JUDGING by the last dozen seasons in League One, Wanderers will be automatically promoted if they win seven of their last remaining 10 games.
It is by no means an exact science – but with Phil Parkinson’s team sitting pretty on 66 points and holding a game in hand on second-placed Fleetwood Town, forgive me for getting excited.
Over the last 12 years, the third-placed team in the division has averaged 84 points, with second place averaging 87 over 46 games.
The last time Wanderers went up from this level, in Bruce Rioch’s memorable first season at Burnden Park, the team ended up with 90 points after a fantastic run of form in the final few months.
That team won 15 of their last 18 games, losing only once against Bradford City, to secure promotion on the final day with ‘that’ John McGinlay penalty against Preston North End.
Parkinson’s side, to draw a comparison, were seven points better off at the stage Rioch’s team embarked on that run.
Can they possibly do the same? Well, if so, the manager deserves just as much credit as Bruce got back then.
There is no question Wanderers’ budget is as high, if not higher, than their rivals. And on paper they went into the season with a strong-looking squad.
Had I been looking in at Bolton from the outside, I might have said anything less than a promotion push would be regarded as failure. But I know the mess this club was in eight months ago, how imbalanced the squad had become, how low confidence had sunk.
Some, including myself, felt back in August that Parkinson’s chief job was to arrest the slide and perhaps aim at the play-offs.
Considering the Whites remain hamstrung by a transfer embargo, not something usually associated with clubs at the top end of the division, and Parkinson has been unable to trade players or plan ahead, it is a small miracle that we have got this far.
I have used the plate-spinning analogy on plenty of occasions this season, and part of the manager’s success has been keeping players who have not featured in the team sweet.
One or two have not taken well to being out of the team – including Keshi Anderson, who will face Wanderers in a Northampton Town shirt this afternoon. But due credit to those who have stuck to the task like Lawrie Wilson, Derik Osede and, most recently, Dorian Dervite.
The Frenchman’s quite unexpected return is a great story. Few Wanderers fans were calling for his inclusion after the defeat at Sheffield United, indeed, few would have shed a tear had he left the club in January. Now, he looks right at home on the right side of defence.
Likewise Darren Pratley – a player who in my view has been harshly done by at times in his Bolton career – who has returned from long-term injury in incredible shape.
Filipe Morais has deservedly grabbed headlines this week for creating seven goals in his last two games but who among us thought he would have the impact he has had at the Macron when he signed on the dotted line at the start of February?
Parkinson has done his level best to keep people grounded this week but inwardly, he must be delighted the team has rediscovered their mojo at the perfect time.
Wins at Fleetwood and Gillingham were two of the most enjoyable games I’ve had the pleasure to report on whilst doing this job. To witness a club that nearly went bust 12 months ago not only put the brakes on their decline but start moving in the right direction once again would be quite something.
Who is to say that in 20 years we can’t look back at Jay Spearing, Adam Le Fondre and Filipe Morais with the same fondness as Wanderers legends like Tony Kelly, Andy Walker or David Lee?
Rioch is rightly credited with reviving the club’s fortunes and building a great side which went all the way to the Premier League.
If Parky pulls this off – he’s one step closer to being held in the same regard.