IF IT’S NOT BOLT-ED...
Everything seems to be for sale at Bolton after High Court adjournment
THE transfer window has been open for three weeks, so Bolton Wanderers boss Neil Lennon can expect postmatch press conference questions about sales.
In the Trotters’ current dire situation, however, the assets aren’t just the players made available for cut-price, fire-sale fees – like midfielder Mark Davies and striker Zach Clough – but car parks and training grounds.
A massive £172m in debt, though owner Eddie Davies is writing off most of that to get the club he has stopped funding off his hands, the Trotters celebrated two big wins this week.
The first came in the High Court on Monday when a winding-up petition, brought by HM Revenue & Customs over an unpaid tax bill of £2.2m, was adjourned for five weeks to enable the club’s financial adviser, Trevor Birch, to seek fresh investment.
The following night, against Non-League Eastleigh, there was a 3-2 come-from-behind victory – only Lennon’s side’s third of the season – to see the Championship’s bottom club through to the FA Cup fourth round.
Bolton missed out on a £72,000 fee for live TV coverage, with the BBC and BT Sport sending their cameras elsewhere, but were grateful to bank the £67,500 from the FA’s prize fund and will welcome Leeds’ famous travelling support next Saturday.
Asked if a Cup run could lift the mood at a club where staff weren’t paid on time this week, Lennon – who dipped into his own pocket to pay some – said: “A win can lift everyone. So, getting into the fourth round, it’s a little bit of a financial boost as well and, hopefully, we’ll get a big crowd with Leeds coming.
“Any money through the door is fantastic. There were player deals going to happen, but didn’t.
“We’ve had a reprieve from the adjournment to late February, so it gives the club time to get funds in, and every little bit helps.”
More used to fielding questions about Champions League opponents in his last job at Scottish giants Celtic, Lennon is now being asked if there is any news of potential buyers for the car park linking the stadium with neighbouring Middlebrook Retail Park.
“Not that I’m aware of,” said the 44-year-old former Leicester City and Northern Ireland midfielder on Tuesday night. “I’m aware there are bits and pieces the club are trying to sell. We’ve just got to trust Trevor to do the process.
“You are doing it day by day, and you’re doing it game by game, so it is difficult. Every day brings something else, or some new news. I’d like to say it’s exciting, but it’s not. It’s very difficult.
“But it’s something I hope to gain a lot of experience from. It’s not ideal, but it’s the reality of where we are now.”
Sheffield Wednesday pulled out of a deal to sign Davies, 27, for £750,000, citing concerns with his medical history after Lennon had pulled him out of the original tie at Eastleigh and last week’s league game with the Owls to ensure the deal went through.
He appeared in the replay, which was won with goals from Gary Madine, Dean Moxey and captain Darren Pratley after the National League visitors had taken an early lead through Joe Partington and then levelled at 2-2 on the stroke of half-time.
Davies’ representatives have said this week that the ex-Wolves man wants to stay at Bolton to the end of the season, but Lennon knows that players will more than likely have to be sold. “Between now and the end of January, there will be more interest, I’m sure,” he added.
“Whether or not bids will come in – there is interest in players going on loan – and deals are done is another thing.
“Obviously it makes the job very difficult, but the long-term future of the club is paramount.”
BARGAIN: Nathan Fox LEARNING CURVE: Neil Lennon fielded questions about everything, including the Macron Stadium car park DOOMED DEAL: Mark Davies’ move to Wednesday fell through