The Sell-On Clause: Bolton's Biggest Success

  • August 02, 2014 | By Chris Mann
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Following Dougie Freedman's comments on re-sale values of young players, we take a look at Bolton's best example of success in that area of the market.

Nearly two years have passed since Freedman swapped Crystal Palace for the managerial hot seat at Bolton and in an interview published in Saturday's edition of The Bolton News, the Wanderers boss revealed his surprise at how the club had no sell-on clauses included in contracts of players who had moved to other clubs.

"I was astonished when I first came to the club that we had no-one out there on loan with re-sale values," he said.

"If a young player doesn't make it, for whatever reason, I want him to go out, get a club and then also get a re-sale value for us.

"If you do your business that way, all of a sudden we'll have 15-20 boys out there who might get a move and then you can make money that way."

Those quotes came about as news broke that Bolton had accepted offers for two of their development squad players - Tom Eaves and Cian Bolger.

Eaves joined Wanderers from Oldham Athletic in August 2010, but has made just four senior appearances for the club, while Bolger, signed from Leicester City in January 2013, has failed to force his way into the manager's first-team plans.

With their respective careers looking almost certain to be in the lower divisions, Wanderers feel inclined to take small upfront fees - with the added promise of sell-on clauses being inserted into their contracts elsewhere.

This isn't a new feature of football transfers. In fact, Bolton have used this to their advantage in the past - most successfully with David Norris, who left the Reebok Stadium for Plymouth Argyle more than a decade ago.

In February 2000, then Trotters boss Sam Allardyce completed the £50,000 signing of Norris from Boston United. He made two League Cup appearances in the opening weeks of the 2000/01 campaign, before returning to his former club on loan.

He made three further cup appearances the following season - two in the League Cup and one in the FA Cup - before spending the rest of the campaign on loan at Hull City.

Norris was sent out on loan once again at the start of the 2002/03 season, this time to Plymouth, before making the move permanent in December of that year for a fee of just £25,000 - representing a 50% loss on the fee paid for him just two-and-a-half years earlier.

In total, Norris made five senior appearances for Wanderers but failed to turn out in a single league fixture for the club.

Norris' time at Plymouth was much more of a success than his stay at Bolton. If you include his time on loan, before making the deal permanent, he was a regular part of a side that worked their way up from Division Three (League Two) to the Championship in just three seasons.

Argyle were regular mid-table finishers over the next few years, but Norris' time at Home Park came to an end in January 2008. After handing in a transfer request, a third bid from Ipswich Town was enough to prompt a sale - with a fee of £2million being exchanged between the two clubs.

Although they gave in to the money eventually, Plymouth had a very good reason for rejecting Town's opening two bids for the player. Just over five years earlier, as part of the deal saw him leave Bolton, a 50% sell-on clause was inserted into his contract, meaning Wanderers were now due a £1million payment for a player they sold for just £25,000.

After ending a three-and-a-half year spell at Portman Road in 2011, Norris spent 12-months at Portsmouth and has played for Leeds United for the previous two campaigns.

Of course, not all careers will turn out the way of Norris'. Some players will simply disappear off the radar or become journeymen, as has happened with the likes of Adam Blakeman, Temitope Obadeyi and Rob Lainton in recent times.

The polar opposite can also happen, but, unlike Norris, Wanderers have missed out on added income due to the terms of a sale or simply releasing a player who has been deemed surplus to requirements. Young players to leave Bolton and go on to have solid careers include Jonathan Walters, James Caton, Jaroslaw Fojut and Aaron Mooy - leaving Wanderers left to think about what might have been, both on the pitch and in the financial department.

Sky Bet League One Standings

Pos Team Pld Pts
7 Plymouth Argyle 46 80
8 Oxford United 46 76
9 Bolton Wanderers 46 73
10 Portsmouth 46 73
11 Ipswich Town 46 70
View Full Standings >>


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