TRAINING has felt more like speed-dating for Adam Chicksen since he first turned up, boots in hand, ready to play against Rotherham a few weeks ago.

Joe Bunney’s unfortunate car accident left Wanderers without a senior left-back and handed the out-of-contract 27-year-old an attractive opportunity to slot straight into the first team.

Announced as a Bolton player just an hour before kick-off at the New York Stadium, the first opportunity Chicksen got to converse with his new team-mates was as they picked the bones out of a heavy 6-1 defeat.

Since that rude awakening the squad drawn together in such frantic fashion on transfer deadline day has worked hard to make connections, culminating in two worthy performances against Oxford and Sunderland.

Now as Keith Hill’s side head for Portsmouth, Chicksen hopes a team-bonding journey on the team bus heading for the South Coast can further improve the Whites chances of a long-awaited first victory of the campaign.

“Well, there haven’t been any tables or timers but the phrase ‘speed dating’ has definitely been mentioned on the training ground in the last few weeks,” he told The Bolton News. “None of us really knew each other but we’ve spent every minute we can talking football, whether that’s with the winger playing in front of me or the centre-halves, we’ve been trying hard to get to know each other and cramming a lot in.

“You can see that now because relationships are forming that weren’t there before. Hopefully that translates out on to the pitch.

“When you spend breakfast, lunch and dinner with one another on these trips you can’t help but get to know each other. And I’m sure I’ll be getting someone to make me a cup of tea before the end of the trip.”

Chicksen found himself among hundreds of players looking for a club this summer but admits it is highly unlikely he would have pitched up at Bolton had Bunney not been injured earlier this month.

“Obviously, I’d like to be here under different circumstances,” he said. “What happened with Joe is terrible but it’s something I can’t think too much about.

“When I got that call I had to make sure I was ready and in the best condition I could possibly be in.

“It was a crazy time for me, really. but the feeling of getting my boots back on and running out on the pitch, you can’t beat that.”

Hill has been reticent to fill the remaining slots in his embargo-controlled squad with out-of-contract players, for fear that they would take too long to get up to match fitness.

Chicksen, the manager described, was a “diamond in the rough” and was able to go straight into the team at Rotherham.

The former Bradford and Charlton defender admits, however, that life outside a football club as a free agent became a battle against himself.

“It was working on distance running every single morning, then going to the gym every evening,” he said. “I have always been okay on the physical side, I can run all day, but when you are in the position I was in, it’s all about the mental stability to keep going.

“You keep asking yourself ‘is there a club out there for me, and am I going to get a chance?’ “Realistically, you know something will come along, but when will it happen?

“The temptation to take your foot off is huge. If you are a little bit overweight or you maybe fancy a couple of days out of the gym, it’s so easy.

“But standing here now I am so glad I pushed myself and had that belief that something would come along sooner rather than later.”

His debut, at the New York Stadium, was not one Chicksen will remember with much fondness in years to come.

Faced with a fit and organised side that had yet to live up to its potential in League One, Wanderers were given a sound 6-1 beating despite taking an early lead through Thibaud Verlinden.

For Chicksen it was a real eye-opener, even though Hill took the pressure off his side by emphasising how quickly the team had been assembled.

“I don’t like losing games,” he said. “Yes, you could step back and see the bigger picture but it emphasised to me how quickly we needed to gel and pick up our running levels and work-rate.

“You could see the differences in the next game. Over the full 90 minutes people were working hard all over the pitch.

“We didn’t do anything out of the ordinary but the manager put it on the players to make sure we got to know how each other played, we couldn’t be that team of strangers that you saw out there at Rotherham.”

Wanderers’ line-up may have undergone wholesale changes in the first couple of months of the campaign but the support from the terraces have been unwavering.

The response at Rotherham in particular caught Chicksen flat-footed.

“I don’t think I was prepared for that,” he said. “They have been amazing and throughout the team I want people to know that we really do appreciate the support.

“The Rotherham game was embarrassing – well, perhaps not that bad but we did feel like we’d let people down a bit. And then you see the fans reacting in the way they did, it was quite amazing.

“I’m just glad we’ve managed to improve things a little bit over the next couple of games – and if you want any motivation to do that again, look into the stands on Saturday.”