THE sound of laughter and applause has been rare of late at Bolton Wanderers, a club pushed to the brink by neglectful ownership and crippling financial issues, but all that could be about to change.

No sooner had Sharon Brittan and her Football Ventures consortium stepped out of the car and into the stadium, staff were being embraced like long-lost friends.

A gathering was called in the hotel’s Reflections Bar for every single member of staff, and best of all the club’s new owners had brought cakes.

There had been no speeches planned from Manchester-born Brittan, nor those who flanked her – the lifelong Wanderers fan, Michael James, or the club’s new CEO Emma Beaugeard, but nevertheless the situation demanded an address. And judging by the rapturous ovation, it hit the spot.

Employees who had continued to keep the club breathing despite going without pay, and who had feared for their jobs after liquidation appeared the only alternative to FV’s successful takeover, were now smiling, mingling freely with the new owners and being asked about their family.

It contrasted starkly to their first meeting with previous owner, Ken Anderson, where many of the same people were sat down en-masse and informed their jobs would most likely be under review.

Football Ventures had been rather enigmatic through the administration process by virtue of the fact they courted no publicity, nor made any public declarations.

Up to this point, Bolton’s fans had only really seen Brittan fleetingly on camera, as one excitable fan asked her as she walked through the front door at Wycombe: “Sharon, ‘az it bin dun?”

But the early signs are that locals will warm quickly to the new chair of the board, who gave her first interview to The Bolton News just 24 hours after the long-awaited takeover was announced.

“Three hours after we’d completed the deal I went to bed. An hour later the adrenaline was still going through me and ‘ping’ I was awake with ‘az it bin dun’ going through my head,” she laughed.

“We had a huge sense of frustration, certainly I did as the leader of the consortium, where we chose to remain silent. We did that because it was so complicated and there were so many different parts to bring together.

“I felt if the deal did go through, I’d talk, and if it didn’t, I’d talk. But we worked 18 hours a day behind the scenes and it was the most difficult deal I have ever done in my career, by a mile.”

The deal to buy the club and hotel out of administration is reported to be worth £17.4million and includes financial backing from Pink Floyd drummer – and Brittan’s business partner – Nick Mason, and businessman Keith Morris.

Brittan, whose grandfather came over from Poland and worked at Burnley for 60 years, said it was not until last year that a conversation with James nudged her in Bolton’s direction.

“We had what I thought would be a 15-minute conversation. It turned into three hours,” she said.

“At the end of that talk I felt there was a very good chance we’d move forward and buy Bolton Wanderers.

“It ticked a lot of boxes for me. I was born in Manchester, I grew up around Turf Moor and Burnley. I have a deep-rooted love of football and went out to work for 30 years but at 52 went back to look at owning a football club. I want to build a business where everyone works together cohesively to build a dynamic team where you can see the results on a Saturday afternoon. And not just the players, the whole team.

“I spent two hours talking to staff and I’m not sure I have ever come across a team like it. It was utterly extraordinary.”

It could never be said that the deal to buy Bolton ran smoothly, although Brittan always felt confident Football Ventures would get there in the end.

Her biggest hurdle, however, was a deeply personal one.

“I’m an eternal optimist. There were times when I felt it was so complicated, maybe there were times when I wondered if it would come together – but deep in my heart, yes, I always thought we’d do it,” she said.

“Right in the heart of the transaction I lost my sister, on June 16, very suddenly. She was my only sibling and we were very close.

“One of the last text messages she sent me was ‘how are things going at Bolton?’ And I replied: ‘very difficult’.

“She texted me back: ‘Never give up!’ And I think immediately after her death that was the driver for me to continue to buy this wonderful club.

“Losing Anita was a very tough time in my life and she was on this journey with me. She was born in Manchester with me and she wanted this too. There’s a sense of elation and also a sense of sadness.

“But we got here and most people who know me know I don’t give up very easily.”

So scarred is the Bolton fanbase from recent financial problems, any owners coming into the club are bound to face questions about the durability of their business plan. Here, the Boltonian tones of Michael James take over.

The Westhoughton-based businessman dug deep to help pay staff wages at the height of the crisis in May and joked that helping Football Ventures was the “most expensive season ticket I’ve ever bought”.

But James, who will not be involved in the day-to-day running of the club, has told his fellow supporters not to expect overnight success.

“This is a long road,” he said. “We have seen too many quick fixes in football including the awful demise of Bury, which is just horrible. Both Sharon and I will attempt to help them if there is any flicker of light there.

“Football is in a transitional period and needs to come out of the dark ages. As any household will tell you, living beyond your means doesn’t work.

“The over-spenders are legend and we haven’t got the fanbase or the financial clout to just keep going and throwing good money after bad. But what we have got is a plan to do what we want to do.

“For us to have got to where we have in six months, it’ll make a TV series, it really will.”

Brittan backed up his confidence that firm foundations would be laid.

“We have fully researched and put together a very detailed plan which is fully funded for three years,” she said.

“I like to deliver. I absolutely believe that is what we will do here at Bolton Wanderers Football Club.

“In a very short period of time people will see what we are about. We are real. We are approachable. We are honest. And we are ready to go on one heck of a journey.

“I’m a great believer that if you do things the right way, they’ll come good. There’s a sense of community spirit here in Bolton and that’s what I love.”

New CEO Beaugeard has worked alongside Brittan for three decades and talks in the same warm and friendly tones about her new surroundings.

“Me and Sharon have grown up together, professionally, and with some of our business partners we have watched all sorts of businesses build,” she explained.

“Looking at what we want to do now for Bolton Wanderers, we are not looking to scale-up, staff-wise, although there are some holes that will need plugging.

“We don’t want to be top heavy with executive levels or management.

“Nearly everyone we have talked to here have held on, and that’s just gold. You couldn’t be in a better position to come into something like this and already have these fabulous people waiting.

“I won’t be tinkering in the football. That is not my strength. But running a team and getting the best out of them – I can do that well.”

So much has been said and written about the money which seeped out of Wanderers in the last few years but Brittan wants to put fans’ minds at rest.

“We’ll be looking to put in, not take out,” she said. “None of our group is looking to remove anything.

“We want to add richness, quality, goodness, time, effort, intelligence and build something really special off the back of that.”