DEBT is not the problem at Bolton Wanderers right now, it is ready cash, or the lack thereof.

The threat to the club’s future is not that Jay Jay Okocha once earned £50,000-a-week, or that it paid circa £10million for the services of Johan Elmander, it is that finding a monthly £80,000 to pay office, admin and match-day staff is so problematic, fixtures face being cancelled.

Forget the fact Bolton allowed Marcos Alonso to leave for nothing, or that they only got £8million for Gary Cahill, because those unpalatable decisions might as well have happened somewhere else. This Wanderers is a different animal altogether, fighting to survive in a different jungle.

There is debt at Bolton but, in Championship terms, the numbers are relatively low. Only the £5million arrangement between current owner Ken Anderson and Moonshift Investments, the company previously owned by the late Eddie Davies, seems of particular urgency. And that was taken out to replace a loan from three years ago.

Others owed big money secured against assets, Michael James and Brett Warburton, have been flexible.

There was once an eye-watering amount of debt associated with Wanderers, the vast majority of which was owed to Davies, a man who was quite happy to let it sit there.

A local lad made good, Davies had his reasons for letting the money build up and they were not universally popular. When it came down to the crunch, however, his decision to wipe clear £197.9million in March 2016 remains a staggering gesture.

Yes, he left in some caveats. There are the much-discussed ‘bonuses’ and a small debt left in the club, some of which may have complicated a sale for current incumbent, Ken Anderson, but they are not the biggest issue here.

If a finger of blame is to be pointed towards any stage of Davies’s 13-year reign it would be the chaotic final 12 months, when with a deadline set on the owner’s departure, not enough was done to rationalise finances and commercial contracts and important assets were sold.

It left Anderson and Dean Holdsworth with a diminished club they had to restructure. Wages were a hefty circa £13million in League One and over two successive summers the so-called ‘big hitters’ were reduced to the point only one, Ben Amos, remains. He will almost certainly leave this summer.

Funding gaps were plugged with player sales – Rob Holding, Zach Clough and Gary Madine – all deals which stung at the time but proved necessary evils.

Without sales Wanderers were said to be losing £6m a year, which underlines why with Madine’s sale to Cardiff City the latest accounts, still unfiled, were meant to show a small profit. It also proves that profits are superficial and only cash is king.

The reality for any club without parachute payments, particularly in this division, is that there are only two ways to survive: Find an owner willing to gamble significant money trying to get towards the big time knowing they may never get it back, or find a level of sustainability that might – just might – edge you towards where you want to be, but in most cases, will not.

Ken Anderson arguably fell into the second category until the start of this season. The danger arrived when his restructuring plan petered out, any form of personal funding stopped, creditors stacked up and attempts to sell the club failed. If he was kicking the can down the road at one stage, it is fair to say he has run out of road.

When nothing is being paid even the smallest bills pile up into big ones. The ever-vociferous tax man has issued a winding-up order, piggy-backed by others, and accounts have been frozen. If cash-flow was already problematic it has now become farcical, threatening every conceivable part of working life at the stadium.

The debate on whether Davies, or Phil Gartside made good business choices in the Premier League days is valid. A failure to restructure and buy the right players to bounce back in that first season in the Championship will haunt the club forever. You could argue that more could have been done to keep the club in the top flight, or that Davies could have done more to find a better buyer, even. Unfortunately, they are separate issues to what is staring this club in the face right now.

It isn’t the historical debt that could kill Wanderers. It is their inability to lay hands on ready cash, caused by a toxic situation in which the owner has beaten a hasty retreat.

Wanderers’ woes are a symptom of a system which is broken. Football outside the Premier League is over-reliant on people putting their hand in their pocket, who can disappear on a whim or become a bad guy in the blink of an eye. There are no effective safety measures nor anything that the EFL can do to curb so-called ‘rogue’ behaviour, other than dutifully insist that clubs honour their fixtures.

Anderson may have been cast as the villain in this particular piece but the same thing is happening elsewhere, and will again. The real problem lies in the machine.

Can you force a person to spend his wealth? Of course not. You can only hope that an owner takes care of a club and acts responsibly.

When passing a potential owner, the EFL ask to see funding plans for the first season and the 12 months after. Only they will know if Anderson and Holdsworth lived up to the paperwork they put in front of them in March 2016.

Although unlikely, Wanderers could go completely bust on May 8, which would be to the shame of English football. They may also become the first EFL club to go into administration in six years, which would also have serious ramifications.

Laurence Bassini claims to have money to invest where Anderson could not – yet opinion among supporters on whether his ownership would be a positive step is divided, to say the least. As things stand he has yet to have his business plan passed by the EFL, which will be a pre-requisite of any takeover.

More rumours surfaced yesterday about a consortium who may be able to secure a solvent sale. Concrete evidence is yet to appear.

All the while, accusations are still being thrown at Bolton that their demise has in some way been linked to overspending.

Wanderers certainly cannot be accused of having done that on the pitch. This is a club that has spent £200,000 in transfer fees in the last four years. The arrival of Josh Magennis from Charlton Athletic last summer was the first fee paid since Neil Lennon brought in Filip Twardzik from Celtic in February 2015.

Christian Doidge would have added to that list but the spectacular collapse of his move from Forest Green was a suitable indicator of what was to come a few months later.

This is a squad made up of academy graduates, free transfers and loans. And though Anderson has complained that money has been wasted this season, perhaps with some good reason, the lack of investment over time is there for all to see.

After last season’s miraculous escape, things appeared to be stabilising for Wanderers. Talk of Anderson finding £30m of investment last summer gave way to player strikes over bonuses. Pre-season proved ground zero as the relationship between the dressing room and the boardroom became increasingly strained.

In September, finance company BluMarble were all set to put the club into administration only to have a last-minute change of heart. It turned out that four days before his tragic death, Davies had loaned Anderson’s company, Inner Circle Investments, the money to sort out the debt.

It arrived eventually in the form of a bridging loan, which means Anderson is now owner and secured creditor.

The situation has deteriorated to the stage you can hardly imagine it could get worse. Morale among staff, players and supporters is at an all-time low, each feeling they have been starved of communication and respect.

Had Wanderers fallen foul of Financial Fair Play or were being crushed under unsustainable wages, you could say they are now suffering the consequences of flying too close to the sun during the Premier League days. Instead they are now being choked by bills totalling the same amount they once paid for Marvin Sordell.

Bad decisions were made after those glory days in the UEFA Cup and when gambling on an immediate return to the Premier League but many other dice have been rolled since then.

Such is the fragility of finance outside the top flight, this could happen anywhere.

Another club will suffer like Bolton, maybe worse, until someone fixes this unworkable economy or ensures that owners cannot simply take their ball and go home.