FEW managers are successful without having the ability to pick up their players in a time of crisis, to drive a team when the chips are down. But who motivates the motivator?

When Phil Parkinson and his backroom staff quit Bradford City for Bolton in the summer of 2016, they inherited a club which had staggered from serious financial problems and sleepwalked towards relegation over the course of several months.

Many of the components for a promotion campaign in League One were there but changing the psychology of a losing dressing room was always going to be the new manager’s biggest challenge, and it proved to be one he passed in the end.

On returning to the Championship the test instantly became more complicated. Bridging the quality gap without the financial wherewithal has been done – as the likes of Preston, Millwall, Rotherham and Burton have shown to varying extent in the past few seasons – but possible only when the club feels unified. Last season’s escape act will forever be a feather in the manager’s cap.

But since the summer when players went on strike over unpaid bonuses, forcing the cancellation of a pre-season friendly against St Mirren, there has been an internal war raging at Wanderers which has gradually chipped away at the harmony the manager had created.

That decision, and the bitter statements which followed from Ken Anderson, set in motion an argument which would never be settled.

As the financial problems deepened, Parkinson and his coaching staff found themselves in the middle – receiving questions they could not answer, giving assurances they could not back-up – until, in the end, the words ceased to have any meaning.

Without any support from above, the Bolton boss has been hung out to dry by his employers, given no meaningful information to inspire his players at a time when they so desperately needed it.

Last week’s 48-hour strike proved the last straw. Parkinson admitted his team had been unprepared as they slid to a 2-1 defeat which all-but confirmed their relegation, making tomorrow’s trip to Derby County almost an exercise in futility.

Now 12 days unpaid, the squad met with PFA officials at Lostock yesterday to discuss their options.

“With everything which has added up over not just this year but previous years I have found this difficult to manage,” said Parkinson, his own demeanour considerably more subdued than the man who walked into the club nearly three years ago.

“You can only keep spirits up for so long. We have found it difficult to keep lifting everyone, week in, week out.

“I can only tell them so much. When those things don’t materialise people start looking at you and saying ‘come on, you said the club was going to be taken over and this and that was going to happen.’ “Football clubs do take a long time to get deals done. And everyone is just hoping the future of the club gets secured because it certainly deserves it.”

Team spirit has dipped – although not to the depths it has done under previous managers – and many believe last season’s dogs of war were more equipped for a relegation battle than the team put together last summer.

With so much frustration aimed at Wanderers’ owner Anderson, Parkinson’s own position as manager has perhaps not been placed under pressure as it would have at a more stable club. Though his tactics and selection have been criticised, and longer-term future must surely be in question, most Bolton fans have been wise enough to pick their relevant battles.

And so it falls to Parkinson to reassemble the fragments and climb aboard a team coach to the East Midlands. Crisis management has become a forte, and the Bolton boss hopes he can hold the team together for long enough to see out a season which will go down as one of, if not the darkest in this club’s history.

“We try to say to the lads ‘just go out and play’ and to try and switch off from any hassle you are getting at home or moaning about things not being right. For 90 minutes you just have to forget about that. I’d like to think the lads will keep playing, keep training and stay together. We’ve all been in it for a long period of time now and we have got to continue.”