As I approach 22 months of being involved at Bolton Wanderers Football Club and Bolton Whites Hotel, I am able to look back with a great sense of pride at what all the loyal and supportive staff, players, management, community trust, sponsors, partners and you, our supporters, have helped us achieve both on and off the pitch.
This Bolton Family has stayed in unison and proved that at even the most challenging of times we are all stronger together.
We are making steady progress but there is so much more we can still achieve together.
Our Academy is operating well and we have a number of young, talented players who are coming through and knocking on the first team door. Recently, we were all delighted to see the dome installed at our Lostock training ground, which has already enhanced our training facilities and will continue to do so for many years to come. The dome is also being used by our Community Trust which offers the people of Bolton the opportunity to use the facilities in all weathers.
Our hotel business has grown from strength to strength, and in what is a fiercely competitive market, we are proving to be very successful. Our occupancy levels are regularly full and the range and scope of the conferences and events are increasing year on year, which brings in vital income 365 days a year.
Having been relegated from the Championship and subsequently being automatically promoted back at the first attempt after just one season, despite being in a transfer embargo and against the backdrop of the horrendous financial black holes and illogical commercial contracts which we inherited, all of which have been well documented in the past, is in my opinion as close to achieving a miracle as there possibly can be in football.
I don’t need to remind you all about the disappointing start we had to life back in the Sky Bet Championship but recent results have epitomised the tremendous camaraderie and indomitable attitude we have in the camp. This belief, shared by us all, will stand us in good stead as we move into the second-half of the season with our destiny firmly in our own hands.
Since I took hold of the reins, we have vastly improved the situation where the expenditure outweighed the income by nearly three to one, and the businesses were haemorrhaging cash at an alarming rate.
With a great deal of hard work and effort by everyone involved, this problem is being gradually addressed to a situation where at long last we can see light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a great deal of work to be done to ensure the businesses become financially sustainable, but slowly and surely l am confident we will get there.
There is a great deal spoken and written about the club’s level of debt, but when l look around the league at other clubs, the reality is that our level of debt and expenditure is now substantially less than most other clubs. Furthermore, we own one of the best stadiums, training grounds and hotels in all of the leagues and the overall loan to value rate is far less than that of many other clubs.
Generally speaking, our revenues have improved year on year, but there is still a great deal of room for improvement. With this in mind, it is imperative that we focus particularly on increasing our match day revenues through increased attendances, sponsorship and hospitality throughout the club and hotel, and this is where we need the Bolton family to get involved and come along and continue to support the club and hotel.
At this time of the year, there is always a great deal of talk and speculation about the transfer window and bringing players in to strengthen or freshen up the squad. In an ideal world, there is nothing that would give me more pleasure, but unfortunately, l have to balance this up against our budgets and the ever increasing change of circumstances with players and ensure we don’t rush in too early.
A clear example of this is that the manager and l had discussed areas that we needed to strengthen, but then both Karl Henry and Darren Pratley unfortunately picked up injuries that now mean we may have to change our recruitment priorities. I have also previously stated that we are not financially able to support a squad of more than 25 players, which is also the number that is considered by most managers to be the optimum squad number and l see no reason to change this.
Unfortunately, we are still at this time unable to compete financially with the so called BIG clubs in our division, but I am ever hopeful that with your continued support, we will be able to do so in the not too distant future.
You may recall that we offered the opportunity of free match tickets for the Cardiff City and Hull City games to those who attended the performances of the Aladdin pantomime. This proved to be a very successful initiative with just over 1,000 people taking advantage of the scheme, which will hopefully bolster the loyal and supportive Bolton Family for a long time to come.
We have also extended our half season ticket deadline until the Ipswich Town match later this month. Supporters taking advantage of this will be able to watch the final ten home games for a low price compared to buying tickets on a match by match basis. There is also a low price monthly direct debit facility which offers great flexibility when purchasing half season tickets. I encourage you to take up this offer as we focus on moving up the table. Your support is never underestimated by the players and staff! You can click HERE to buy a half season ticket and support the team for the second half of the season.
I am very conscious about preserving our season ticket guarantee, which ensures that the value of a season ticket will never be diluted by other offers and schemes. With that in mind, we will shortly be announcing a special promotion for season ticket holders for the Bristol City game, which of course is being televised live on Sky Sports and it would be fantastic to show the world a full Macron Stadium and how far the club has come since the grave threat to its very existence just over 22 months ago.
Finally, we take a slight detour from the travails of league action on Saturday when we entertain Premier League Huddersfield Town in the third round of the Emirates FA Cup. I know that the FA Cup means so much to the Bolton family. From the cup winning teams of 1923, 1926, 1929 and 1958 to the giant slayers of the 1990s, it is a competition that is held dear by you all.
This tie, just like the Crystal Palace matches last season, will allow us to pit our wits against a top flight team. It is an exciting prospect and one that I know you’ll all be looking forward to. Tickets have been reduced to just £15 for adults and £5 for concessions and I hope to see as many of you there as possible. Tickets can still be purchased online and at Bolton Central, while cash turnstiles will also be in operation on the day. You can click HERE to buy your tickets for tomorrow's game online and print from home.
Let’s be loud, let’s be proud and let’s get behind the boys because we are all stronger together.