Long-serving Bolton chairman Phil Gartside has passed away after a short battle with cancer.
The 63-year-old joined the Bolton board in 1988 and served as club chairman from 1999 until illness forced him to step away from his duties in November.
Gartside’s death was confirmed by Bolton in a statement on Wednesday evening.
“Bolton Wanderers Football Club is deeply saddened to announce that long-standing club chairman Phil Gartside has died aged 63,” the club said on their official website.
“Phil has passed away after a short and brave battle with cancer.”
Bolton owner Eddie Davies, who began working alongside Gartside in 1996, told Sky Sports News: ”It’s sad news for all of us, especially Bolton and especially football.
”We’ve known about what’s been going on for some time and we’ve kept it quiet, but it’s now come to this and everybody knows and we’re all very sad.
”We started working together in 1996 and we actually plotted how to get into the Premier League, which we achieved and we were there for 11 years.
“Phil was with me all that time and he built a fantastic infrastructure around the club, it’s one of the best in the Premier League never mind in the Championship, and it’s all credit to him.
”We were very unlucky to get relegated but Phil has been fundamental in everything that Bolton achieved in that period of time.
”He was Bolton Wanderers through and through, from being a boy, right until today’s tragic day. I can’t really thank him enough for what he has done.
“He’s been my right-hand man, we worked very closely together and I’ll be forever grateful to him.”
Bolton were promoted to the Premier League via the play-offs under Gartside’s leadership and would go on to seal four consecutive top-eight finishes.
Wanderers also had two UEFA Cup campaigns before relegation in 2012, with the club currently 23rd in the Championship and seeking new investors.
The club were spared liquidation on January 18 by the High Court and granted a five-week extension at a winding-up hearing brought about by a debt of £2.2million to HM Revenue and Customs.
Commenting on the recent financial troubles suffered by the club, Davies added: “‘My view is Bolton will survive, we’ll make sure it does, and we’ll preserve Phil’s legacy forever more.”
Tributes poured in from players past and present, as well as figures varying from TV presenter Vernon Kay to boxer Amir Khan.
The latter called Gartside a “Bolton hero”, while Wanderers midfielders Josh Vela and Neil Danns sent their prayers to his family.
Kevin Davies, who spent 10 years at Bolton, posted on Twitter: “Thoughts going out to Phil Gartside’s family Carol, Andrew and Beverley #bwfc”.
Recently-retired former Bolton midfielder Stuart Holden said: “Phil Gartside lived for BWFC and poured his passion and emotion into the club. He was a friend and someone I will always hold in high regard.”
Dougie Freedman managed Bolton during their time in the Championship and paid tribute to Gartside, who he worked under between 2012 and 2014.
“Phil had such a passion for football and was a fantastic fella outside the game as well,” the Nottingham Forest manager said.
“Bolton had difficult times as a football club and I saw him working 12-hour days to try and put things right. He took a lot of things on his shoulders, a lot of people told him to slow down, but he cared so much.
“We knew he was seriously ill but it was still a shock to hear he’d passed away. He helped take Bolton into a new stadium, a new training ground, European football. He deserves all the decent tributes he’s going to get.
“Personally, I’ll remember many acts of kindness that people won’t necessarily know about.
“Even though he had so many things on his plate, he was always there for advice or volunteering to help. His family will be devastated by his loss and I send my sincere condolences to them and wish Bolton Wanderers well.”
The Premier League and many clubs released statements expressing sadness at Gartside’s passing, as did the Football Association.
The Bolton chairman served on the FA Board and FA Council between 2004 and 2012, as well as being a non-executive director of Wembley Stadium until last July.
FA chairman Greg Dyke said: “On behalf of The FA, I am saddened to hear of this news.
“Phil had a lifelong association with Bolton Wanderers and did much to help the club achieve success upon becoming chairman in 1999.
“As well as leading Bolton during an extended stay in the Premier League over several seasons, he joined The FA Board in 2004 and was as dedicated to this role as he was to his club before stepping down in 2012.
“Our thoughts are with his family and friends today.”
Gartside’s funeral will be a private service, in line with his family’s wishes.