Another big EFL success story - Interview
Friday, 29th Mar 2019 07:31 by Clive Whittingham
Bolton Wanderers, a club taken over not two years ago by owners who met the EFL's 'fit and proper' and proof of fund tests, stand at the brink of relegation and bankruptcy. We spoke to long suffering fan David Crompton...
What a mess. Simple first question, what has happened and who's to blame?
Where do we start? I think it’s a mixture of several different factors and people. From the previous owner/chairman to Dean Holdsworth and the Andersons. And overall the EFL.
Eddie Davies and Phil Gartside made several poor decisions when they ran the club, primarily not backing Sam Allardyce and providing him with funds he wanted to push the club to the next level which led to Allardyce walking and for me started our descent. They then switched and backed the next set of managers allowing them to sign players, such as our record signing Johan Elmander, for more than they were worth, with ludicrously high contracts. Davies pulled the plug on funding a few months before he sold the club taking it to the brink of admin/liquidation.
Anderson and Holdsworth bought the club between them claiming to be saviours. Little did we know what a bumpy ride we were going to be in for. Davies had wiped the debt of £180m owed to him, leaving minimal debt. But it has since emerged Holdsworth’s company, Sport Shield, had secured a “payday” style loan for £5m with a ridiculously high interest rate to buy the club, and it wasn’t long before winding up orders were being thrown at the club again. Current chairman Ken Anderson bought Holdsworth’s shares and renegotiated the loan whilst Sport Shield went on to be wound up. That loan was repaid days before former owner Davies death, in the week leading up to the first game with QPR this season, and it transpired Davies had loaned Anderson the money secured against his shares and club assets.
With Anderson in full control it has gone from bad to worse. No one to question his decisions, a board made up of his family members, and what seems to be a son who has an extremely large ego that needs feeding. With the club in financial disarray, Anderson wasn’t putting money into the club, but felt able to make himself the seventeenth highest paid director in English football, taking out a wage of £525k a year, and also paying his son £125k in consultancy fees, whilst the management, staff and players failed to receive their bonus’ and outstanding wages.
Players and staff have constantly gone month to month wondering if their wages will be paid on time. Occasions where they haven’t has led to strikes, catering companies not supplying the training ground or hotel, players contacting the PFA and even our home game against Millwall being put in jeopardy due to safety reasons. Ex-players have spoken out and made it very public they were still owed money by the club.
The morale and atmosphere around the ground is toxic, with the poor style of football not helping. Most fans have never felt so distant from the club as we do now and that shows with the attendances.
Ken Anderson only took the club over in the relatively recent past, doesn't say much for the fit and proper owner test and proof of funds does it? Any ire going the way of the EFL?
It stinks to be honest. Anderson had previously been banned from being a company director for eight years for transgressions including diverting company funds into personal accounts, VAT discrepancies and failure to cooperate with receivers. He also has an impressive track record of his companies going bust. He passed the fit and proper test with the EFL stating he had served his sentence for that crime. We aren’t the first club the EFL have screwed over and we won’t be the last. Look at most EFL tweets and you will more than likely see a comment from a disgruntled Bolton, Charlton or Blackpool fan to name a few clubs underneath.
On Wednesday we heard that staff members had a received an email from Ken Anderson stating the club will be sold in the next 48 hours and their wages paid (on Friday) by the new owner. Bearing in mind this isn’t the first time we have heard this it’s hard to be optimistic when you’ve been burnt so many times before. If the take-over doesn’t happen, we are back in court on Wednesday April 3 for a HMRC winding up order for an unpaid tax bill of £1.2m. We received an adjournment last week based on an imminent deal being struck, so hard to see another adjournment if the deal is still no nearer being sealed. That would leave admin/liquidation. Our previous owner’s family are rumoured to have an option to take control of Andersons shares due to their loan being secured against his shares, but have no desire to run it.
We don’t necessary want a multi billionaire owner who’s going to pump millions and millions into the club, although it would be nice. We want a secure, sustainable future. Bolton fans have lived with the fear of having no club to support for more than four years now.
On the pitch you started the season well, but quickly fell away, what's been the problem with the team? Or is it just off field issues getting on top of them?
The start of the season I think was a bit of momentum from that last game of last season. We didn’t strengthen in summer although we made our first cash signing for three years. I think the squad was stronger last season than the one we currently have.
Phil Parkinson doesn’t seem to know his strongest team changing the personnel weekly, and the players we do have don’t suit his system. I question if the players we sign are made by him or Andersons “agent” son. We lost our only out and out goal scorer in Adam Le Fondre for no fee, which you can’t blame him for wanting to go because he wasn’t being played to his strengths and he got a lucrative offer to go play in the A-League in Australia. Off-field factors definitely don’t help, but teams like Huddersfield and Cardiff have shown you can go a long way in this league with hard work, organisation and confidence.
Any suggestion that the players and manager could have done any better in these circumstances?
Phil Parkinson off-field has been outstanding, he handles everything with class. I can’t imagine how hard it is to come out to a press conference weekly to talk about the upcoming game and end up answering questions about whether or not his players have been paid. On the field however is a different story, like I stated before, Phil doesn’t know his best team, he’s tactically poor and has a desire to play people out of position just to fit them in the starting 11. Rather than playing a right back at right back he will play a centre midfielder just to include him. Certain players have not had a look at getting into the team who could have made a difference and the reasons for their exclusion is still unknown. Oztumer, Vela and Little being the most notable.
The players themselves don’t seem fired up, there are no leaders, no communicators on the pitch. Our strikers are isolated and lack any sort of ability or pace, the midfield can’t unlock defences, and the defence lacks any sort pace and ability other than to lump the ball forward. All this with the fact we’ve only scored 26 league goals this season, has me flabbergasted we aren’t bottom of the league and we are only eight points adrift from safety. (What’s that coming over the hill? It’s Queens Park Rangers – ed)
Who have been the stand out players in a poor season?
I can’t say there have been any. I’d say the only bright spark of our season is the emergence of Luca Connell, our 17-year-old midfielder who has no doubt got a huge future in the game. I am just hoping that we can tie him down for the next few years.
And who are the weak links in the side?
Who’s not? I don’t think anybody has been anywhere near consistent this season. Whether that’s confidence, ability or off-field problems playing on their minds, this season it has just been poor by everyone.
Any hope of staying in the Championship, given last year's great escape? What happens next if you do
I am ever the optimist, but I can’t see it. Not now. Losing 5-2 to Wigan in our last game and the other results going against us. With everything that’s happening at the club, it’s not going to happen. It will take more than a miracle. Next season we need to have a clear out, start fresh and remove a lot of the deadwood. A new manager with new ideas and builds a team around players like Luca Connell. We have a promising youth team so hopefully we can have some of them make the step up to the first team, as we have a lot of first teamers out of contract at the end of the season. With potential new owners on board, we have a big summer ahead of us.
The Twitter @crompton_bwfc, @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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