Author Archives: Ian Foran

Bolton Wanderers’ Football Implosion

Bolton Wanderers football stadium

On November 25, 2006, Bolton Wanderers hosted Arsenal for an eagerly-anticipated Premier League clash at the Reebok Stadium.

Arsene Wenger’s men had recently played in the Champions League final, the squad was packed full of Invincibles and they were among the favourites to win the title. However, they were no match for a Bolton team led by the formidable talents of Nicolas Anelka and El Hadji Diouf.

Abdoulaye Faye headed the hosts ahead and Anelka then banged in a 25-yard screamer against his former club. Gilberto Silva pulled one back for the Gunners, but Anelka finished them off with a clinical strike. It was the height of Bolton’s pomp under Sam Allardyce. The finished seventh and qualified for Europe that season. The fans were used to seeing supreme talents like Jay-Jay Okocha and Youri Djorkaeff strut their stuff at the Reebok, and the future looked bright for the club.

Fast forward to 2020 and the situation looks decidedly bleak. On Saturday, the visitors to Bolton were Accrington Stanley and they battled to a 0-0 draw in a thoroughly drab affair. It was a result that left Bolton marooned at the bottom of
League One, 21 points below safety. They are doomed to be relegated to the fourth tier of English football, and fans are simply left with memories of better times.

What Went Wrong for Bolton?

Bolton are one of the founding members of the Football League, they are four-time FA Cup winners and they reached the last 16 of the UEFA Cup just 12 years ago. How are they so close to oblivion? Their troubles began when they were relegated from the Premier League in 2012. Sam Allardyce had abandoned ship by that point, and Owen Coyle was the man tasked with keeping them in the top flight.

They still had some talented players, including Gary Cahill, Ivan Klasnic and the long-serving Kevin Davies, but they finished 18th  – a point behind relegation rivals QPR – after winning just one of their final eight games. Any hopes of yo-yoing back to the top flight were crushed when they finished outside the playoff places in the Championship the following term.

They were still paying the sort of exorbitant wages of a Premier League team, but the revenue dried up. That plunged them into chaos. A number of poor signings and a confused strategy under chairman Phil Gartside led to a deterioration in results. By 2014, they had strayed dangerously close to being financially shipwrecked.

The following, the club took out a loan with creditor BluMarble Capital to stay afloat, and there was a finding gap. A winding-up order over an unpaid tax bill threatened to torpedo the club, but former Bolton striker Dean Holdsworth led a £7.5 million takeover under the Sports Shield banner.

Financial Woes

That could have provided the springboard for an upturn in fortunes for the club. Former owner Eddie Davies said he did not wish to claim back the money owed to him, and Bolton’s £172.9 million debt was largely written off. However, Bolton finished bottom of the Championship that season and dropped down to League One.

They bounced straight back up to the Championship in 2017, but Sports Shield then had to be liquidated after BluMarble lodged a winding-up petition in relation to non-repayment of a £5 million loan. Inner Circle Investments, owned by Bolton Wanderers chairman Ken Anderson acquired Sports Shield’s former 37.5% shareholding in September 2017.

They managed to scrape survival in the 2017-18 campaign, finishing 21st , but they were then relegated last term after ending up 23rd in the standings. Bolton immediately went into administration.

The start of the 2019-20 campaign was utterly disastrous. They began the season with a 12-point deduction. It was issued as punishment for going into administration, as they owed more than £1 million to HMRC. The summer was taken up by a protracted takeover of the club, as Anderson resisted attempts by Football Ventures to buy it.

The club had to call off their match against Doncaster citing welfare concerns, as they only had five senior outfield players available. Manager Phil Parkinson finally walked away after he was forced to field a youth team in a 5-0 defeat to Ipswich.

Football Ventures finally purchased the club on August 29, 2019, with the Eddie Davis Trust helping facilitate the deal. Former Rochdale manager Keith Hill took over and quickly signed nine players before the transfer window slammed shut. However, it has been a grim old season for the long-suffering Bolton fans.

A Cautionary Tale

They have lost 18 out of 32 games, and they would still be well adrift even if they had not been handed a 12-point penalty. If you check here for the League One odds, you will see that they head into almost every game as underdogs and they are all but certain to be relegated. Bolton have not languished in the fourth tier of English football since the 1987-88 campaign.

Six months ago, they faced extinction. The club was saved, but Bolton fans are likely to experience a lot more pain in the years ahead. Not so long ago, Bolton revelled in their status as the poster-boy team for every smaller club that dreamed of climbing into the top tier – they dazzled, with Okocha and Anelka wreaking havoc on the pitch – but now they serve as a mere cautionary tale about the pitfalls of continually spending beyond your means.

