TROTTERS TO REDEM
Parky’s reborn troops out to finish job
THERESA May isn’t the only leader spouting a metronomic mantra this spring – just ask Bolton’s own strong and stable manager. Answering questions in the Macron media suite on the eve of his side’s do-or-die clash with Peterborough, one word escapes Phil Parkinson’s lips again and again. Reconnection. When the 49-year-old arrived in June, the relationship between players and fans was about as cordial as the Korean border. As finances contracted in the post-Premier League meltdown, the perception grew that big names on fat wage packets were simply going through the motions, unperturbed by embarrassing defeats or looming relegation. When the Championship trapdoor finally opened last May, most Trotters fans were ready to bid good riddance to bad rubbish. But the clearout never happened. Fallen idols like Jay Spearing, David Wheater and Liam Trotter stayed put. Now, those men are at the fulcrum of a side that will seal an immediate return with a point at the Macron this afternoon. “When I arrived, my first objective was putting building blocks in place,” said Parkinson, right, who took over a side that won just five games last season and none at all on the road. “And the biggest block was the connection between the supporters and the club. “So when I met the lads on the first day of pre-season, I said I wanted to help them rebuild their reputations. That was our constant mantra. “Last year was a terrible season. Relegation, embargoes, all the money problems off the pitch. I think too many players got caught up in the demise of the club and let it affect their performances.
“Like everyone else, I had preconceptions. But me and my staff very quickly realised that it was fundamentally a good, honest set of players who were determined to turn things round – both for themselves and the club.
“Everyone understood how important it was to reconnect. To send our supporters home on Saturday with a smile.
“They’ve pulled together. The professionalism and attitude has been spot on. We’ve put a bit of pride back into the Bolton Wanderers shirt and I think the supporters have identified with that. It will be a great reward for everybody if we can finish the job.”
If things were bad on the pitch last year, events off it were catastrophic. Having bankrolled the Trotters’ Premier League adventure, owner Eddie Davies was no longer willing to cover costs.
As administration beckoned, only an 11th-hour takeover by Dean Holdsworth’s Sports Shield consortium saved the day. Davies generously wrote off £171m in interest free loans to facilitate the sale, yet Wanderers remain in financial jeopardy. A boardroom dispute saw Holdsworth sell his shares to chairman Ken Anderson, whose company Inner Circle Investments was part of the consortium. However, BluMarble Capital – the company who loaned Holdsworth £5m to complete the takeover – this week filed a winding-up petition against the club. Anderson contends that Holdsworth and Sport Shield, not Bolton Wanderers, are responsible for repaying the debt. A High Court date is set for May 22. Meanwhile, the club is losing £800,000 a month and has been under a transfer embargo since 2015. All of which highlights the sterling efforts of Parkinson and his players. “It’s not ideal,” he admits. “It’s made a lot of headlines. But we’ve tried as much as we can to block that out, concentrate on training and performing at the weekend. That’s all we control.
“The chairman has done great in terms of trying to sort the club out behind the scenes and let me just focus on the team.
“As things have come out in the Press, we’ve had meetings with the players and explained the situation to them. That’s really important because they need to know what’s going on. I’ve got a lot of experienced players who understand the situation and there’s no point hiding things from them. They deserve to know the score. I think that’s helped them focus on the football.”
And that will again be the message at at noon today. Don’t worry about money. Don’t worry about Fleetwood. Just complete the job and mend those broken connections.
“It’s about concentrating on the process,” says Parkinson, who last won promotion from this level with Colchester in 2006. “Not thinking about the prize. That’s what being a professional is all about – playing when there’s a lot at stake and blocking the pressure out.
“That’s what we’ve done for the majority of the season and we’ll be reminding the lads of the qualities we’ve shown.
“I believe we’ve got the players to finish the job off.”