Forget the football hierarchy – Bolton’s four FA Cups, their 11 consecutive years of Premier League football, the superstars who have worn the white shirt – the stark reality is that they will welcome Gareth Ainsworth’s side as underdogs in their own stadium on Saturday. And for good reason.
Opinions differ on the terraces as to how culpable Boltonian Hill should be after inheriting a club fresh out of administration and still in freefall in August, one, as he rightly points out, which had hardly been pulling up trees under Phil Parkinson for two seasons prior in the Championship.
But nevertheless, terrace pride has been stung by the constant poundings taken in the last five months, and there is a sense that with survival now a distant prospect the wrong performance on Saturday could be a tipping point.
Hill may be forgiven for wishing this season away, even though it looks destined to end in relegation. Given a chance to start again in League Two – a division in which he and David Flitcroft have a very reasonable record – and build from the bottom up, many still feel he has all the right attributes to turn around a club now unrecognisable from those top flight days.
But with more than a third of it left to run, he knows only a run of results will get people back onside.
“I have been to big clubs before who are languishing in League Two, Portsmouth for example, and witnessed the home crowd turning on the home team because they were not beating a perceived lower standard club,” he told us. “There is a pressure, a massive one, whether it’s Coventry, Bolton, Portsmouth, Sunderland.
“Paul Cook went in at Pompey and got play-offs then automatic promotion, so it was a quick in and a quick out.
“If we’d have taken over this football club in the close season with basically no points deduction and a plan of spending a budget wisely on a group of players to get out of League One, it would have been our agenda. But it isn’t.
“Patience? There is none in football. But there’s only one quick fix and that’s a cheque book. And it doesn’t always work when you spend money.”
In one sense, Hill’s job is not dissimilar to the last man who managed Bolton when they fell into the bottom division for the one and only time in their history, Phil Neal.
Steady erosion through the 1980s left the Liverpool legend, then player-manager, with a near-impossible job on his hands. But an immediate promotion propelled the club back into the old Division Three and enabled Neal to pave the way for Bruce Rioch. And we all know what happened there.
The remainder of this season may be viewed as an exercise in PR. Hill may have divided supporters with a couple of comments of late – but his knowledge of life at this level of football is extensive. And he is not green enough to think the defeats will be accepted without question.
Asked what he has to do to win back some people’s faith, he said: “We’ve got to win, we’ve got to give them hope. Everybody likes a little bit of hope.
“I would speak to the Portsmouth supporters, for example, because they have been through some bad experiences watching the team lose games in League Two, being mid-table in League Two.
“It is funny, regardless of what standard of football you are playing at, supporters come back through the turnstiles when you are winning games and they are happy again.
“Football is a long journey and you have to have a certain amount of character to stand up for yourself in the hard times. It’s easy when everyone is winning and you are better than your opponents and you are automatic.
“There have been too many changes this season and I am not complaining. I am trying to configure our best options.
“We have to make fewer mistakes because they have detracted from OK performances. I don’t think there was a lot of drama in the first half against Doncaster. There was a certain amount of control but we didn’t have a release, for example Dennis Politic who can carry the ball up the pitch, but we have to take more responsibility to get closer to opponents and if we can’t, create pressure from a distance by doing our job.”