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Bolton forced to call off League One fixture to protect young players as takeover turmoil continues

‘…to call on them for another match without an adequate break would be detrimental to both their welfare and development.’

Bolton will likely face sanctions from the EFL for postponing Tuesday's fixture.
Bolton will likely face sanctions from the EFL for postponing Tuesday's fixture.
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

BOLTON WANDERS HAVE been forced to pull out of Tuesday’s League One fixture with Doncaster Rovers citing the welfare of their first-team squad, which is composed almost entirely of youth players.

The Lancashire club, who have been in administration since May, are currently awaiting the completion of a protracted takeover by Football Ventures and have only five senior players in their first-team squad (only three of those were available to play in last weekend’s defeat to Tranmere).

Bolton cancelled three pre-season friendlies earlier this summer when it emerged that players had gone five months without payment. The majority of them — including Ireland youth international Luca Connell, who joined Celtic — departed the club, leaving manager Phil Parkinson with a team of untested academy players at his disposal.

Bolton were initially able to sign new players when their takeover seemed to be on the brink of reaching its conclusion earlier this month, but that Football Ventures move was temporarily blocked by a court order — issued by Laurence Bassini, who had tried to buy the club earlier this year before the deal fell through — meaning they were once more unable to add to their thinned-out roster.

Parkinson’s makeshift side went down 2-0 at Wycombe on the opening day and earned a credible 0-0 draw at home to Coventry last Saturday week, but over the past week they have lost 5-2 and 5-0 to Rochdale and Tranmere in the League Cup and League One respectively.

With those results and the hectic first-team schedule in mind, the club has decided against fulfilling Tuesday night’s encounter with Doncaster for fear of inhibiting their players’ welfare and/or development.

“It is with real regret and a deepening sense of frustration that we have been forced to postpone tomorrow’s fixture against Doncaster Rovers,” read a Wanderers statement.

Whilst the threat of further EFL sanctions is obvious, nothing can be allowed to impact on the welfare of such a young group of players. With so many senior players injured or unavailable, the squad has performed heroically and deserves so much credit. But after consultation with the club’s medical staff, it is obvious that to call on them for another match without an adequate break would be detrimental to both their welfare and development which cannot be allowed.

“We were able to bring in reinforcements before the match against Coventry because the deal was so close to completion. Now, following recent events, the legal position of various parties has altered which means a delay in completion. In this situation, it is very difficult to attract available players to the club.

I will be discussing the implications with the EFL but in the meantime, I would call on all parties involved with the acquisition of the club and hotel to end this intolerable delay and secure once and for all the future of Bolton Wanderers.

“Further details on reimbursement for any tickets sold for tomorrow’s game will follow.”

Bolton Wanderers v Coventry City - Sky Bet League One - University of Bolton Stadium Bolton manager Phil Parkinson. Source: Dave Howarth

Manager Parkinson revealed on Saturday that he had contacted the EFL regarding his youthful squad’s current plight, and called for the quick resolution of Football Ventures’ attempted takeover.

“I’ve spoken many times in the past couple of weeks,” he told BBC Manchester. “Asking young players to go again is not right.

We sent an email to the English Football League explaining about our concerns over the welfare of our young players playing these games in quick succession, but we were told we had to play the game.

“Honestly, it’s just unacceptable. This is Bolton Wanderers Football Club, a fantastic club with a great history, and we need a bit of help. If it’s not going to be sold, we need to be able to bring some players in.

“If you go back to the Wycombe game (on 3 August), you thought, ‘Could we put a team on the pitch with the situation we’re in?’ and we did. Now it’s two weeks later and we’re in the same situation.

“No new players in, no sign of the deal getting done, there’s signs of people out there wanting to buy the club but still no sign of it going over the line.”

When contacted by BBC Sport, the EFL said welfare checks are in place for any under-18s playing first-team football.

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