Sheepshanks: Day I feared the worst

WHEN Fredi Bobic completed his first-half hat-trick in Bolton's 4-1 trouncing of the Blues in April 2002, David Sheepshanks had a sickening premonition that even darker days lay ahead.

Derek Davis

WHEN Fredi Bobic completed his first-half hat-trick in Bolton's 4-1 trouncing of the Blues in April 2002, David Sheepshanks had a sickening premonition that even darker days lay ahead.

Town subsequently returned to Division One and, as was the norm back then, they were saddled with players on enormous salaries without any clauses to take cuts on relegation, a team that was losing its famed spirit and a financial market that was crumbling all around.

Sheepshanks recalls: “Although we were


You may also want to watch:


formally relegated on the last day I remember getting a truly sickening feeling at Bolton when we were roundly beaten 4-1. Even though I didn't know what or how, I had a feeling deep in my stomach that it was going to be really serious for us.

“By then ITV Digital had gone bust, there were real worries in the Premier League that the European Commission were investigating their collective transfer deals so there was less

Most Read

dealing in the market.

“When we were relegated the new transfer window opened for the first time, which no one had known even a few months before was going to be introduced, so no one could really prepare for it.

“It meant we had to sell on a collapsing market, with no buyers with a time limit of three and a half months.

“It was the perfect storm.”

The only way Town could have avoided going into administration was by selling their star players, and getting rid of the top earners who had been brought in from the continent to help the side in Europe.

Believing they were doing the right thing, and encouraged by supporters and the regional media Matt Holland and Hermann Hreidarsson rejected big money moves to Aston Villa (more than �4million) and West Bromwich Albion (nearly �3m) respectively.

Sheepshanks said: “We were victims of our own success because we had generated such a good spirit in the club that some individuals that we wanted to sell didn't want to leave.

“They believed in the club so much and believed in the rhetoric that we were going to be promoted that they did not want to leave.

“Those fees would have sorted us out but from then on it was like managing a club in quicksand.

“The window closed on August 31 and it just got worse. Everything the board tried to

re-finance was just impossible due to the economic climate in football.”

After a reasonable start to the season, and wins in the UEFA Cup, it all started to unravel for George Burley and he was sacked in October.

Sheepshanks said: “It was extremely hard saying goodbye to George but he and I have spoken about it and we are now good friends again. It was a tough time then though. It was decided after we lost 3-0 at Grimsby on a dire night and it looked like the wheels were coming off.”

Joe Royle came in but the financial situation was getting worse and he was forced to sell, and in February the club went into administration.

Sheepshanks said: “In January there was no activity in the transfer market.

“The third highest transfer fee in that window was the �1.1m to Birmingham for Jamie Clapham.

“Then we had that terrible day and I will take that to my grave. It was unavoidable and if any one of us could have done it differently we would have done.”

Sheepshanks asked the board if they wanted him to resign but they did not and he stayed on to steer the club back to a solvency and sought a new buyer.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus