Name: Bolton Wanderers Football Club
Nickname(s): The Trotters, The Wanderers
Founded: 1874, as ‘Christ Church FC’
Stadium: Macron Stadium
Distance: 183 miles from Bristol
Last season: 24th in the Championship (Relegated)
Seen as one of the biggest clubs in League One next season, Bolton Wanderers have certainly had little to be positive about over the last few years, since relegation from the Premier League in 2012.
As recently as 2008, The Trotters broke their transfer record with the signing of Johan Elmander for £8.2 million. The club appeared to be making a great signal of intent, and in the 2010-11 FA Cup, they progressed all the way to the semi-finals, before being swept aside 5-0 by Stoke City at Wembley. A poor end to that season set the tone for the next few years, as they were relegated from the Premier League under Owen Coyle the following season.
Coyle remained in his job regardless of relegation, a brave move from the club to stand by their man. But unfortunately, their loyalty was not rewarded. Bolton started the 2012-2013 Championship season poorly, falling to 16th place by October, which saw Coyle sacked.
His successor was Dougie Freedman, a man whose impressive Crystal Palace side sat 4th in the Championship. The appointment brought positivity and belief to The Wanderers, as they improved greatly that season, and missed out on the play-offs on the final day, finishing the season in 7th. The club Freedman left for Bolton, Crystal Palace, achieved a play-off finish and subsequently won promotion to the Premier League under his successor, Ian Holloway – a former Bristol Rovers player, captain, and manager.
The turnaround instigated by Freedman’s appointment led to positivity ahead of the 2013-2014 season, but that belief was short lived. They began the season badly again, and after failing to win any of their first 6 games, Freedman left the club my mutual consent in October 2014.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t just on the pitch where the club was struggling. Though Neil Lennon was appointed as Freedman’s successor, and managed to steer the club clear of relegation, it wasn’t to be Lennon, or his team, that wrote headlines in the 2015-2016 season.
In December 2015, Bolton Wanderers were handed a winding-up petition from HM Revenue and Customs over unpaid taxes, and a transfer embargo was enforced upon them for the following transfer window. The club, who were in £172.9 million of debt, managed to avoid an immediate winding-up order by the skin of their teeth, with the case adjourned.
Though the team continued to struggle, which saw Lennon leave by mutual consent in March, the club were saved by the ‘Sports Shield consortium’ – lead by former Bolton striker Dean Holdsworth. The bill owed to HM Revenue and Customs was immediately paid off, effectively saving the club at the final hour. They could, however, not stop the inevitable. Bolton Wanderers were relegated to League One in April – their first relegated to the third tier since 1993.
So how will they fare in their unwanted return to League One? A club the size of Bolton Wanderers will be hoping for a short stay, and their fans appear to hold the same beliefs. With their off-the-field future seemingly much brighter than this time last year, the club will surely be hoping to mount a serious promotion challenge this time out. But as we know all too well, rebuilding takes time.
As of writing this, the club are still without a manager, and they appear to be in no rush to change that. A lot will depend on who they appoint and whether they are up to the challenge of halting a dangerous slide down the leagues, and returning a winning morale to the Macron Stadium.
Last season the sides that faced relegation from the Championship had a mixed performance.
Wigan Athletic offer inspiration to Bolton fans, as they bounced back at the first attempt, winning the league and returning a real feel-good factor to the club as a whole.
Millwall find themselves in the play-offs after finishing 4th, a commendable turn-around after their demise the previous year. But all was not positive for the relegated sides, as Blackpool failed to break their slump, and now find themselves relegated to League Two.
A real example to those coming down that a lower division does not make for an easy season.