IT was more grim than fairy tale for the Football Ventures consortium as they watched their first 90 minutes in charge, but then the size of their task was never in doubt.

As Wanderers’ players sat on their haunches in the dressing room at Priestfield, the club’s new owners walked in to tell them the truth; the town is still proud of its team, and it will get better.

It was not a placatory act, rather one that accurately reflected the views of the 700-plus who made the trip to Kent and thousands more back at home.

In little more than a month, perspective has been altered significantly among all at Bolton. We witnessed neighbours Bury disappearing into the void and very nearly followed suit.

And though no-one would describe the sight of goals raining in at Priestfield as anything like enjoyable, the songs drifting steadily from the uncovered away end suggest those present knew this was just the first step to something bigger.

Just as they had known through an intensely complicated takeover process, Sharon Brittan, Mike James and new CEO Emma Beaugeard knew time not on their side. Monday’s transfer deadline loomed large and though they had initially planned to bring in a manager later in the week, the timeline was turned on its head 90 minutes after the final whistle.

The men tasked with reviving and regenerating Wanderers are Bolton-born-and-bred.

Keith Hill and David Flitcroft have both enjoyed promotions and success in their own right as managers – but as a duo, established a blueprint for attractive, entertaining and resourceful lower league football at Rochdale which feels a good fit for Bolton in their current state.

They effectively have a blank canvass to start with, and though the odds are still eminently stacked against the club escaping relegation with all the sanctions stacked against them, the pair also have the kind of brazen attitude that just might be needed to pull it off.

Unlike so many of their predecessors, expectation is not a huge burden. Bolton’s supporters seem content to go along with the ride of reinvention in the hope that Football Ventures’ three-year plan can lead to better times.

The young players who have been pushed into senior football ahead of schedule certainly have their part to play. But if Hill and Flitcroft are successful in their supermarket sweep of signings on Monday, many of them will be able to step down to the Under-18s and 23s to develop properly. They will do so, it must be said, with the gratitude of the town.

Jimmy Phillips, Nicky Spooner and Gavin McCann have done their job too. Professional pride has been stung a little by the heavy beatings over the last few weeks but they may now know a little more about the teenagers they helped to get this far.

“It makes total sense to get someone in the building now and then give him a couple of days to be able to do something in the transfer market,” said Phillips, who hinted at a quick appointment in his post-match interviews but perhaps didn’t know just how quickly events would develop.

“We need to bring in some good loan players from other clubs but also some experienced types with good characters.

“The young players we have used in the last few weeks have let nobody down. But it stands to reason that they need help and guidance from players with more games under their belt.”

The challenge now for the likes of Callum King-Harmes, Eddie Brown, Jordan Boon, Joe White, Sonny Graham and Co is to ensure their next taste of senior football is down exclusively to their performances at youth and development level.

Others – most notably Harry Brockbank, Dennis Politic, Yoan Zouma and Ronan Darcy – also need to push on under new management.

Wanderers’ fans danced in celebration to the club’s survival before kick-off, belting out Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline – the tune which became synonymous with their last stay in League One – at top volume. By injury time the noise had not died down, even if the game had been long since lost.

That support will be a unique selling point of its own when Hill and Flitcroft look to bolster the squad before Monday’s 5pm deadline.

Gillingham had not won a game this season but, to their credit, showed a ruthlessness in attack that will have pleased their manager, Steve Evans – once a Wanderers trainee.

At the heart of most of the home side’s good work was Hearts winger, Olly Lee. The former Birmingham City and Luton man enjoyed a profitable debut, scoring twice.

Wanderers brought Jack Hobbs in for his first start of the season, the former Nottingham Forest man finally able to sign a contract after the club emerged from administration.

Hobbs will have better games and clearly lacked some match sharpness but if he can return to the levels he showed in the Championship last season, he will surely be an asset.

He was involved in the mix-up with Zouma which led to Connor Oglive pouncing for the opening goal on 27 minutes, with Lee finishing smartly for a second just before half time.

Gillingham kept their foot on the gas in the second half as Brandon Hanlan, then Lee, took the score to four.

Unfortunate full-back Jordan Boon was credited with the fifth, an own goal after Remi Matthews had found himself out of position on a cross.

Hobbs hit the bar with a header late on, which would have at least ended a 10-game wait for a league goal, but those statistics hardly seem to sting as much as they used to.

It can be argued that Wanderers’ season starts here. Already 15 points off safety with the threat of some further punishment to come from the EFL, there are plenty around who believe the club should already be looking towards next season in League Two.

But the more romantic among us believe that avoiding relegation is possible if Hill and Flitcroft can mould a side quickly and put points on the board whilst they do so.

Having spent so long contemplating whether Wanderers actually have a future, the rapid change in mood is going to take some getting used to. One day we may actually look back at 5-0 thrashings against Gillingham, Ipswich and Tranmere and smile.