Wanderers will mark the end of an era when long-serving club secretary Simon Marland leaves his post after four decades of outstanding service to the club.
Simon is standing down at the end of the season, although he will remain a familiar face around the University of Bolton Stadium and continue to work for Wanderers in a part-time capacity as a historian.
The 63-year-old lifelong Wanderers’ fan, who grew up in Farnworth, first started his professional association with the Whites at the start of the 1980s when he wrote for the programme and covered the reserve team home and away.
Initially an accountant by trade, Simon joined Wanderers in his first-full time capacity as part of the finance team in 1993 when Bruce Rioch was manager before becoming club secretary in 2000 following the retirement of Des McBain.
He has since been a vital part of the football administration at Wanderers – helping to guide the club through highs and lows and working to assist and facilitate the arrivals of some of the biggest names in the club’s history.
Since 1975, he has missed only one first-team fixture – due to a car accident en route to Watford in 1981 – and has seen over 4,000 games played by Wanderers at all levels, dating back to May, 1967 when he witnessed a 5-0 win over Millwall in the old Second Division with his father Neville.
“It was the last home game of the season and the last away game the following week my dad took me up to Carlisle and we lost 6-1,” Simon recalled.
“And that’s what following Bolton Wanderers has been like. You can be world beaters or the worst team ever – in the space of a week!”
Simon retained a great love for Burnden Park – despite some of the tough footballing times there in the 1980s – before embracing the move to Wanderers’ new stadium (initially the Reebok) in 1997.
By the time he became secretary Sam Allardyce was in place as manager, someone he had first known as a youth player with Wanderers, and the glory years were on the way.
“We got into the Premier League and stayed in the Premier League,” Simon added.
“Then we started bringing in the overseas players and it became a different club – in a positive way.
“We’d done it in the 1990s a little bit, but now we were bringing in superstars everyone had heard of – like Djorkaeff, like Okocha.
“If you had said when I took over as secretary in 2000 that we would be playing in the UEFA Cup against Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid no-one would have believed you.
“I thought our European days were going to be playing in the Anglo Italian Cup, like we did in the 1990s, and Pisa and Ancona were going to be our limit.
“And we were there turning up at the UEFA Cup draw with all the big clubs, who were also there for the Champions League draw, and you’re thinking ‘big time here!’”
After the heady days of Europe and the Premier League, Wanderers have had it tougher since, hitting a lowest ebb when the club nearly went under in 2019.
Understandably, they were the darkest days experienced by Simon and his colleagues, but since then he has been part of the team successfully working under the new ownership of Sharon Brittan and Football Ventures which saved Wanderers to lay the foundations for a planned climb back up the divisions.
“Football is like life. You’ll have your good times and bad times,” said Simon, whose steady hand on the tiller in dealing with all football-related administrative matters, disciplinary issues and contractual paperwork has been a re-assuring constant throughout his time in office.
“And if you get to the end and you’ve had more good times than bad, you’ve not done so bad.
“I’d like to think we’ve had more good times at the club than bad. I’ve been lucky.
“We are in a much better position now than we were even 12 months ago. When you think we were in League 2 and you think ‘we’ve got to get out first time’ and we did.
“As long as we keep building now and each season gets slightly better, hopefully in the next five or six years we will end back to where we should be.”
Wanderers will be advertising the position of club secretary in the near future to prepare for Simon’s departure at the end of 22 years in his current role.
“Simon has been an outstanding servant of Bolton Wanderers, whose level of commitment and passion for the club he supports must be almost unique in our game," said Wanderers’ chairman Sharon Brittan.
“His knowledge, expertise and experience have been vital in helping to guide this great club.
“Those qualities – together with his support and dedication – have been invaluable to me and my colleagues since we took over with the aim of bringing back some more of the success he was previously part of with Wanderers.
“I am very thankful to him. He will be missed but, equally, always welcome and I know he will continue to be a valuable part of the Wanderers’ family in a different way in the future.
“On behalf of the Bolton Wanderers family I would like to wish him well in his retirement and I know he will continue to be a familiar and friendly face around the University of Bolton Stadium.”