The debt piled up, and Bolton fell into despair on and off the pitch. It will be a long way back from here. They are lucky to have such loyal and passionate fans, whose support could yet drag them back from the abyss, but this proud club needs much tighter financial management in future.

FC United stumble through in thrilling cup semi-final against Irlam

FC United of manchester manager Neil Reynolds

In the semi-final of the Manchester FA Frank Hannah Premier Cup, FC United of Manchester entertained Irlam FC.

Irlam FC from the North West Counties Premier League, in the opening 20 minutes had the better chances of the 2 sides. As they looked to cause an upset at Boundary Park.

Irlam’s compact display while looking to hit FC United on the counter-attack game plan, had the home side struggling in the early exchanges.

FC United manager Neil Reynolds instructed to his forward line to press on the compact defence, and start to play in the wide pockets with the advancing full-backs.

FC United started to open the game up through the wide spaces, creating problems down either flank through full-backs Donohue and Dodd.

A great dummy by Owolabi left Dodd bursting into the 18-yard box, to cut it across goal for Sinclair-Smith to tap into the net. With FC United 1-0 up, Reynolds side smelt blood and soon added a second through Ennis.

Going into half time the game looked a formality.

Irlam pushed on

Irlam came out of the traps in the second half. A stray pass by goalkeeper Belford seen the ball land at half time substitute Southworth’s feet inside the box, as he calmly slotted it home to make it 2-1.

Irlam pushed on, as the tie opened up into a real end to end cup match.

Substitute’s Linney and Hawley brought a freshness to FC United’s play as they aimed to calm the oncoming waves of attacks from Irlam.

Irlam’s second-half display should have earned them to go past the 90 minutes. As they pushed the home side to earn every inch of their victory and were rightly clapped off at the end.

FC United go through to the Cup final and will face Trafford FC, who defeated Droylsden 3-2 in the other semi-final.

Man City fans react to 2-0 defeat ‘Guardiola should be getting some stick in my opinion’

Man City boss Pep Guardiola

Manchester City suffered their sixth defeat of the season to Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur yesterday. The loss leaves the blues 22 points behind Liverpool.

Following VAR controversy, a missed penalty, Sterling coming off injured and a sending off – it wasn’t Man City’s afternoon. The defeat leaves Pep Guardiola’s men 22 points behind runaway leaders Liverpool.

Despite being second in the league and into the first cup final of the season, it seems Man City are not firing on all cylinders. So much so, it’s reported that Guardiola kept his side locked in the changing room for 45 minutes after the match.

Pep Out

A rebuild in the summer wouldn’t be surprising, it’s if Guardiola is up to the task. Many feel around Twitter that he’ll be gone in the summer.

However, there is a very small minority of the Man City fanbase trying to blow up the #PepOut trend following the disappointing loss.

Oldham Athletic look likely to grab Man Utd youngster

Oldham Athletic target Cameron-Borthwick-Jackson

Oldham Athletic have been linked with a loan move for Manchester United 22-year-old left-back Cameron Borthwick-Jackson.

Borthwick-Jackson is available for loan following his return from Tranmere Rovers this month. Having also spent loan spells at Leeds United, Wolves and Scunthorpe United, the left-back is well travelled throughout the leagues.

The Man United youngster doesn’t look likely to break through the ranks at Old Trafford after being seemingly frozen out. If he wants regular football – it seems Boundary park is the place to go for him.

According to the Football Insider, Borthwick-Jackson has been training with Oldham Athletic and Man United are happy for him to go on loan.

The 22-year-olds contract runs out in the summer. It gives Borthwick-Jackson the chance to put himself in the window for next season, as his career seems to be taking a nose-dive since making his debut under Louis Van Gaal.

Oldham may have made a shrewd move in the market. Getting a youngster in on loan who is a free agent at the end of the season and unwanted by his club.

It seems like a win-win for both sides.

Oldham Athletic fans, would you be happy with the young left-back?

Transfer lowdown: Man United target Bruno Fernandes

Man Utd target Bruno Fernandes

Manchester United have been linked with Sporting Lisbon’s Bruno Fernandes, with a deal looking close before next week’s deadline approaching.

According to the Mirror, there have been breakthrough talks for Man United with Sporting Lisbon’s representatives over a potential 55m move.

