THERE were no sit-down protests in the car park, no banners unfurled in the stands, not even a chorus of boos as Wanderers’ relegation to the fourth tier of English football was announced with a click of the mouse, rather than the bellow of a final whistle.

The absence of bitterness at Bolton should not be mistaken for a lack of disappointment in how this season has turned out or absolve those whose decision making got the club to this point.

But in a time where everyone has been able to sit back and take stock of the bigger picture, the mood of determination among Wanderers fans to use this final humiliation as a launchpad for the future was impossible to ignore.

Unlike when Glenn Burvill’s goal for Aldershot consigned Phil Neal’s Bolton to Division Four football in 1987 there was no opportunity for fans to physical voice their disapproval that things had gone this far.

Had it not been for the coronavirus pandemic, things would almost certainly have turned uglier. And the mood of disquiet in the stands was hard to miss at times as Keith Hill’s side floundered in January and February.

Fans had shown remarkable tolerance during the first few weeks of the season as the club, already saddled with a 12-point penalty for going into administration, held on for grim death under the spectre of liquidation.

The Junior Whites claimed a point against a Coventry City team who would go on to win the league – a result no number of asterisks will ever be able to take from them.

We all feared that Football Ventures’ takeover had come too late to save Wanderers’ bacon but the can-do attitude they brought with them, amplified by the positive attitude of the men they put in charge, Keith Hill and David Flitcroft, gave just a little tingle of excitement that anything was still possible with eight months of the season still to go.

Then the realisation set in. A squad, scrabbled together from far and wide, looked on paper to have the class to get results at this level of football but, in practice, they lacked the fitness and organisation to get the job done.

There were a few bright spots, not least the rise of Ronan Darcy, Sonny Graham and Dennis Politic as first team regulars. But in the main Wanderers resembled a team in the midst of pre-season, still trying to find an identity by the time most were hitting their stride.

To use Hill’s well-worn phrase, this was a club emerging from a car crash. So if anger is to be directed at anyone, perhaps the driver would be a good place to start?

That Wanderers were hurtling towards liquidation in the summer was entirely the result of its previous neglectful and self-serving ownership, along with a handful of ludicrous folk who chose to use the club’s vulnerability to further their own cause.

Bolton is far better off without them. Even in League Two.

But now it falls on the new ownership to show that there is substance behind the smiles and sensibility they brought into the building back in August. For if this club was to fall any further, it truly would be a disaster.

Fans were thanked for their patience yesterday, and rightly so, for they have existed on very little but faith that it will all turn out OK in the end for quite some time. Now they need to hear how Football Ventures intend to re-engage, rebuild and re-invent Bolton Wanderers for the future.

Life in League Two will not be pretty, just ask the last team that played down there. But for Robbie Savage’s late goal against Wrexham the modern history of this football club might have looked very different.

Everything that happened after that famous day at the Racecourse Ground might have disappeared into nothing had Wanderers been forced into the play-off lottery, just as they had 12 months earlier against Aldershot.

So if it means midweek trips down to Newport, rainy days in Crawley or a draw ground out in Grimsby, so be it.

Whether willing their team on from home, or (hopefully) there on the terraces, plenty in the town hope this day marks the start of something special.