Bolton Wanderers midfielder Jay Spearing may have played his final match of the season due to a contract clause inserted following his permanent switch from Liverpool in August 2013. The former Leicester City and Blackburn Rovers loanee has made 22 league appearances for the Championship strugglers so far this term and one more outing will result in an extra payment – believed to be worth £100,000 ($143,000) – being owed to his previous club.
While that may not seem like a significant sum of money in football's current climate, Bolton have been dogged by financial difficulties over recent months. They were even served with a winding-up order by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in December 2015 over an unpaid tax bill worth £2.2m, amid reported debts of approximately £172.9m.
That threat has now been eradicated following three High Court adjournments and the completion of a £7.5m takeover by the Sports Shield Consortium headed by former striker Dean Holdsworth. However, Spearing's future still looks uncertain after Liverpool declined the option to postpone the instalment prior to Bolton's 2-1 home defeat by Preston North End on 12 March.
"We had to leave Jay out because we can't afford to pay money to Liverpool," Lennon was quoted as saying by The Bolton News. "We did ask if they would defer it but they said no, and that's fine, it's their prerogative.
"If he plays another game we have to pay a certain amount of money to them but we can't afford that right now. That leaves him in limbo, a difficult position. And that is hard to take as well because I think we missed him against Preston."
He later added: "I spoke to Jay's agent and made him aware of the situation. I then spoke to Jay before the game too. He was obviously very disappointed and we'll have to see what we can do about it. He has been playing well and I didn't want to leave him out.
"I thought we missed Jay's passing at times and the way he breaks play up. But it isn't an excuse to lose the game. We had enough out there to win it."
Defeat to Preston, coupled with Charlton Athletic's victory over out-of-form promotion contenders Middlesbrough, has left troubled Bolton stranded at the foot of the second tier, 11 points adrift of safety with only nine fixtures remaining. Lennon's men, who narrowly avoided administration amid that financial crisis, travel to Bristol City next before matches against Reading, Brentford and Derby.