KEITH Hill has been in a rare position at Wanderers this week.

Treatment room relatively empty, business now done in the January window, the list of magnetic player names in his office crowded mainly in the ‘available’ column.

For perhaps the first time since he walked through the doors in August there are genuine football selection decisions to be made for successive away games against Coventry City and Doncaster Rovers.

Three points against Tranmere Rovers last weekend was achieved in some style but Hill remains convinced his players will need to step up another couple of levels if they are to gain the 11 wins he feels will be necessary to save themselves in League One.

A tall order, an Impossible Dream, but one the manager feels is still achievable given the right application.

“Up to Saturday I think we have been a good team to play against, when you consider some of the selection problems I have had,” he told The Bolton News. “And without being disrespectful I think we played Tranmere at a good time. We are getting a senior team together and they played players who wouldn’t be there in normal circumstances.

“Now I think I have got some good options and the mood is competitive. We have had some good training sessions.

“I believe we will be stronger in the next 18 games and I think the recruitment has lifted the senior players because they want to know we’re being ambitious. They want to know we are still intent on winning games but it won’t just happen overnight because we beat Tranmere.

“No disrespect meant to Tranmere or Micky (Mellon) but we believe Saturday will be a more difficult game so we have to be better than we were.”

Wanderers gave some game time to new additions Jacob Mellis and Ryan Delaney in the Under-23s on Monday night, along with the recovering Joe Bunney. All three are still slightly short of being considered for a first team start, as it stands.

Another new arrival, Tottenham winger Anthony Georgiou, is also unavailable for Saturday with the player still dealing with his parent club’s medical staff over a minor injury sustained whilst on loan with Ipswich Town.

Overall, however, Hill recognises his squad is now stronger than at any point since his arrival. And as such, he is setting the standards higher than they have been previously.

“In August we probably got the best part of the starting 11 together and once that developed some serious injuries then I was picking players I had to pick rather than ones I wanted to pick,” he said.

“We are getting people back fit and the recruitment has made us stronger. It allows me to leave the weaker players to stew on their own futures because there is no automatic inclusion into a squad now.

“As a manager you want that – but also a training squad that reflects the desire and ambition and values of the senior players.

“Personally, I think we have seen the quality of training go up.”

The last time Bolton faced Coventry it was with the youngest team in their history. The so-called Junior Whites drew 0-0 on a day few will forget but the problems which had spilled over from the summer and administration created a false economy, in Hill’s view.

The Wanderers boss is keen to see youth push their way into his first team but now, more than at any other stage of the season, he is keen to ensure it happens on merit.

“All these young players who have played a lot of games have been lucky, they have been fortunate. Some have earned it but some have been very lucky,” he said.

“If you look through the win percentage ratio of players who have played at this club it isn’t very good and they have got to improve on that, be better. If they want to get carried along on this journey then they have got to catch up quickly.

“You haven’t made it as a professional footballer once you have played a first team game and it’s the same for Jacob Mellis, you don’t get any badge saying you are a first team player, you have to earn it with respect on the training pitch from Daryl Murphy, Jason Lowe, Remi Matthews – they want to know that you can improve their fortunes.”