MANY lessons have been learned on the road with Wanderers in 2017, like why you should try and keep a semblance of professionalism in the press box when your team appears to have sealed promotion.

Sir Alex Ferguson once coined the phrase ‘squeaky bum time,’ presumably after being stared down by a gang of angry Port Vale fans looking for new and ingenious uses for oatcakes.

Towards the end of the 2016/17 season we were all getting a bit giddy, never more so than when David Wheater leapt like a salmon to score a goal – we thought – had sealed a place in the Championship.

At that moment the Bolton row of the press box devolved into a mass of primal screaming and fist pumping. We couldn’t get on the pitch – and nor would we advocate it, kids – but after a season of Wimbledons, Gillinghams and Southends we were going to enjoy this.

Understandably, the Vale supporters surrounding our desk did not share in the frivolity. For a couple of minutes the mood was downright horrible and I wondered whether The Bolton News would charge me if I cowered behind my laptop and it got broken, somehow.

It wasn’t always that exciting. In fact, the year began – oh joy of joys – with a new ground.

My rules are simple, you can tick a club off your list if you have; a) worked there as a journalist, going as a fan doesn’t count, b) you have visited their current ground, not a former incarnation, and c) the club in question is in the Football League.

I’m now on 89, with Burton Albion to be checked off in April. If Wanderers can get Barnet and Colchester United in the cups within the foreseeable, I can quit and get a proper job.

It had always felt odd I hadn’t been to Coventry but, alas, I cannot say I enjoyed the experience. The Sky Blues’ ownership issues were obvious. Fans had every right to protest but a good game of football just left me sad at the state the club has become.

Selhurst Park was next up after Wanderers had held Sam Allardyce’s Crystal Palace to a draw in the FA Cup. The Eagles have smartened things up since I last went – and I had the pleasure of Phil Brown’s company in the press box, which is never a bad thing.

Into February, a visit to MK Dons was only memorable for the sight of poor Lawrie Wilson hobbling on to the train on the opposite platform to me after the game, his season – and Bolton career, it turned out – over.

Bradford away was an ordeal. Parking at Valley Parade is a nightmare, myself and Trev Baxter circling the vicinity 50 times before abandoning the car in Leeds and hitchhiking our way to the ground.

The game itself turned out to be great, as Bolton silenced the boisterous home crowd to claim a point. They had some lovely cake, too.

I’ll freely admit I’ve always had a soft spot for Sheffield United, ever since I got a student season ticket there to watch the likes of Brian Deane, Jan Aage Fjortoft and Paul McGrath amble around Bramall Lane in the copious amount of spare time I had at university.

The build-up had been dominated by Gary Madine’s ill-advised video tribute to Billy Sharp. And when he didn’t turn up on the teamsheet the conspiracy theorists were out in force.

Many of them were on the train on the way home. I sandwiched myself in the midst of a large group of Bolton fans for a spot of trans-Pennine psychiatry and was treated to a can of lager for my troubles. I thank you.

Fleetwood was lovely, in an old-fashioned type of way. And from there Wanderers built up a head of steam which led all the way to promotion.

I’d happily never go to Gillingham ever again. Booked into a hotel on the other side of town from Priestfield I made the mistake of walking to the game and enjoying the weather.

I used to cover inner-city Salford as my news patch and regularly caught the last bus home after a night meeting without batting an eyelid. This nervous journey through a forest of burned-out sofas, abandoned mattresses and loitering gangs made me yearn for the pleasant streets of Pendleton.

Only one image stays with me from Oxford United and that is of a crestfallen John McGinlay as he looked at his impoverished plate of food at Frankie and Benny’s in comparison the stack of delights being consumed by myself and Jack Dearden. Have you ever seen a grown man cry?

Shrewsbury was hot. Flipping hot. The Greenhous Meadow lived up to its name, and also revealed itself to have some very pleasing pre-match music.

Anyone who follows me on Twitter or Matchday Live knows I know how to complain about a tune. I’m not a snob. I don’t discount artists who have mass appeal, in fact I once knowingly bought an album by Robbie Williams after England had crashed out of the World Cup and I wandered in a state of confusion around the Ellesmere Centre in Walkden. But getting a good mix of crowd pleasers and ‘actual songs’ before a game is a tough one, and so the Shrews tuck in nicely behind Rochdale and Wigan Athletic in my current top three.

I missed the rescheduled Southend game – Mike Glendinning getting the pleasure of a stoppage-time re-write (snigger) when Mark Beevers pounced for that famous goal.

But I was back in time to go to Scunthorpe, I am not that cruel. I was treated to an overnighter, such was the importance of the game, but it turned out to be a dud. Bolton played poorly and I discovered all my pre-match video interviews had been ruined by the fact I had my finger over the microphone on my iPad.

Next up was the ground that time forgot, at Boundary Park, Oldham, and another forgettable game. I once scored a spectacular header there while playing for St Paul’s Crompton Street on the old artificial pitch. I am sure they still talk about it.

It turns out the final trip in League One was Port Vale. So many remarkable things happened that day – Wheater’s header, a pitch invasion, Madine’s comeback from a shoulder injury, late heartbreak as Fleetwood spoiled the party – but what really capped it off was that a local café put a giant pool of melted cheese on my breakfast as if it is normal practice.

In the next part of this riveting reporter’s diary, I will take you through the pre-season tour of Scotland, why Dean Holden needs a bigger car, and why you should beware cheap hotels in Hull.