WANDERERS have dwelled in the same doomed position for long enough now for the sting of relegation to have long since disappeared.

As far back as January it was discussed whether a shift in the club’s transfer policy was geared towards life in League Two, so there were no tears yesterday when the EFL confirmed the trap door to the fourth tier would remain open regardless of whether another game gets played this season or not.

There were no banners decrying: ‘No Hope, No Effort’ as there had been in 2015, no fan protests in the stands and the car park like the last time Bolton dropped into Division Four after ignominious defeat to Aldershot in 1987. For all intents and purposes, this was a mercy killing.

The same can probably be said for their nearest rivals in the table, Southend, who despite loud protests from their chairman Ron Martin, will probably know in their heart of hearts that this was their fate.

Tranmere, who also look set to join Bolton in League Two if fixtures are not restarted, will be quite rightly peeved with the outcome – even if sympathy in these parts will be in short supply.

Over the last couple of months Bolton remained quietly resigned to their fate. Communication has been limited in every sense – but infrequent statements from the board have at least expressed a financial commitment and desire to build in the longer term.

It does not take a rocket scientist to guess, however, which way the club will be voting next week when they are polled by the league on whether to complete the remaining fixtures.

It may not be entirely keeping with the ethos of competition integrity - but the costs involved in playing 10 more games without fans are simply too steep when, in Bolton’s case, the chances of any reward are virtually non-existent.

Rather, Wanderers would sooner have the opportunity to do what they have been longing to do for some time – to pack up, go into brief hibernation, and emerge with a plan for the new season.

Unless there is a real sea change in club’s opinions over the weekend, they should get their wish.

Barring Peterborough – who are the real losers in this scenario, and most entitled to complain – most teams at the top will be happy to maintain the status quo.

You would expect Ipswich and Sunderland to favour a restart, as their sizeable ambitions demand Championship football, but the further down the table the greater the disparity between risk and reward.

If the league was restarted, it seems almost incomprehensible to this reporter’s mind that clubs at this level now have the time to unfurlough staff, re-open facilities and train players to fit the games in before the Champions League final, let alone wrap their head around the logistical nightmare of fulfilling fixtures while COVID-19 testing.

Perhaps it is better that we have not watched Wanderers wilt away on the pitch?

The most dyed-in-the-wool Whites fan will freely admit performances on the pitch have not been good enough to stay in this division. There have been mitigating circumstances for football failures but they do not entirely excuse what has been a miserable campaign, which will rightly be analysed once a punctuation mark has finally been placed upon it.

The club has paid for the sins of previous ownership in more ways than one. But the 12-point penalty for going into administration was not the millstone that people expected it to be.

Daryl Murphy’s late winner against MK Dons on November 16 put Bolton back into positive points with 30 games to play. They had just a dozen points to make up on Wimbledon at the time, and you wondered whether the hyper-positivity being projected by Keith Hill might just achieve the impossible?

Alas, they never got close. Indeed, any anger at Wanderers’ current predicament might well have been expended over December and January when the club’s chances of survival slipped through their fingers so disappointingly. Relegation now will be greeted more with a shrug of the shoulders than a shake of the fist.

Vitriol has also been tempered by what is going on around us. There are bigger factors at play than whether Bolton play Port Vale or Portsmouth next season and more than one person has uttered the words to me this week ‘as long as we have a club to support.’ When you look at the long list of disasters to have befallen Bolton Wanderers in recent years, to have this horrific pandemic placed at the very end feels like the punchline to a very cruel joke.

But with good will and sound judgement there will be a club to support next season, and a fanbase who deserve a few years where they can talk about the football, and nothing more.