Fuelled by adrenaline and the most supportive atmosphere in living memory the ‘Junior Whites’ had done themselves proud, earning a point against Coventry City against the odds and the respect of an entire fanbase in the process.
It was only as tired limbs and blistered feet were tended to in the dressing room after the game that the realisation set in: In 72 hours they would be doing this again at Rochdale in the Carabao Cup.
Only two players on Saturday’s team-sheet had played senior football twice in a week, James Weir and Harry Brockbank, and each of them had done it just once.
There are simply not enough players available at Wanderers for Phil Parkinson to rotate his squad but there were some notable absentees against Coventry.
Yesterday morning, in the latest of a long line of training ground confabs, the manager sat down with his senior players to discuss their next move.
Their non-participation at the weekend had not gone down well with many supporters and was cast in an even more negative light after the kids came up with an unexpected result. But to fully understand the motives behind their decision, and why the manager opted early on Friday morning to instruct youth team coaches Nicky Spooner and Gavin McCann to ready a side, we have to go back to last Friday in the Bolton Whites Hotel.
Josh Magennis – with a move to Hull City nagging at the back of his mind – had already refused to board the team bus. By mid-afternoon, the rest of the senior squad were doing likewise.
Players, already at their wits end after a horrendous summer, had been assured by administrators that full back-pay, dating back five months, would be in their account by lunchtime. When that didn’t happen to their liking, the team bus was left waiting outside the stadium with not a sole on board.
Frantic negotiations between coaching staff, administrators and advisors finally got things moving by 5pm but it was not until the following morning when Sharon Brittan, the figurehead of the Football Ventures Consortium, gave a explanation to players at the team hotel of what had gone wrong that Remi Matthews, Ben Alnwick, Erhun Oztumer, Luke Murphy and Jason Lowe agreed to play.
It is now known players received around 70 per cent of the money they expected to receive and that those who had moved on, or were still out of contract, would not be paid until the takeover is completed.
Little wonder, then, that the players’ reaction to Laurence Bassini’s court injunction and the consequent statement from joint-administrator, Paul Appleton, was quite so severe.
With a takeover seemingly stopped in its tracks and the club’s “very existence” reportedly in doubt, players felt they could not risk injury against Coventry and a potential loss of future earnings.
Ironically, it is now known Oztumer picked up a knee injury in the build-up which did legitimately rule him out, but in the previous fortnight players had seen Connor Hall and Josh Earl side-lined for a reasonable amount of time, so – rightly or wrongly – they made their feelings known.
Parkinson did not want a repeat of the previous weekend’s ‘will-they-won’t-they’ and so elected early to go with a young team against Coventry.
Now, after a talk between the manager and his senior pros, it has been agreed that Lowe, Matthews and Murphy will be in the squad for the Rochdale game, enabling at least a few changes to be made to the team which drew against Coventry.
It remains to be seen what reaction they will be given by away fans at Spotland, a ground where the proximity of supporters will not protect them from every syllable uttered.
Just a few years ago, midfielder Chris Taylor responded to taunts from the travelling fans at the same venue, effectively ending his Bolton career before it had even begun.
If the senior stars are to begin mending any broken bridges, they need only watch back the game they had missed on Saturday.