In forty years following my beloved Bolton Wanderers I have been privileged to see many fantastic players, games, stadiums and able to enjoy numerous match day experiences be it home or away. I saw that Worthington goal, our fight back from division four, win a trophy at Wembley, witnessed the white hot years under Rioch, Walker, Lee, Kelly & Super John, the Prem sunshine years under big Sam, Youri, Jay-Jay, Campo, Stelios, Davies, Nolan et all, European cup adventures and yes, that relegation avoiding cliff hanger of a last gasp winner from Wilbraham.
We’ve all got our ‘top ten’ treasured experiences. So who’d have thought that a League One away game against a great family club and with no disrespect intended, league minnows in the backwaters of Buckingham, Wycombe Wanderers, would produce another occasion that will be right up there in Bolton footballing folklore.
As the one month long ‘imminent’ takeover stalled into the new league season, we were faced with a game that was still uncertain, possibly having no senior players involved and a high likelihood of witnessing our youngsters get a humiliating football spanking.
Nevertheless, the fans responded anyway and in just a few days, we pretty much sold out our allocation.
What followed was a unique experience where 1600 plus fans stuck two fingers up at the clubs desperate situation and instead reconnected with it. Reinforced by the fact that the team sheet showed 3 players had signed contracts pre-match, it did seem like this would be the final game before FV took the reins up on the coming Monday, as promised by a number of sources. The reset button for a fresh start was very much pressed.
People will have different takes from the day, but we were all given an eloquent lesson that, despite all the built up frustration and cynicism due to what had gone before, THIS was the reason we were football fans. The roar of an away crowd, banter with each other and the opposing players, bonding in song to push our team on, discovering new heroes such as Zouma and White, seeing Lowe rediscover himself whilst revelling in being made captain, simply just watching OUR team play a football match and falling in love with the game again. We may have all become something of unintended finance experts over the last four years but, ultimately, the reason we all became Bolton fans in the first place was down to the fantastic game of football and nothing else. From young to old, the result was irrelevant, because that football spark had reignited our passion for Bolton Wanderers. I walked away from that game thinking, yes, I’ll have some more of that. I didn’t see any fans that weren’t back onside either.
And then the takeover didn’t happen on Monday, and therefore no more of the promised signings to follow. Despite the usual spin that the hotel was almost in the bag and the takeover was almost complete, indeed ‘could all be done quickly in 24 hours’, it was blindingly obvious by the Tuesday that my left nut had more chance of scoring the winner against Coventry than the takeover being completed this week. The administrators had indeed played their sources well and it was actually all just talk and false promises.
Sure enough Quantuma were running the hotel bidding process to their own schedule and frankly, bollocks to the football. Final bids on Friday so that’d be the very latest for hotel sale done? Yeah right. FV won the club bidding process back on 13 June with a sale expected on the following day, but they weren’t formally announced until over two weeks later on 01 July. Five weeks after that and the sale is still ‘almost complete’. We all know how Kenneth likes a bit of brinkmanship and ‘twists and turns’. We also all know that EDT want as much money back as possible and then there’s the little matter that there’s another bidder for the hotel...
Then we come to the next game against Coventry. Effective communication is key. Without that you’re lost and that’s honest comms I’m talking about, not spin. Sure enough ‘ticketgate’ followed hot on the heels of the ongoing takeover stalemate. Game confirmed as on, yaaayyy, and here are the prices, boooooo.
If the administrators or FV had simply come out with the underlying detail on the Monday, rather than leave it until two days later when the damage was done, then things could’ve been different. If they had stated then as to why they were asking fans to pay relatively high prices (as FV were underwriting one off costs to run the game) to see Parky manage what is almost certainly going to still be half a team and a likely defeat against Coventry, then I have no doubt that our fans will have happily rallied to the cause. But they didn’t do that and it came across as the club trying to take a cynical financial advantage from the goodwill created at Wycombe. After all it’s one thing putting money into the club to help it survive and prosper, quite another putting money into the balance sheet of administrators who employ very expensive consultants who aren’t needed.
But it didn’t stop there. On Wednesday the promised ticket sales were put on hold again, just ten minutes prior to sale. Then later on, a brief statement of a further delay until Thursday morning. It was reported in the Bolton News that (whilst there was once again no formal reason for the delay) there was ‘talk that a cut in pricing could also be timed with an announcement on ownership’. All I can say is that my bullshitometer was in full swing and pointing to a major download being ‘imminent’.
There have been plenty of rumours flying around from within the club and hinted at from those claiming to be ITK on social media. Such as Ticket Master allegedly wanted paying before supplying said tickets and that our match day stewards were allegedly refusing to work because they are owed money and also that they were angered when a certain consultant ignored their services for the Rugby League games, preferring young cheaper staff from elsewhere.
What is the truth? Who knows really. As ever, we are in the dark. All I do know is that there are just two days until another game, no tickets have been sold, no more players have been signed, Hall & Earl are out injured for up to two months, the hotel bid process rumbles on at glacial speed, no takeover is likely to happen and that we are being fed spin rather than the full facts. Last Saturday now seems a long time ago and that truly is a great shame.