The Portuguese midfield maestro would be a key signing for Solskjaer, with Man United struggling for goals and assists from midfield. So far this season, Fernandes, in Liga NOS has 8 goals and 7 assists from 16 games.

Compare this to Man United’s 7 goals from midfield in the Premier League (3 – James, McTominay, 1 – Pereira) and 14 assists (6 – James, 3 – Pereira, 2 – Mata, Pogba, 1 – McTominay). Then Fernandes is a game-changer.

Last season the midfielder bagged 32 goals and 18 assists. The season before, that yielded 16 goals and 20 assists. Fernandes is not an overnight sensation, he has consistently produced since his move to Sporting Lisbon back in 2017.

The Portuguese international is at his strongest playing through the middle, even though he can play in an LW/RW role. He is the perfect attacking midfield, through balls, key passes and long shots are all high on his stats.

Fernandes has a range of passing in his locker. However, what is more, impressive is his goal to game ratio over the years – finding the back of the net 56 times in two and a half years in Lisbon.

However, Fernandes alone will not transform Man United. He will improve them no doubt, and ease the midfield pressure of course. Like most players from abroad, it could take time to bed into the rigours of Premier League life.

This is something Man Utd have not got, time. The fans are losing patience, fast. Solskjaer needs Fernandes to hit the ground running…should he make the move.

Man United fans feel Ole looks lost ‘If I was Ole I’d walk!’

Man Utd Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Manchester United produced one of their worst performances of the season last night at home to Burnley. A 2-0 defeat has further boiled the fans blood.

Burnley ended a winless run at Old Trafford dating back to 1962, with a 2-0 win. Goals from Chris Wood and a left-footed thunderbolt from Jay Rodriguez sealed the win after a solid display by Sean Dyche’s men.

However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men did have their chances in the first half to change the course of the match. With Martial not being able to find the back of the net from one of his 5 chances. Man Utd, in all, had 24 attempts on Nick Pope’s goal – compared to Burnley’s 5, with only 7 on target.

On the back of United’s worst start to a season in 30 years, fans of the Red Devils have not simmered down overnight. Furthermore, with a run of games coming up including Man City and Chelsea, alongside just over a week to go in the transfer window – it certainly is a crucial time in United’s recent history.

We take a look at some of the tweets floating around today…

2 things we learnt from Man Utd’s dramatic draw against Sheff Utd

Man Utd Rashford

Man Utd was held to a dramatic draw yesterday at Bramhall Lane, with Sheffield United dominating for long periods of time.

For 70 minutes against the Blades, the headlines were written. Man Utd in crisis once again. Pochettino in, Ole out, players that need selling etc. In a stunning eight-minute period, Man Utd rolled back the years.

A stunning strike from the ever impressing Brandon Williams on 72 minutes and another goal for Mason Greenwood five minutes later, seen the Red Devils draw level.

Two minutes after that James and Martial combined for Rashford to score, making it 3-2.

Solskjaer’s men started to pop it about like a team flowing in confidence, not one that had been battered for 70 minutes.

McBurnie equalised late on to cap off a great match. The result leaves United 9th on 17 points. A win would have seen them jump up to 5th, in a tight scrap for the Europa League place.

Three things were evident yesterday…

Man Utd’s inconsistency needs to be addressed

Man United’s average point tally so far is 1.30 per game. It leaves them with a projected 50 points come to the end of the season. This point tally would see them finish around 9th position going off the last 5 years Premier League tables.

Now some may make the argument that this team is in a rebuild and blooding young stars. It may take time to get back to even being a regular top-four team.

However, many fans are not as patient as they use to be. We live in a world of instant actions, fans want instant success. The years of giving a manager time have gone. Solskjaer has one window to improve the squad, a window that will possibly make or break Solskjaer’s Man Utd future.

Solskjaer’s substitutions changed the game

Three at the back was simply not working, Phil Jones was not working out, Fred and Pereira in midfield were not working out.

Solskjaer made the call at half time, Jones off, Lingard on. This changed the game. Lingard made 13 passes in 45 minutes in the final third compared to Pereira’s 9 in 72 minutes. He created 4 chances, the most by any Man United player in the match.

By playing in the hole, Lingard changed the flow of the game. Alongside Greenwood coming on and scoring within minutes. The substitute game was strong.

However, bringing off Martial for Tuanzebe when United was looking likely to claim a fourth and kill the game off, was a blunder in hindsight.

Many Man Utd fans seem to point at Solskjaer’s tactical naivety at times.

In conclusion, yesterday we saw the worst and best of Solskjaer men. Something that is a reoccurring theme under his leadership.

