I bet the old “negative press” chestnut has been wheeled out every week since the Sheffield Independent carried a game’s first media mention in 1862. The match between Sheffield FC and Hallam FC was scoreless, by the way, so the report was probably quotes-led.
Sure enough, after finding his voice in recent weeks Wanderers’ former owner Eddie Davies turned the guns on newspapers – ours included – for the way we have reported his efforts to sell the club.
Mr Davies believes the press should be forced to state their sources before printing stories which have cast him in a bad light over the past 12 months. And perhaps he is right.
Here goes: The saga that has brought this famous football club to its knees, sent it packing to League One for the first time in 23 years, landed it in the High Court on no fewer than four occasions and placed it minutes away from liquidation could have all been avoided with a simple bit of communication.
I write that, in case Mr Davies is reading, citing the following sources: 10,000 season ticket holders at the Macron Stadium, a few hundred loyal staff who spent much of the last six months not knowing if they were being paid on time, and thousands more around the town he used to call home.
It seems incredible that a club which has offered so little information to the media or its fans could then complain if their PR is not to their liking.
This is not a failure of the Wanderers’ media department, which has battled incredibly hard to get any information to the public domain at all.
It is certainly not an indictment of the manager, and in particular Neil Lennon, who was starved of information by his own club in the knowledge that he was the public face being scrutinised three or four times a week by the press.
This is a failure of the faceless, those who have made key decisions to get the club to where it is now without answering the questions that followed.
Mr Davies once shook my hand in the tunnel at Portsmouth and I recall Phil Gartside leaning over to tell me: “That’s the closest you’ll ever get to an interview.”
That is the way things worked for years. Gartside was the voice of the boardroom until he too withdrew from the public eye. And I am sorry to say that was long before the sad illness that claimed his life.
Numerous requests to speak with the owner about his complicated and much-discussed financial input were absorbed by the club and – I fear – never actually reached the man himself.
If that is the case then the “rumour” and “downright lies” that Mr Davies complains about should have been corrected by the men and women he employed at ground level. They have my number.
Instead, the club persisted with its policy of saying the bare minimum in times of crisis. And those who suffered most were the supporters left to speculate and feed off the scraps of information that were wrestled from the club’s grasp.
Through this uncertain time it has been difficult to maintain a balance and remember that without Eddie Davies’s assistance, it is highly likely the Premier League glory days and the two UEFA Cup campaigns would not have happened.
We may not have seen Jay Jay Okocha, Youri Djorkaeff, Fernando Hierro, Ivan Campo, or the galaxy of international superstars that lit up Bolton for such a memorable period in its history.
But Bolton Wanderers existed and thrived long before Mr Davies got involved, in fact it was the club he fell in love with as a boy.
It is back to those less glamorous surroundings that the club returns next season – and though the seats in the directors’ box at Scunthorpe United, Rochdale and Fleetwood Town might not be as comfortable as Manchester United, Arsenal or Bayern Munich, the game is no different and results will matter just as much to the supporters.
Dean Holdsworth has already shown a willingness to communicate that bodes well for the future, and thankfully the long-suffering media department are no longer operating under the restrictive shackles they once did. They too may now be able to operate with the creative freedom afforded to their counterparts at other clubs.
It will take some time but things appear to be improving, heck, there was even talk of Mr Davies giving a press conference the other day in his new role as club president.
I’ll be front and centre. I wouldn’t want to miss it.