Nice one Eddie Davies...
KA; desire to regularly communicate with both the fans and media.
Great news if this happens and something the club desperately needs moving forward. Even bad news is better than no news at all. Let's hope Anderson sticks to his word.
KA; 5 year plan, financial plan in place for this season and next. Expects FL transfer embargo to be lifted and club annual accounts to be submitted shortly. However, Anderson dropped a bombshell that Eddie Davies is owed ANOTHER £1m, with the loan being paid back over two years.
Generally, he came across as promising, with a chairman who wants to get to grips with the clubs dire financial situation moving forward to future success. However, if you scrape past the fluff, from the facts we know, through evidence given via the governments Companies House website, things are far from rosy.
As a recap, SS were to put £7.5m in this season and another £15 in for next. Anderson confirmed that just him and Holdsworth are the equity partners, in other words, the guys putting money into the club. I understand that from the £7.5m, £5m is from Holdsworth and £2.5 by Anderson and that this money will come from high interest investor loans taken out against the clubs remaining assets.
So far Holdsworth seems to have met his end of the bargain but there is no evidence to suggest that Anderson has put a single penny in at this point.
It gets worse. Whilst Davies wiped £170m debt, that debt wasn't gaining interest. The remaining debt that we know of is currently as follows:
- £15m owed to Eddie Davies over 5 years
- £5.85 owed to PBP for the car park redevelopment work project.
- £5m owed to Bluemarble Capital Ltd, assumed to be via Holdsworth.
- £2.5m owed to Brett Warburton
- £1m owed to Eddie Davies over 2 years
Then there's the £2.5m that will be owed to Andersons investors when the money finally goes in.
All the above is charged against the clubs assets. In other words we have a number of high interest mortgages. There is also no evidence so far of money going into the club that hasn't been raised by mortgaging the assets.
So whilst the debt is a 'mere' £30m as opposed to £200m, it involves high interest loans for a club that has lost £5m income due to relegation and is losing close to £1 m a month in running costs!
Essentially Anderson needs all his future plans to meet their best expectations for the club to continue to survive. Hence the Lennon analogy that despite best intentions, if things outside your control that you need to happen, don't, then you're in a world of shit, probably demanding skills you don't possess.
For our clubs future survival, not to mention staff jobs that depend on it, and our aspiration as fans of Bolton Wanderers, I wish our new owners the best of luck. But what I won't do nor apologise for, is blindly follow them for the sake of 'togetherness'. There is too much at stake. I'll be honest and say now that I think the job is too big for them but I do hope, really really hope, that I'm proven hopelessly wrong. For all our sakes.