VERY little about Bolton Wanderers’ season has felt permanent.

Just a handful of senior players were carried over from Championship relegation – most severing ties after going months without pay during administration.

The Junior Whites stepped in admirably but League One football would ultimately prove too much for most of them and when Football Ventures’ takeover was finally confirmed, new boss Keith Hill’s first act was to bring in a raft of new signings.

January brought more change – and a new direction on recruitment.

And intertwined with it all, nine players belonging to other clubs who took refuge at Wanderers during one of the most difficult spells in its history.

The coronavirus crisis has made the future even more of an unknown, so establishing what will happen to those players who were still with the club during their last competitive fixture in March is tough.

But it seems extremely likely that the loan players will not be available if the EFL manages to restart the season – so now seems as good a time as any to reflect on how well they did in their few months at the UniBol.


The Preston defender got off to an unfortunate start, limping off 12 minutes into his debut at Wycombe back in August. By the time he returned from an ankle injury Bolton had new owners, a new manager and a very different outlook.

You could see what Phil Parkinson had initially recommended – Earl has the physical stature of a centre-back but showed enough on the ball to handle being played out wide on the left, too.

His red card in a 7-1 pummelling at Accrington was a turning point for all concerned, though, as just as Keith Hill seemed to be getting somewhere with his hastily arranged squad, things started to fall apart at the seams.

Earl returned and played another six games before – somewhat surprisingly – Bolton didn’t pick up his option for the second half of the season. Part of the reason was Peter Kenyon and Tobias Phoenix, whose influence in recruitment matters was starting to be felt. But Bolton’s poor form over Christmas and desperate league position will surely have played a part in scaling down January business.

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Rewind to that sunny day at Rotherham when Verlinden scored to put Bolton in front after four minutes, triggering scenes of unbridled joy on and off the pitch. Them were the days.

Sadly, the way that game turned out – a 6-1 hammering – rather reflected how things would fare for Wanderers in the months to come.

Verlinden did offer bright spots. His pace and trickery showed a player with pedigree, though his overall robustness and fitness were questioned at times by the management.

Once Stoke swapped Nathan Jones for Michael O’Neill in the dugout, the writing was on the wall. The Potters had seen him improve in a Bolton shirt and understandably wanted him back in the fold.

A knee injury would end his season prematurely but you would not back against him becoming a Championship regular fairly soon.

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Looking back to last August as Hill and David Flitcroft were assembling a squad of relative strangers in 48 hours, the addition of a been-there, done-it, defender like Wright was a transfer slam dunk.

Wright had been a rock for Sheffield United for a few seasons and though the club had outgrown him to some degree, the prospect of him and Jack Hobbs in the middle of defence looked sound.

So what happened?

Hobbs’ injury issues are well-documented, leaving the inconsistent Yoan Zouma to step in alongside Wright in a partnership that felt more like the Odd Couple.

Wright only ended up on the losing side twice in the league after that first outing at Rotherham but neither the 7-1 at Accrington nor the 4-3 damp squib at home to Burton painted him in an especially great light.

Right person, wrong time? Perhaps.

The 33-year-old moved back to Sheffield and was released in January. A shining example of how footballing fortunes can change quickly.

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Even while he was still wearing a Bolton shirt, the combative Nottingham Forest midfielder divided opinion among the fans – some of whom felt he was a class above an average team, others who believed his latent style was part of the problem and not the solution.

One thing is for certain, he was trusted by Hill and Flitcroft. Used at holding midfield and centre-back, Bridcutt’s communication proved the most important of his skills.

Like so many others in the Wanderers camp this season, however, he just could not stay out of the treatment room. One lay-off was blamed on a broken sternum AND a dislocated shoulder, which flared up again a few weeks later. Bridcutt’s appearances came in patches and his absence unquestionably affected the team.

Hill spoke about wanting to retain the midfielder’s services throughout January – but in the end, Lincoln completed the deal. How hard Wanderers pushed to get him back we may never know.

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Signed from Manchester United, and well-known to Hill from a previous spell at Rochdale, the Scottish midfielder let nobody down for effort in his time at Bolton.

He made an excellent first impression on debut at Rochdale – doing just about everything bar scoring a goal to earn something from the game.

Though Hamilton never quite got to those levels again, he didn’t shirk the workload and heads back to Old Trafford with a positive check on his CV.

After the club’s final competitive game at Burton in March he dodged the issue of his future – but should he become available in the summer and fall into Wanderers’ budget, there would be few complaints made if he was seen at the UniBol again.

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Picked up on loan from Ipswich after Wright headed back to Sheffield United, the former Everton centre-back represented a step-up in consistency even though results failed to materialise.

Nsiala finished on the winning side just once, against Tranmere, but delivered some strong performances in February and March before the lockdown.

Only Zouma (13) actually played as a centre-half on more occasions for Wanderers this season than Nsiala (12) and in the final few weeks he blended well with the left-sided Ryan Delaney – which might well give the club some thought for the future.

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You had to feel a little sorry for the Hull City full-back when he turned up at Bolton, with the fans up in arms over the release of Adam Chicksen.

Nurturing another club’s player when a ‘perfectly good’ player was already on the books did feel a little counter-intuitive, yet Fleming did his level best to make sure he gave a good account of himself.

There were mistakes, which come with the territory as a youngster, but his attitude was first class and he returns to the KCOM Stadium with every chance of challenging for a spot in the side.

It seems unlikely Fleming would return to Bolton given he has time left on his contract with the Tigers but he showed enough to suggest he will have a decent career in the game.

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Billed as a “Rolls Royce” by Hill – who rarely misses a sound-byte – the Sheffield United man did have something about him, even if we only saw it in fits and starts.

A couple of minor injuries sustained after Saturday-Tuesday games were unfortunate and meant he never really underlined exactly where he fitted in the side.

Comfortable on the ball and a decent reader of the game, Bryan might well be aiming higher than the bottom reaches of League One in the future. He is another loanee, though, who would be welcomed back if the opportunity arose.

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Tottenham winger and deadline day signing who seemed to take an eternity before he was deemed ready to join up with the squad – and who managed just two brief substitute appearances once he did.

All evidence from his time at Southend and Ipswich points to a decent player who might have plugged the hole left by Verlinden, but a confusing ‘minor injury’ which was sustained while training with his parent club meant he was more a mystery man than saviour.