After a hard and desperate season, Vital Bilton caught up with the Bilton Dunderers chairman, Gil Fartslime, to discuss past, present, and future.
Gil, do you envisage a busy summer in preparation of the 2012/13 campaign?
Well, yes, absolutely. First of all I have to go over the plans for the upgrade on the Chairman`s office, now we have twenty three other chairmen coming rather than nineteen. I have to get more whisky, gin, rum and some of those excellent truffles that Waitrose are doing at the moment. We were going to get some white wine as well but, as Karren Brady has been promoted, that won`t be needed. Then we have to look at player recruitment. I have given the manager a free hand on player contracts and we have offered new ones to Justi Inaminuten and Pratt Blight and we expect them to sign in a few days. Don`t worry about Wong-Dung Pee. Whilst he was under anaesthetic last August we put a pen in his hand and then wafted a contract under the pen. There was some contact so we have a legitimate signature. Well, it looks Korean. You can`t really tell can you? It`s all Greek to me.
All our younger players are on long term contracts because we told their parents they could all have a free night in that room that overlooks the pitch if they signed. We will also be taking advantage of the loan system with clubs like Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City and they will probably send us some dregs, especially as we gave them all at least four points last year.
The most important thing is, the manager`s plan will be backed. Do you know that his favourite film is The Charge of The Light Brigade?
Although a way off, what are your thoughts for next season?
Well, keep it under your hat, but we`re pretty screwed aren`t we? I mean, the same division as Wolves, Blackburn, Blackpool, Sheffield Wednesday (do you know their former manager? Lovely fellow), Middlesbrough, Cardiff, Birmingham, Charlton, Huddersfield and Ipswich. I mean, we`d be lucky to just get relegated one division with that lot against us. I`d expect a few of us will get flogged out of town in a few places. They do that kind of thing in Peterborough you know? And as for Nottingham Forest, they`ve won the European Cup. Twice. I mean. Twice. That`s as many times as we`ve been in Europe altogether. I know that it was thirty years ago and that they had Brian Clough as a manager, but you`ve got to put these things into context.
West Ham got back into the Barclays Premier League under Big Sam through the play offs. With half of our squad, if I`m not mistaken. I have no idea what this has to do with anything. Big Sam can kiss my arse for all I care.
What about last season?
Well, yes. Disappointing, absolutely. But I gave myself a wage rise, so it`s not all bad. And, like I said, it means I can upgrade the office. Oh, the football? Well, I had to look away at times during the season, as the waiter took my order. And the next thing you know, the opposition score. I thought about boarding up the dressing room door during the first half so that Owen couldn`t give a half time team talk. Kevin Davies came to me early in the season and said that if I wanted Owen knocking out for a few minutes at half time then he knew a woman who knew a man, but nothing came of it.
I have to thank the fans, especially those who came the weekend after Fabrice Muamba collapsed as that pushed us over the line for a three percent increase in average attendance and all the extra revenue it gave us. I`m especially glad as it means I can buy one of those globe drinks cabinets for the office.
We also saw the away attendance increase by six percent, as if they knew that they wouldn`t be visiting these places again for a while. Looking ahead we have already sold 6,000 season tickets, our buy now before the end of the season when we won`t know where we will be discount was particularly effective. We expect a pretty busy two to three weeks as we field calls from people wanting to cancel their direct debits. I think we may have to take on extra staff for that.
Would you say the 2011/12 season was one of the most testing times during your period as chairman of Bolton Wanderers?
Well, I had to go through a lot of trials and tribulations getting that new contract for myself, but I feel the journey was worthwhile. Let me tell you, that was an emotional rollercoaster, like the Big One at Blackpool. We started at the top and we finished at the bottom.
However, we start next season afresh. Stuart Golden will be back, as long as those new pins hold, and Wong-Dung Pee played at the end of last season and we expect that he’ll be OK until we play Barrow in the pre-season and he breaks his neck after another mistimed tackle from a non-league player. And we will be looking to add to that mix by buying back Fabdi Daye, Taylor Matty and Howaboutyou O’Brien from West Ham. I don’t think Big Sam will countenance selling us back their striker until at least October, after he has fallen over eight times in the box after being one on one with the ‘keeper. Just like the good old days.
Even though the 2011/12 season finished more than two weeks ago, some fans still think we can’t go back up next season. And, let me tell you, I’m one of them. But don’t publish that. Some have this misplaced optimism and keep on going on about ‘In Owen We Trust’, like that’s going to get us back up.
I was at the service of remembrance last week with the manager and that always reminds you just how much our club means to people and how Bilton Dunderers runs through family’s generations. It reinforced how much we strive to be a family club. Although we fail quite majestically, most of the time.
We may not get that right any of the time, but we know how important fans are. I mean, they paid for this nice suit. Players, managers and chairmen come and go but the support always remains. Well, I say that but I expect crowds of about the level of the Wrexham game from December 1987 to be honest. There are better things to do than watching Barnsley on a cold mid winters Tuesday after all.
We do want to take the club forward and build a new stage so that we can hold car boot sales on the pitch every other Sunday. It would be great to be able to count on the support of fans, but we’re not kidding ourselves. Just look at the attendances the last time we were in the second tier. You couldn’t give some of the tickets away. And we did, against Grimsby.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and pee in the executive washroom. Shall we continue this later in the week?