If, as expected, the club goes into administration this week, we can expect a whole host of interested parties to emerge.
For the last few months an undercurrent of whispered phone calls and confidential messages have come my way from people waiting in the wings for this very situation. I have listened to grand plans, heard how rivals bids are penniless and that their way forward is the only way to save the club. Now they need to come up with the goods.
I might not have agreed with many sentiments expressed by Ken Anderson of late but when he talks of “dreamers and tyre kickers” which have wasted both his and Eddie Davies’s time in the past, I can entirely sympathise.
Consortia from every continent you could imagine – except the cold ones – each with a claim to be the only show in town.
Why have we not heard about them, you might be asking. Well, my policy has always been to publicise only those who are willing to speak on the record, put their own neck on the block. Hubris is rife in the business of buying football clubs but it is surprising how many people dry up when they are asked to go public and explain their plan.
Laurence Bassini went public in the most spectacular way possible. Whatever your opinion of the former Watford owner, and I have heard a few, he put himself on the line trying to do a solvent deal. Whether that was a wise move is again up for debate.
The Chinese consortium which walked around the stadium and training ground on Thursday have caused a stir, and have a good man in Mark Taylor to provide them with some background on what has made Bolton great. I do not want to burst that bubble one bit – but they are by no means the first set of wealthy individuals to get a guided tour, and even on Saturday another prospective bidder was poking their nose into the chairman’s suite and trying it out for size.
Whether Wanderers find a foreign billionaire or find themselves in the hands of a supporter once again, patience will be needed.
The club face a 12-point deduction at the bare minimum. We have all read the doomsday scenarios where EFL punishment extends that to minus 20 for failing to fulfil the Brentford fixture and realistically that would obliterate any chance of an immediate return to the Championship.
Who among those prospective buyers is willing to fund this club for (at least) two years whilst touring the boardrooms of Gillingham, AFC Wimbledon and Wycombe Wanderers?
League One operates under salary caps and the club will almost certainly be saddled with transfer embargoes – which given the mess that still needs sorting will leave them fishing from a diminished pool of free transfers. Loans are a slightly different matter and could come down to contacts higher up the ladder.
We have seen in the last few months Luca Connell, Joe Muscatt, Joe Pritchard, Harry Brockbank, Ronan Darcy, Jake Turner and Chlori Johnson in the first team ranks and it is surely time the club starts putting some trust in an academy still delivering despite all the woes which have befallen the club. Again, such an approach is not a quick fix.
The twisted mechanics of English football mean the Premier League is now the only place clubs can theoretically make money, though many don’t. Losses in the Championship have doubled in the last five years and goodness knows how high wages will have been pushed by the time Bolton get back to that level.
The promised land looks further off now than in has since the early 90s and that is why whoever walks through the door as the next owner has to make sustainability their primary aim.
Forget three-year plans for the Premier League. Bolton Wanderers’ fanbase is wiser than that. What the people want is for new owners to invest in rebuilding a shattered reputation, improving relationships with a disaffected fanbase and, perhaps most importantly, creating a team of which the town can be proud again.
Whatever nationality, however big their bank balance, the most important thing they can bring to the table costs nothing – and that’s patience.