“IF it was golf, I’d be on the 17th or 18th hole” shrugged Alex Baptiste with an unmistakable East Midlands twang, looking back at a playing career spread across all four divisions and now topping more than 500 games.

Approaching his 35th birthday, you would have thought an experienced defender like him was running out of fresh experiences in football, but not so.

Baptiste’s second spell with Bolton has been – to use the well-worn football cliché – a steep learning curve.

In the summer he answered a call from former Blackpool team-mate Ian Evatt to add some experience in a fresh-faced back line but had not reckoned on learning the ropes all over again.

“I’ve been playing 18 years and I think I’ve played 10 games in my whole career in a back three like this – and that was a loan spell at Sheffield United,” he said.

“I am learning, even now. And I’m telling you, it has been tough sledding the first couple of months.”

It is fair to say Baptiste’s arrival at Bolton in July was greeted with a note of caution by the Wanderers faithful, due in the main to the way his last spell had ended.

The club was on a downward spiral in the Championship under Dougie Freedman and sapped of confidence, errors began to creep in.

Baptiste was loaned out to Blackburn Rovers but despite having 12 months left on his deal at Bolton, had not added to his previous 54 appearances until the start of this season.

Life after Bolton became somewhat nomadic – although in latter years Baptiste’s lack of appearances had been down to some big injuries.

“Last year I didn’t play at all, maybe one-and-a-half games and was on the bench after I did my Achilles,” he said of his time at Doncaster Rovers. “I feel good, though, and I keep on top of everything each day, and I am enjoying myself at Bolton.

“If we start winning it will make me feel a lot better – but that result against Salford was a massive step in the right direction. We are gelling more and more in each game and hopefully we can give it a big push.”

While younger members of the Bolton camp have looked uneasy under the particularly harsh gaze of a big fanbase this season, Baptiste has played this golf course before. And as such, he knows a few dropped shots on the opening nine holes can still be retrieved.

“There’s time to sort it out,” he said. “We know it’s no good if we beat a team like Salford and then lose at Stevenage and Scunthorpe, or don’t do ourselves justice. We know we need to start getting results.

“Tuesday-Saturday-Tuesday, it comes thick and fast, and when you start winning games you can make quick progress.

“There’s a lot of games to come so if we can get on a roll and start putting in consistent performances you can fly up the league. I am excited for what is to come.”