When Jay Spearing made the permanent switch to Bolton, the Wanderers were a solid Championship side with hopes of making their way back into the Premier League one day. With the deal done, it seemed likely to be the last Liverpool fans would hear of Spearing, who most felt had found his level with Bolton in the Championship.
Three years on, though, and Spearing is back in the news with his old club after Liverpool refused to defer an £100k payment set to be triggered the next time he played for Bolton. As a result, the Wanderers felt they had no choice but to sit Spearing over the weekend against Preston North End, a game that Bolton ended up losing by a score of 2-1.
"We had to leave Jay out because we can’t afford to pay the money," said Bolton manager Neil Lennon. "We did ask if they would defer it but they said no—and that’s fine, it’s their prerogative—but if he plays another game we have to pay a certain amount to them and we can’t afford that right now. That leaves him in limbo; a difficult position."
So far, Spearing has played 85 games for Bolton since he made the permanent switch in the summer of 2013. He has also played 15 games on loan with Blackburn, adding up to a total of 100 appearances while on the books of the Wanderers. When he plays his 101st, Liverpool are owed the £100k payment Bolton can’t currently afford.
Bolton currently sit last in the Championship table, 11 points from safety with nine games to go. A win against Preston would have made that eight points with nine to go. Either way, relegation would be nearly certain, though at least had the gap been less than the games left there might have at least seemed some reason for Bolton fans to hope.
As it stands, the safe assumption is that the Wanderers will find themselves in League One next season—quite possibly with another former top flight side, Wigan Athletic, taking their place in the Championship via promotion. And that means it’s difficult to imagine the increasingly cash-strapped side being able to afford to pay any time soon.
"It’s hard to take," added Lennon. "Because I think we missed him against Preston."