So; Bolton Wanderers’ worst season in my living memory reached its dismal conclusion earlier this month, as the Trotters slipped out of the Championship into League One – propping up the standings in the process as they went down with a whimper.
Neil Lennon’s spell in charge was supposed to breathe life back into Bolton, but instead the Northern Irishman departed in March, amongst a backdrop of financial insecurity, a change in ownership and a side in absolute turmoil – both on and off the field.
Interim manager Jimmy Phillips could not prevent the inevitable slide into the third-tier – a division that Wanderers will grace for the first time in over two decades.
For my final Shoot blog of the 2015/16 term, I will take a look at three things that we learnt from Bolton’s relegation campaign:
1. Struggles on and off the pitch contributed to Bolton’s sorry demise into League One
Bolton’s season, and the eventual relegation that followed in April, was unfortunately marred by off the field financial problems, which led to a winding-up order against the troubled side due to an unpaid tax bill of £2.2m owed to HMRC. The issue would eventually be resolved, when the club were bought by the Sports Shield consortium for £7.5m in March.
Throughout a challenging ten months in the Championship, the majority of Bolton’s playing squad lacked the fight which needed to stay in the league, senior professionals did not perform to an appropriate standard and they let themselves down on a number of occasions.
The financial catastrophe which brought the club to their knees and played a part in sending them packing to England’s third division cannot go unnoticed.
During his stay at the helm, former boss Lennon was deprived of funds to build a team capable of pushing on. He would be reliant on loan signings and free transfers.
Bolton were placed under a transfer embargo by the Football League having breached regulations, which is still yet to be lifted, meaning a summer of uncertainty lies ahead.
More departures are expected to be added to the individuals who will be released when their contracts expire on June 30, as the club look to balance the books and get high earners off the wage bill.
Hopefully, the squad of next season will have learned from the mistakes of their former colleagues, a mass clear out and starting afresh could be the best thing for Bolton in the long-term.
2. The Trotters have broken an unwanted away record
In a season of sorrow, Bolton broke an unwanted record by going an entire league campaign without an away victory to their name.
That record was confirmed on the final day of the season, as Tom Cairney’s second-half strike earned Fulham maximum points at Craven Cottage, ensuring that Wanderers bowed out with defeat.
During their 23 outings on the road, Wanderers were beaten in 19 of those matches and attained a mere four points whilst on their travels – an embarrassing record.
Points on the road away at Blackburn Rovers, Charlton Athletic, Preston North End and Wolverhampton Wanderers were all that Bolton could muster up.
Indeed, the last victory that the club achieved away from their home soil of the Macron Stadium was an emphatic 3-0 win at Cardiff City on April 6, 2015.
On that day; a brace from Craig Davies, along with Eidur Gudjohnsen’s finish, helped Lennon’s side on their way in South Wales – little did supporters know that the match would go down in history, for all the wrong reasons.
3. The managerial situation remains unsolved, and Bolton’s faithful are becoming frustrated with the lack of clarity
It’s has been two months since Lennon’s departure, and chairman Ken Anderson, along with chief executive Dean Holdsworth, are still yet to appoint a new manager.
The lack of clarity on the subject from the boardroom to the supporters is somewhat concerning, and as the weeks drag on without any news of a successor, fans and players alike are becoming frustrated.
Several managers; some currently employed, some unemployed, have been linked with the vacant position at the Macron Stadium.
Peter Reid, who spent a brief spell advising Phillips towards the end of the season, is the favourite for the full-time managerial job. Reid has previously been open about his desire to get the role.
He is joined in the running by Uwe Rosler and Alan Stubbs, but if recent reports are to believed, Anderson and Holdsworth have endured differences in opinion on which individual is right for the job – halting the efforts to find a permanent successor.
Errors of years gone by have harmed this club, it is paramount that the board make the correct choice, for the future and longevity of Bolton Wanderers.