“It’s heartbreaking. It cannot happen to the club and town. It’s a devastating prospect.”
Bolton Wanderers face one of the most crucial weeks in the club’s 145-year history after they were left on the brink of liquidation on Monday.
A takeover of the club by Football Ventures collapsed at the weekend, plunging their immediate future into doubt.
But how did one of the founder members of the football league, who reached the last 16 of the UEFA Cup as little as 12 years ago, reach this point and where do they go now?
BBC Sport takes a look at what is next for this historic club as it faces the threat of extinction.
‘The community does not deserve this’
Monday’s administrators’ statement said that the deal to sell the club collapsed after all parties involved agreed terms to complete the sale, other than former owner Ken Anderson.
The news left those at the club stunned, with the administrators suggesting 150 jobs could be lost if they went under.
“We are very worried at the prospect of the club being liquidated and we urge all parties involved to work together to get a deal to save us sorted,” an unnamed staff source told the BBC.
“We are a founder member of the Football League and have a long and proud history in English football,” the club source continued.
“For Bolton Wanderers to no longer exist is unthinkable.”
Much of the summer has been a stalemate as the protracted takeover showed no sign of getting over the line, leaving the club’s fan base hoping a last-minute deal could be done to get the takeover back on track.
“Please, please save this club. You’ve got so much on the line here. You’ve got several generations and the whole Bolton community just pleading for you to get this deal done,” Will Jones, of fan blog Lion of Vienna Suite, told BBC Radio Manchester.
“You’ve got the elderly generation who’ve been watching for 70-80 years and it might be the last thing they have left.
“For the parents who have got to tell their youngsters that they are not able to go and watch their club on a Saturday anymore, that’s just devastating in itself.
“It’s absolutely devastating and all I’d say is please do it for the community and the club because it does not deserve this.”
Club legend and former striker John McGinlay, who scored 118 times in five years with Wanderers, says “there’s a fear and a worry when it gets to this stage”.
McGinlay was the last man to score at Bolton’s old ground Burnden Park before their move to the Reebok Stadium in 1997 and finished as top scorer as Bolton bounced straight back to the Premier League.
“It’s time to either put your money on the table or walk away because we’ve been through this for long enough,” McGinlay told BBC Radio Manchester.
“We’ve been told the deal is imminent or just about to be signed for so long and it’s really frustrating now.
“All of us supporters are now worried and it’s coming to the end of the line now. The statements in the past couple of days from the administrators and EFL have really brought things to a head.”
Timeline of troubles
“Generally speaking, most people up and down the country probably think that has been going on for a very short time,” Maggie Tetlow of Bolton Wanderers Supporters’ Trust told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“However, this has been rumbling on since Ken Anderson took charge.”
- Bolton were relegated from the Premier League in 2012
- Four years later their football existence was threatened as former striker Dean Holdsworth was part of a takeover at the club
- Anderson took control after Holdsworth’s company Sports Shield were wound up
- Wanderers entered administration in May after being relegated from the Championship, before Football Ventures agreed a deal to take over the club
- The deal was almost stopped after Laurence Bassini, who had bid to buy the club before administration, was awarded a court order blocking the sale on 8 August
- The court order was adjourned paving the way for the takeover to continue before it eventually collapsed
- The club called off their match against Doncaster last week citing welfare concerns having only five senior outfield players available
- Boss Phil Parkinson resigned on Thursday after three years with the club and a young side lost 5-0 against Ipswich on Saturday
“There’s something wrong in British football where these clubs with so much history and local connection are struggling at the same time the Premier League is absolutely booming,” Bolton North East MP David Crausby told BBC Radio Manchester.
“We’ve really got to put it right in the interest of the fans, not just for some individual who picks it up to make a profit on it.
“We’ve got to be absolutely determined to defend this football institution. It can’t be allowed to fail and disappear.”
What happens to Bolton Wanderers now?
On Saturday, the EFL gave Bolton until its board meeting at 17:00 BST on Tuesday to complete a sale of the club or provide “credible plans” they can compete this season.
If Bolton cannot satisfy the league’s requirements by that point, a 14-day notice period would be activated for the club to prove it has the funds to survive or face losing its place in the league.
Local rivals Bury, who have had stark financial troubles of their own of late and faced the same fate before their own deadline on Friday was extended, had earlier been given until the same time on Tuesday to complete a sale of their club.
Wanderers’ administrators said on Monday that the club is not in a position to carry on trading and “the process of closing down” could start on Wednesday.
However, it is understood the club could still participate in their scheduled fixtures even if they go into liquidation.