BOLTON Wanderers fans have had to develop a fairly high threshold for pain in recent years as a mixture of poor governance, bad planning and plan old misfortune left the club clinging to life in 2019.

As the New Year ticks over there is hope new owners, the Football Ventures consortium, have both the wherewithal and inclination to rebuild.

The early signs are encouraging. A framework of senior staff was re-established, hinting that the days of autonomous and unquestioned decision-making from on high are over.

Club employees who only months ago were unpaid and forced to use a foodbank established by the Bolton Wanderers Community Trust, have been re-engaged, made to feel welcome again.

The stadium and hotel, areas of which were allowed to fall into serious disrepair, have been addressed. More aesthetic work is planned to restore a facility which has lost some of its sheen but continues to stand out at this level of football.

In 2020, Football Ventures’ plan should become more apparent. Much of the work thus far has been reactionary, fixing immediate problems staring them straight in the face. Fairly soon, we should start to see more tangible evidence of the level of investment and the direction they wish to move in.

The level of scrutiny on the new ownership will be greater than ever before.

When Ken Anderson and Dean Holdsworth bought the club in 2016 they talked of living in a goldfish bowl, with every move analysed by both the local media and a fanbase which had been scarred by the financial issues at the very end of Eddie Davies’s time in the boardroom.

Looking back, those problems were small beer compared to what has been experienced in the last 18 months, and so Football Ventures must accept there will be a very high level of examination on every move they make.

Communication thus far has been very reasonable, much of it through their chief executive Emma Beaugeard, who has been at ground level since day one.

Speaking in the matchday programme for the Burton game, she said: “Reflecting on the last four months here, as a great deal has been achieved but we are very clear there is a great deal more to do. Football Ventures have leaned heavily on BWFC, BWCT and Bolton Whites staff who continue to work tirelessly to keep us on track and we can’t thank them enough for their ongoing efforts.

“As the year rolls over we all hope that 2020 is a happier and more positive year than you, the fans, and the staff have endured of late. There is a lot to be thankful for and a lot to look forward to as well.”

It is practically impossible to single out one specific area at Wanderers which is most in need of investment or rehabilitation. Results on the pitch will always dictate the mood at a football club, however, and so the new ownership need their management team – Keith Hill and David Flitcroft – to be considered a success.

They were plunged into the job, quickly recruiting nearly a dozen new players, and have fashioned a team which has overturned the 12-point deficit imposed by the EFL for going into administration in May.

Further legal wrangles with the league are afoot, and it remains to be seen whether more points are knocked off the tally for failing to fulfil fixtures against Brentford, last season, and Doncaster, in August.

Recruitment carries on regardless, and there are signs that January could be just as busy as August – albeit stretched out over a greater distance.

Hill and Flitcroft feel survival is still very possible despite the latest league table showing a 17-point gap between Wanderers and MK Dons in 20th. Bolton have as many as three games in hand on their rivals, and so will need to go into the second half of the campaign with a more robust squad than the one which has been decimated through injury at several stages.

“It feels quite luxurious to have a few weeks to work through as opposed to the 48 hours of the last window,” Beaugeard said.

“Keith and Dave have their work cut for them, especially considering the embargo restrictions. Their proven love, loyalty and passion for the club runs deep and we can’t imagine a better duo to be guiding us through these testing times.”

For Hill, the last decade saw plenty of personal highs, ending with a return to his hometown club.

He twice led Rochdale out of League Two, either side of a spell with Championship Barnsley, and took charge of more than 500 competitive games.

Although there are plenty of professional challenges ahead, he would be quite happy to see the continuation of a fairly successful decade, from his own perspective.

“I’m pretty happy with the last decade,” he said. “I achieved a lot, did a lot to be proud of even at this football club. Within my life I wouldn’t regret anything.

“We all make mistakes, do things wrong, and we learn from them if you are a clever person.

“I turned 50 last year, I am going into a new decade, I am looking forward to it.

“I have got a strong family, live in Bolton, and I do believe we will grow strong together. We are looking forward to it.

“I don’t look back in anger at the last decade, I thought it was brilliant.”

The manager has plans to establish the same ‘layering system’ which worked so well for him at Spotland, enabling youth to learn quickly in a first-team environment.

But Bolton’s current situation scrapping at the foot of the table requires short-term success and it will be interesting to see in the first half of 2020 whether Hill abandons his principles slightly to achieve safety in League One against the odds.

Wanderers fans are yet to see their team adopt any obvious tactical identity, and that too is something Hill can work towards this year in a club still very much on the mend.