Oldham Athletic make it 4 unbeaten as they continue to paper the cracks

Oldham Athletic's Mills

Oldham Athletic pulled themselves five points clear of the singular relegation place, with a 1-0 win over Newport County yesterday.

It takes Latics to two wins and two draws in their past four League 2 fixtures.

Furthermore, there has been an overall improvement under Dino Maamria in his first nine games in charge. Three wins, three losses, three draws, 10 goals for and 12 conceded sees them five points better off and +3 goal difference to the previous man in charge.

Compare this to Laurent Binade’s first nine games in charge this season before he was replaced by Maamria – One win, four losses, 4 draws, nine goals for and 14 conceded. Things are certainly looking up for Oldham.

However, it’s off the pitch that isn’t improving. A big section of fans are disgruntled with life under chairman Lemesgan and a project called Push the Boundary seem to be the driving force for change at Boundary Park.

Their aim is to protest on the 7th December, as a voice from the stands.

Oldham have been in steady decline over a number of years, finding themselves in the bottom tier of the football league last season. Being favourites to go straight back up, Oldham ended up with a midtable finish after a succession of managers.

That trend has continued this season, with them already on their second manager after nine games of the season. Finding themselves at the wrong end of the table so early on, they already face an uphill battle to claim a play-off spot come to the end of the season.

Oldham boss feeling optimistic

However, Oldham boss Maamria is feeling optimistic after yesterday’s game. With him trying to close the gap between the team and fans, by dedicating the three points to the travelling away support.

From an outside point of view, it seems that this season is going to be turbulent on and off the pitch. With a clash eventually coming to fruition of fans and the board – which many will be hoping to be the turning point towards a positive future at Boundary Park.

Results on the pitch can only paper over the cracks for so long in the short-term.

Wigan Athletic fans voice their opinion following another defeat ‘it’s time for a change’

Wigan Athletic fans took to Twitter last night to vent yet more anger towards manager Paul Cook following another defeat away from home.

Wigan again lost away from home, taking their winless streak to 5 games in the Championship. They now hover one point above the bottom three. Stoke gained crucial ground on them, with back to back victories in Michael O’Neill’s first 2 games in charge.

Despite being backed in the transfer market in the summer, while bringing in big names like Jamal Lowe and Keiffer Moore. Cook, along with the Latics fans would surely have wanted to build on their end of season form, that seen them steer clear of relegation.

One loss in their last nine games should have been somewhat of a springboard into this season. Especially with the strengthening of the squad in the summer transfer window.

However, four wins out of their 17 games so far this season see Wigan loitering in 20th position. Crucial games against Reading and Luton coming up in the next two weeks could define not only Wigan’s season but Cook’s future.

Many Wigan fans believe the time is now to change…

Wigan Athletic boss hopes returning stars can lift the team ahead of Stoke City

Wigan Athletic manager Paul Cook

Wigan Athletic travel to Stoke City in the hope of ending a horrendous away record of 1 win in league 29 games in the Championship.

Wigan (20th) sit above Stoke (23rd) in the Championship by 4 points. Both have had miserable starts to the season and will be hoping this game is the kickstart to climbing up the table.

However, Wigan’s away record is abysmal. Although, with returning stars like Keiffer Moore and David Marshall coming back after successful international breaks, Paul Cook will be hoping that it can lift the squad…

“Kieffer had two exceptionally good games; it was fantastic for Wales to qualify,” Cook continued. “David played and Scotland are on the back of a good run of three wins to finish their campaign.

“Everyone has come back well; it makes it difficult that Kieffer only comes back yesterday but that’s just part of football.

“I think it is great for Wales and the home nations that there is the chance to qualify; Scotland have a play-off coming up, Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have a chance too.

“It is great for us that our players are qualifying and getting to play in these big tournaments, which only enhances football in the UK.”

Quoted from WiganAthletic.com

Wigan Athletic feeling refreshed?

After a two week break from the competitiveness of the Championship. Cook would surely be hoping the rest will have a positive effect on the players, as they look to end a run of 4 league games without a win.

Stoke, on the other hand, fired 4 past Barnsley in O’Neill’s opening game. The Potters fans will surely be hoping for that infamous new manager bounce, to climb out of the bottom three and surge up the table.

Paul Cook ended his Wigan press conference with

“For our lads, though, it is about us going down there and making sure we have done everything we can by 5pm to have won the game.”

Quoted from WiganAthletic.com

With Wigan Athletic not losing to Stoke City since 2009 in the Premier League, 10 games in total. The omens are good for a Wigan win.

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