As the festive season swiftly approaches, there is very little reason to be jolly for all concerned with Bolton Wanderers Football Club.
The bleak financial climate that overhangs the Trotters at the moment has also subsequently seen the first-team players remain unpaid for the entirety of November – leaving to growing concerns surrounding proceedings off the pitch.
In recent weeks, the talk has switched from the turf to the boardroom – as Bolton go in desperate search of a suitable buyer.
As a club, Bolton have an outstanding VAT bill of £2m, and are now under mounting pressure to settle their momentous debts. Chairman Eddie Davies has valued Bolton at £15m, a deposit which must be paid in full.
Talks between a consortium led by former striker, Dean Holdsworth, who fronts the Sports Shield agency – is thought to be the preferred bidder, are on-going in the running battle to purchase the financially crippled club.
However, recent events suggest that financial advisor, Trevor Birch, who was appointed by Davies to oversee any sale, has reservations regarding the sustainability of the bid which has been put forward by Holdsworth, and his respective consortium.
Other consortiums, including a company spearheaded by Stelios Giannakopoulos, as well as interest from the Far East, have also been considered, with the apparent stumbling block being that Davies is unwilling to sell to a foreign investor wanting to buy a controlling stake.
Legal complications have stalled any deal so far – with fans growing restless that no takeover agreement has been reached.
On the pitch, things are looking as bleak, after Wanderers were confined to a narrow 3-2 home defeat to Cardiff City at the Macron Stadium.
Despite drawing level twice through Gary Madine and Dorian Dervite, Cardiff secured maximum points 10 minutes from time, courtesy of Anthony Pilkington – a result which sees Wanderers remain rooted to the bottom of the second-tier, five points adrift of safety, with just one win in 19 league outings.
Holdsworth was spotted in a hospitality box during the loss to the Bluebirds, with Sports Shield remaining confident of thrashing out a deal which has been in the pipeline for weeks.
The woeful run of form stretches back to the conclusion of last season. After a decent start at the helm, manager Neil Lennon has since struggled to get the best out of his unpaid players, who have since gone on to claim victory in just two of their last 30 games.
Worrying times indeed, both on and off the field of play – scenes which have shocked myself and Bolton fans alike, with many asking the same question, how did it all escalate into this precarious predicament, to reach a stage in which it got this bad?
It is hard what to believe at difficult times like this, with reports in the national media yesterday evening suggesting that Bolton could in fact be issued with a winding up petition from Revenue and Customs, a further blow to an increasingly sad state of affairs for this beleaguered, once great Lancastrian side.
Such an occurrence would signal the ultimate demise for Bolton, who enjoyed a prolonged 11-year stay in the Premier League, which included two European campaigns, before relegation from the top-flight in May 2012.
Unless any proposed deal can be completed between the current board and interested parties, Birch is prepared to take the club into voluntary administration, immediately triggering a 12-point deduction, a tally which would take Bolton to 0 points, and all but confirm relegation to the third-tier of English football, a standard in which the club haven’t graced for two-decades.
On a personal note, the winding-up petition that Bolton face in the coming days reflects an upsetting period in Wanderers’ recent history.
Over-spending beyond our means, lack of investment and poor managerial appointments have seen the former top-flight side plummet to the depths of the financial ladder.
Bolton have needed re-investment for several years, we are now sadly entering a scenario that I thought would never, ever happen.
It is quite obviously a crying shame, but doesn’t it represent a sign of the times which has left a scar on other clubs – look at Leeds United, Portsmouth, Coventry City and countless others – all big clubs who have been miss-managed from the very top in the last decade.
Thankfully, those three sides lived to fight another day – though time is running out for Bolton Wanderers.
This is a dark, dark time to be a supporter, let’s hope that the lights won’t be switched out for good.