A CRITICAL blow to Wanderers could emerge within the next couple of days, with an outstanding tax bill almost certain to mean that HMRC will issue a winding-up order.

Although two parties remain in serious negotiations to buy the club from owner Eddie Davies, the funds have not yet been put in place as expected, leading the club to investigate the worst case scenario.

The Bolton News understands that a plan is now place to buy the club about a week of leeway to secure the necessary £15 million to keep it running until the end of the season.

And in what is another significant blow for Wanderers, it has also been learned that club chairman Phil Gartside is gravely ill.

The man, who has been at the helm of the club for 16 years, will shortly be at home with his family, who have asked that the public respect their privacy at a difficult time.

Matters have deteriorated in the last few days for the Whites despite fervent negotiations with two investment groups.

Sports Shield Investments, led by Dean Holdsworth, appeared to be at the front of the queue, with the former striker appearing quite publicly in a hospitality box in Saturday’s 3-2 defeat against Cardiff City. They remain confident a deal can be struck and were deep in discussions last night in an effort to buy the football club.

Another consortium from Thailand has also taken keen interest, although momentum behind the bid of former midfielder Stelios Giannakopoulos now appears to have faded.

But doubts persist over the structure of both deals, and with the club bottom of The Championship and four points adrift of safety, it is now possible they could take the mandatory 12-point deduction and begin planning for life as a League One club next season.

Staff have been assured that every effort will be made to ensure that is not the case, although the lack of ready cash at the club’s disposal makes this a particularly difficult conundrum to solve for financial advisor Trevor Birch.

Senior players remained unpaid last month and may do again in December if the club goes into the costly business of administration.