CIRCUMSTANCES have forced Wanderers’ hand since September 2, when the transfer window slammed shut on Keith Hill and David Flitcroft before they had even got their big toe under the table.

The new management team had little more than 48 hours to complete the mainstay of their recruitment drive, designed to sculpt a squad capable of overturning a huge points deficit to claim League One survival.

Throwing together a team of strangers was always going to have a downside. Bolton’s pre-season has effectively been done a month into the new season, so it is entirely correct that fans have given the team and the new manager a bit of leeway.

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Once those bodies were in the building the injuries set in. And not the kind of problems you can point a finger towards the training schedules, the medical staff or the manager for flogging his players to death.

Problems have ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. Will Buckley fractured his kneecap in a challenge that forced his opponent off the pitch at Rochdale but that didn’t cause a serious issue for him until a few days later.

Liam Bridcutt managed to fracture his collarbone after being sandwiched by a Blackpool striker and Joe Bunney’s car accident hardly bears thinking about.

Consider also that the club is under an EFL transfer embargo which limits them to 23 professional players with very little room for manoeuvre, and you can see why the new manager has had to be careful filling the available spots.

When Bridcutt and Buckley’s injuries were confirmed on Monday night fans pointed immediately to last season’s player of the year, Gary O’Neil, as the perfect replacement.

An experienced head who proved his fitness beyond all reasonable doubt in the Championship last season, he seemed a shoo-in to re-sign this summer and at one stage looked like he would be put in temporary charge of the club as administrators looked for a way of dealing with Phil Parkinson’s resignation.

Since then, however, it has been tumbleweed all the way.

O’Neil has stepped up his media duties and commented on Wanderers’ financial issues on national radio – but I can’t see that has affected his chances of a return.

The main obstacle has been Hill’s desire to keep a balance between the young and senior players in his squad, similar to that he employed at Rochdale. And it was not until Bridcutt’s injury on Monday night that a gap may have opened up.

The EFL guidelines are somewhat of a mystery. The league has been reluctant to confirm a transfer embargo, or the parameters in which the club operate. But we know from past experience that the rules have been open to exploitation.

During Wanderers’ promotion campaign in 2016/17, Ken Anderson found a number of loopholes which were closed the following summer.

In a sense, the club’s success that season led to widespread annoyance from rival owners but are now counting against them being able to recruit free agents this time around.

The widespread theory is that Bolton have one place to fill, and O’Neil ticks a lot of the boxes left blank by Bridcutt’s seemingly lengthy absence.

The former Middlesbrough, West Ham and Portsmouth man can toggle between defensive and attacking midfield roles and has been keeping up his match fitness at MK Dons. He would certainly be a popular addition but if there is no more wiggle room in the squad, would it be a gamble for Wanderers to fill all their squad allocation completely some two-and-a-half months before the winter window arrives?

Or will Hill look to create some space with players that have perhaps failed to show thus far they can fit into his style of play?

Unfortunately for Wanderers, the margins are so fine within the squad that tough decisions may have to be made sooner than they normally would. Wanderers need to make every single one of their spots count – and that might well explain why the manager has been so forthright in his view the younger players must give him something to think about.