SEVERAL months on from the sunshine and celebrations, a cold dose of reality has blown into the Macron as a reminder of the challenges to come.

When we look back at 2017 as a whole it is important to remember Phil Parkinson, Ken Anderson, the players, staff and fans of Bolton Wanderers passed a substantial test with flying colours by securing promotion back in April.

Some may dispute the means with which they achieved their goal, others may find it hard to acknowledge success, given the consistent struggles ever since but, nevertheless, this famous old club deserved its moment in the sun and worked hard for the privilege of returning to the second tier.

Whether it was paying bills, signing players or even securing second spot with a final-day win against Peterborough United, there has always been a sense of last-minute drama in everything Wanderers have done in the last 12 months.

Much is down to a finely-balanced financial situation – stabilised by Anderson since his takeover with Dean Holdsworth in 2016, and subsequent buying-out of his business partner in August last year, but still very much a cause for concern.

Wanderers came out of a transfer embargo in September after 21 months and have spent the last few months under the watchful eye of the EFL following haggles with the nice folk at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.

It is hoped business will be done in January and Parkinson will hope to avoid a last-minute trolley dash, rather than a more considered approach in the transfer market.

It is clear progress is being made off the pitch, particularly in a commercial sense. Two big concerts have been booked for next summer, the Bolton Whites Hotel continues to flourish, sponsorship seems healthy and a new stadium name could soon be on the cards.

Anderson has gone to war with creditors big and small to save money, and while morality could be questioned at times, the end result appears to be a club recovering from the financial nightmares of the past.

Convincing the supporters to turn up in numbers has become an issue which concerns both Anderson and his manager.

It had been 23 years since Bolton had played at League One level, and no doubt a sense of novelty played a part in some healthy crowds, home and away. Winning football always helps too.

Since returning to the Championship, however, those numbers have plateaued.

Anderson has raised his concerns, hinting it could impact on his ability to spend on new recruits in January. Filling those empty seats, however, is by no means straightforward.

Poor results at the start of this season prompted a noticeable backlash on the terraces as to the style of football being played by Wanderers. Those who were willing to look past Parkinson’s pragmatic approach while the team were winning, quickly made their feelings known when the points started to dry up.

Wanderers went nearly 13 hours without a goal throughout September – a new club record – and were given odds of 1,500-1 ON by one online bookmaker to be relegated. A much-improved October put them back in contention and, as we head into the New Year, there is far less certainty about their fate.

Gary Madine remains the focal point of attack. The Whites play to his physical strengths but with the likes of Sammy Ameobi, Josh Vela and Will Buckley behind him, have a technical element which does not always shine through.

Parkinson and his backroom created an organised and physically dominant side in League One and have worked tirelessly to recreate the formula since promotion. The manager's lack of spending power has been a disadvantage and as the New Year beckoned he sent out a reminder of the pressures he had shouldered since walking through the door in June 2016. 

He was backed by his chairman at a crucial stage in October, just before the first league win of the campaign against Sheffield Wednesday and though Anderson appeared to criticise last summer's recruitment in a recent set his web notes, he remains supportive of the job he has done.

Madine is arguably Parkinson’s biggest success story of this season, improving leaps and bounds since his last spell in the Championship, spent primarily glowering at Neil Lennon in the dugout. Now fit and firing, the 27-year-old is starting to realise his potential under Parkinson, and the respect seems mutual.

The case of fellow striker Adam Le Fondre has been much more difficult to handle for the Whites boss who, having signed him in the summer on a permanent basis, has failed to find a place for him in the team.

Fans have clamoured to see more of the former Reading man who, like Jem Karacan and Derik Osede, struggled to get near the team-sheet until the fantastic victory over Sheffield United on Saturday.

Until the next set of financial accounts it is difficult to say with certainty what effect Anderson’s restructuring has had at Wanderers. We do know, however, the New Year brings with it significant financial liabilities which will need to be addressed.

Finance company BluMarble are at the head of the queue, while loans from Brett Warburton and Prescott Business Park Ltd are also due, not to mention an arrangement with Eddie Davies which could see the former owner call in a bonus at the end of the season.

Anderson remains confident he has all matters in hand - and is closing in on an ultimate aim of making Wanderers break even.

Talk of a sale dominated the summer agenda after promotion, with Anderson claiming talks with a billionaire investor had reached an advanced stage before the individual’s assets were frozen.

Closer to home, Bolton-based businessman Shabbir Khiliji was at the head of a consortium which appeared to be gaining traction when Dean Holdsworth’s Sports Shield BWFC company was wound up and his shares made available. His bid failed as the ever-resilient Anderson tied up all the loose ends to assume his role as sole owner.

A ‘teaser’ document detailing assets owned by the club and effectively pricing them at £25million to prospective bidders was intercepted by The Bolton News in October. Anderson played down its significance and actively took the club ‘off the market’ to avoid distractions until the end of the season.

Finding suitable investment which can help bridge the huge financial gap with the majority of the Championship remains a problem unsolved.

Wanderers step into 2018 with plenty to fight for, not least stability.

Huge amounts of work have gone in on and off the field hauling the football club away from the abyss, and the job is by no means complete. 

Survival may not be celebrated in the same unbridled fashion as promotion but would represent a massive step forward for a club still in a period of recovery.