ON the face of it, Jermaine Beckford’s thumbs-up to the Leeds fans on Saturday was a simple affectionate gesture that would have hardly caused a flutter had the club been nestling safely in mid-table.

There is no disguising the affection the Whites striker still has for his former club, and vice-versa, and it was actually quite refreshing to see a player go back to his old haunt and not be booed like a pantomime villain.

But there were deeper-lying reasons for vitriolic reaction to Beckford’s on-pitch gesture, and his later salute to the home support, which was why Wanderers fans were still expressing their disappointment some 72 hours after the final whistle at Elland Road.

Many believe there has been a steady disconnection between the fans and their team since Premier League relegation.

Perhaps it was inevitable, given the wholesale changes made on and off the pitch which definitely make Bolton Wanderers a very different football club to be around than it was even two years ago.

For various reasons, but mainly financial, personnel have been moved on to make sure the club doesn’t follow a similar path to Leeds when they dropped out of the big time not so long ago.

Those austere measures come at a price, however, and it has been difficult for some fans to identify with Dougie Freedman’s much-changed squad during a dismal 12 months in the Championship.

Only Adam Bogdan, Mark Davies, Tim Ream, Josh Vela, Chung-Yong Lee, Darren Pratley and David Wheater remain from the side that dropped out of the Premier League, and that lack of historical connection is making it harder for the fans to identify.

You might argue the same can be said for the manager, another with no obvious Bolton link from the past, but with all signs pointing to him being in charge after the international break both the Scot and his players are going to have to try and mend some broken bridges quickly.

Freedman will be more annoyed than anyone that Beckford – who he had defended staunchly against jeers from the crowd just a week before – has counted controversy again.

You only wonder whether we would still be discussing the matter had he tucked away that late header to make the game all square.

A few sharp-minded fans have also flipped the situation on its head: What if Gary Cahill were to thank the Wanderers support mid-match when the club travel down to Stamford Bridge for their Capital One Cup match later this month? Chelsea fans have had much more to cheer in recent years, and that’s the key difference.

From top to bottom, Wanderers have to be mindful of a volatile situation, one that is starting to encroach on the same territory as the one Gary Megson faced in his final weeks in charge.

With two home games to come after the international break, the remedial work has to start here.