ALI Crawford says he is open to the idea of staying with Bolton Wanderers, even though they look likely to drop into League Two next season.

The Scottish playmaker, who made his playing return against MK Dons at the weekend, says his immediate focus is on returning to top form and fitness in the coming weeks.

But as one of 15 senior professionals on the books whose contract expires at the end of the season Crawford knows he will most likely have a choice to make this summer.

Asked about the possibility of a longer stay, he said: “I am happy here. I wouldn’t say no, put it that way.

“I need to keep my options open, obviously, but for me it’s about getting back fit and playing to the standard I was before I got injured. I need to help the team out and then that will take care of itself.

“For me personally contracts haven’t crossed my mind – I just want to get back out there playing football and then take it as it comes at the end of the season.

“But there are quite a few of us in the same boat, out of contract at the end of the season, so if lads want a contract they’ll have to play at the highest level, whether that’s to prove to the manager if he wants us or to another team who are looking. You need to be at it.”

Wanderers have certainly felt Crawford’s absence in the last four months, the former Doncaster Rovers man integral to the ‘spine’ of the team that Keith Hill tried to assemble at speed back in August.

The knee ligament injury he picked up against Manchester City’s Under-21s in the Trophy side-lined him 116 days, during which time Bolton’s hopes of avoiding relegation diminished significantly under the weight of more squad changes and a hefty injury list.

Crawford was happy to be back at the weekend, even though his return did not go exactly according to plan, Wanderers succumbing to a fourth successive defeat at MK Dons.

“It has been a long, long four months but it was good to be back on the pitch and getting minutes under my belt, which is what I need at the moment,” he said.

“I’m a bit rusty and lacking match sharpness but obviously that will come and hopefully I can stay injury free to the end of the season now.

“One of the worst things about being a footballer is being injured, especially for a long period of time like I was.”

His comeback, by Hill’s own admission, was slightly ahead of schedule. And his involvement in tonight’s game at Blackpool is by no means guaranteed.

“I don’t know if the medical team were too happy about it (his inclusion) – but clinically, my knee is perfect,” Crawford said. “I had the operation, did the rehab and my knee is strong. It’s just about getting the minutes and sharpness now.

“There always the risk having been out so long. It’s maybe not the actual injury but pulling something else, muscle wise, but I feel fine. I am just happy to be back involved.

“Moving forward I just hope I can get quicker and sharper, get this rustiness out of my system to help the team.”

Wanderers slipped 20 points from safety at the weekend but face a Blackpool side who have actually taken fewer points since mid-December than anyone else in League One.

Crawford insists the effort levels cannot be questioned, even if confidence is a tricky one to gauge.

“It’s not the best,” he said. “I can’t beat around the bush, we’re bottom of the league and struggling at the moment, but what can you do? The boys go out every match trying to win the game, it’s not as if we’re not trying, they are putting in 110 per cent week-in, week-out. It just isn’t happening at the moment.

“But we’ll try and stay positive. It’s tough because getting beat most weeks it’s tough to remain confident. You just need to stay strong and believe in yourself.

“We believe with what we have got in the dressing room that we can go out and win games. We have to go out and try and prove that.”