DEFEAT was clearly rankling Jack Hobbs after the final whistle on Saturday, the first 90 minutes he had managed for Bolton Wanderers in more than four months.

He had spent the afternoon bouncing off Wycombe’s man-mountain Adebayo Akinfenwa and watched as Keith Hill’s side simply failed to get out of first gear after the half-time break.

But simply being out on the pitch at all was a personal triumph for the 31-year-old, whose football career has been suffocated by a chronic back injury in the last few years.

After a tough time at Nottingham Forest – his lack of game time not always down to injury – he had the opportunity of a fresh start at Bolton under Phil Parkinson, but one that quickly turned sour as financial issues gripped the club and he was left without pay for several months.

Nevertheless, Hobbs continued to train with Bolton in an effort to earn another contract. He waited patiently for EFL clearance as the takeover saga stretched into August and was finally registered in time to help a young team out in a 5-0 hammering at Gillingham – the same day that Keith Hill was confirmed as manager.

Ever-present in the league through September and a goal-scorer in the 1-1 draw against Sunderland, Hobbs looked set to play a major part under the new Bolton boss until back problems flared once again after a goalless home draw with Blackpool in October.

A failed comeback before Christmas left Hobbs in a particularly difficult frame of mind and wondering whether the persistent pain would force him to hang up his boots.

Unable to even put on a pair of socks in the morning, the former Liverpool, Leicester and Hull City centre-back said the problem became difficult to live with.

“I had some difficult spells over the last few months,” he told The Bolton News. “I did my rehab and got back out on the grass but then broke down again and it was lingering on for so long.

“I had worried about not being able to play again, I have to be honest. It was tough.

“Luckily I had good support from the physios and people around me and I kept at it and I’m pleased to have played my part.

“When I woke up in the morning it was the worst. I couldn’t even put my socks on for a long time.”

“I’ve spoken to a lot of people with chronic back pain and it can seriously affect people’s lives. I just couldn’t get over it. It was always there and really affecting me.

“But I persisted and seemed to pass a little hurdle at one point which snowballed into getting better. It was a very big relief football-wise but also general health and living.

“Now it’s about managing myself during the week, knowing when to train and when not to train and at what intensity so that when I get to a matchday I’m as fit as I can be.

“I’m just desperate to be winning games again sooner rather than later.”

Hobbs’ absence left Keith Hill with a hole to fill in his defence, and by the time of his return on Saturday the chances of Bolton escaping the clutches of relegation this season are all but gone.

Defeat against Wycombe was a difficult pill to swallow for all involved, especially as there was a feeling after the game that Bolton had not done themselves justice with their second-half display.

“It’s hard at the moment,” Hobbs said. “It’s not a position we want to be in and we’re trying our best to turn it around. When you are down there those things do seem to go against you a little bit.

“We are all giving it 100 per cent, trying our best, but it’s hard to take sometimes.

“I don’t know whether there is a lack of confidence or belief sometimes. We need to be better.

“We should have been going out against Wycombe and showing in our body language that we really wanted to get back into that game. We had to have the attitude that we’d be giving it a right good go but it felt as if we huffed, puffed and didn’t really test their keeper.

“It wasn’t a lack of effort. We can only keep at it and try our very best.”

“We need to keep committed. You go back to the training ground and work hard, look at where we weren’t at it against Wycombe, and I don’t think we’re a million miles away. I think at times in the first half we passed the ball pretty well and played some beautiful football.

“We got some shots in on the keeper but there was a bit of a lack of conviction.

“Defensively it was tough. Akinfenwa is pretty unique and though we battled our best we didn’t win as many headers as we’d have liked. We tried to clear up the second balls and the majority of the game I felt we’d contained it. You just get that little moment where you switch off and it costs you.

“The timing of the goals as well – the one before half time is so frustrating and then on 60, if you’re 1-0 down you have a right go. But then we let the ball bounce, the runner gets away and there’s a penalty, 2-0 and it’s difficult to get into the game.”