Craig Salmon’s Soapbox: Bolton’s plight puts Preston North End’s prudence in perspective

Bolton Wanderers fans protest before Monday night's game against West Bromwich Albion
Bolton Wanderers fans protest before Monday night's game against West Bromwich Albion

Maurice Lindsay – the former Preston North End chairman – often had a way with words.

The ex-Wigan Warriors supremo enjoyed a brief stint as the head of PNE from the summer of 2010 until ill health forced him to resign in December of the following year.

Brought in to stabilise the club and put it back on a sound financial footing following Trevor Hemmings’ takeover in 2010, I recall being on the phone to Lindsay one afternoon.

It was during the summer of 2011 and we were discussing the club’s affairs as they headed into the forthcoming season – a campaign which would ultimately end in relegation to League One.

“You journalists are well read aren’t you?” I remember Lindsay saying to me. “You know about Charles Dickens, don’t you?”

“Err well yes,” I replied.

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds, nineteen shillings and sixpence – result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds nought and six – result misery,” Lindsay recited a quote uttered by the great novelist of the Victorian era.

Of course, what Lindsay was alluding to was the state of PNE’s finances of the previous decade when the club had been going all out to win promotion from the Championship.

Spending more money on players’ wages than it was bringing in through its revenue streams, North End were gambling somewhat on winning a place in the Premier League.

Although the dream almost became a reality – as two play-off final defeats testify – the fact is the gamble did not pay off and PNE later teetered on the brink of insolvency.

Around that time, Hemmings revealed to this newspaper that he was investing around three-quarters of a million pounds a month just to keep the club afloat.

Supporters may moan and groan about the lack of Premier League football, but I imagine they would much prefer this scenario than the one befalling their counterparts down the road at Bolton Wanderers.

Okay, the Trotters enjoyed several years in the top flight, a season of European football and the signings of world reknown stars such as Jay Jay Okocha, Fernando Hierro and Ivan Campo, but the speed of their decline following relegation from the Premier League illustrates just how superficial Wanderers’ success was.

In many ways, it could be argued that Bolton cheated their way to 11 successive years in the Premier League by committing to a financial plan they ultimately could not afford.

Years later following relegation from the Premier League in 2012, the club has been served with several winding up petitions and appears to be heading for another stint in League One.

Their supporters held a protest at the ongoing way the way their once proud club is run before, and after, their defeat to West Bromwich Albion at home on Monday.

The financial fair play rules may encourage clubs to operate on the basis of their own revenues, but money from sources outside of football still dominates the game and may still cause clubs to overstretch themselves in the pursuit of success.

However, having a prudent, stable club doing things the right way is far better than having the situation which is taking place just a few miles south along the M61.