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INSIDE WANDERERS: Who exactly IS keeping the club on message?

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karlypants

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Before the smokescreens clear and thoughts turn back towards football for 90 blessed minutes at Bristol City it feels appropriate to review the wreckage of another surreal week at Wanderers.

More than 100,000 people have now read Ken Anderson’s lengthy tirade from Wednesday afternoon, and those who had not may have found his words land unsolicited in their inbox on Thursday night.

Among the rhetoric of 15th-century poets and veganism there was no mention of impending winding-up petitions from HMRC and football agency Stellar Ltd, nor the existing one against the Whites Hotel.

It did include an acerbic response from Anderson towards Forest Green chairman Dale Vince, who 24 hours earlier had accused him of “giving football a bad name” in regard to the collapsed Christian Doidge transfer. Curiously, it was accompanied by links to stories from three local papers – one detailing some redundancies which had occurred at Vince’s company Ecotricity, and two regarding his well-known vegan interests.

Wednesday’s column had concluded: “I believe I have said everything I need to on the FGR matter and I won’t be making any more comments. My focus will now be on the Bristol City match at the weekend and to ensure that we retain our Championship status.”

Less than 24 hours later staff were ordered to construct a mail-shot to be sent straight to season ticket holders, including not only the aforementioned column, but also nine points addressing various alleged ‘falsehoods’ reported by the media and three anonymous testimonials.

Anderson clearly feels it is his prerogative to defend himself and has never shied away from using the official website as his personal platform. One must question, however, whether he was being warned against such polarising words, or just simply choosing to ignore advice?

For those who do not know, Anderson is the sole owner of Bolton Wanderers and its associated companies. There are no listed directors.

The next senior member of staff is Paul Aldridge, who was appointed in June 2016 as a ‘consultant to the board’ at a time when Anderson was still hopeful of forming a board he could consult.

A football administrator with great experience working at clubs such as Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham United, Leicester City and Manchester City – the Londoner is not even listed in the club staff index on the official website.

His existence in the role may even come as a surprise to some Bolton fans, given he has shunned the public spotlight. But given Aldridge’s background in the game and the close relationship he is understood to have with Anderson, is it not fair to ask whether he advised against the wild rants which have been churned out this week?

Anderson pointed out on Thursday night he takes residence in Monaco, not Switzerland, as has been quoted in the national newspapers, and is still the case in Wanderers’ documents at Companies House.

As such, it has been the largely stadium-based Aldridge who has taken the lead role at ground level, putting into practice the wishes of the chairman and owner.

Wanderers’ forthcoming accounts, due by March, are expected to show signs of commercial improvement over the last financial year. And congratulations are due to all concerned for bringing in concerts from The Killers and Little Mix, plus the rugby league Challenge Cup semi-finals.

The last couple of months have shown that the summer boost did not stop cashflow issues from surfacing. And the lack of any effective explanation or prior warning from Anderson or Aldridge has contributed to the feeling of uncertainty among supporters and staff.

It is unfortunate that for Bolton Wanderers to receive national media attention it took such ugliness to be played out in public.

Last summer the EFL announced the findings of their Owners’ Conduct Review, enabling them to take action against individuals who fail to meet the standards that are expected of them in the league’s regulations. It is understood the rules have not yet come into effect, leaving the league unable to act upon Anderson’s outbursts.

Perversely, had one of Wanderers’ players, manager Phil Parkinson or coaching staff voiced such opinion in public there would have been a disciplinary charge from the Football Association for bringing the game into disrepute.

Anderson’s missives have at times been entertaining and have unquestionably contributed to the number of hits on the club’s website.

In the past, a quiet word may have been uttered by a director, or chief executive - an Allan Duckworth or a Mark Alderton. For all of Phil Gartside's foibles, he was not above listening to advice.

With Aldridge's remit unclear, it is difficult to see what logic can be applied for posting inflamatory remarks so close to an important away trip.

Wanderers have a diligent and well-led media and communications department who consistently produce quality articles and interviews which illustrate, for all the doom and gloom, there is still a beating heart. Their work is not in question.

In such an autocratic environment, however, the writing is not always left to the professionals.

STOP PRESS: As if predicting this very column, Anderson released another set of web-notes on Friday evening which took aim at protesting supporters, Wanderers legend John McGinlay, the Bolton Baronesses Trish Morris and Ann Taylor. He also claimed that the HMRC winding-up petition against the Whites Hotel has been paid.

That column took him to 3,375 words in four days. It appears no-one has yet advised him this is not the best idea…

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