WANDERERS’ promotion prospects next season have been talked up by former boss Roy McFarland.

The former England international, twice a title winner with Derby County, has tipped Dougie Freedman’s side to challenge his own beloved Rams for a top-six spot.

While Steve McClaren’s side will still be smarting from defeat in the play-off finals to QPR, Wanderers go into next season in a fresher frame of mind after a clearout of players.

And McFarland believes now they are more attuned to the demands of the Championship, they could finally be ready for a play-off assault.

“Things haven’t gone well for Bolton in the last couple of years but the club is solid and it is only a matter of time before it starts heading back in the right direction,” he told The Bolton News.

“They have been at this level for a little while now and they know what is expected of them.

“Bolton’s is still a result I look for. I follow them with interest because I enjoyed working at the club.

“I hold Derby very dear because I spent 27 years of my career there and I think Steve McClaren will be saying ‘shrug off the play-offs, let’s go for automatic’ and I think the team are capable of doing that.

“But I think Bolton can make the top six this time around – and then who knows after that?”

McFarland is also backing England’s younger players to gain some crucial experience in this summer’s World Cup, with a view to winning the next in four years’ time.

The tLiverpudlian, who spent six months in joint charge of Wanderers with Colin Todd in the 1996/97 campaign, was capped 28 times by his country.

And while lifting the trophy may be out of their reach, McFarland is not at all downbeat about their chances of reaching the latter stages in Brazil.

“I want to see those younger players progress and if they are given a chance, I don’t see why they can’t get through to the knockout rounds,” he said.

“It will be tremendous experience for them and there is no doubt it will stand them in good stead for years to come.”

l McFarland, whose autobiography, Roy Mac: Clough’s Champion, is now on sale, speaks about his short spell in charge of Wanderers, working with enigmas such as Cloughie and Sasa Curcic and his relationship with Colin Todd in a special feature coming later this week in The Bolton News.