LLOYD Isgrove has revealed how Wanderers’ players had to dress up as police officers to get them past mad scenes of celebration outside the UniBol following their promotion-clinching win against Crawley.

The winger, who had grabbed the fourth goal of a memorable day, could not believe the scale of the party when the team bus pulled up outside the Bolton Whites Hotel at just past midnight on Saturday.

Eoin Doyle managed to squeeze through, keeping folk entertained with his dance moves at the window.

But with police concerned about safety, the waiting crowd of around 1,000 revellers were forced to wait for more than an hour to see the rest of Ian Evatt’s squad as they were smuggled in – later bursting out of the front door of the hotel to joyous scenes.

“It was just carnage,” laughed Isgrove, who rose to the fore, starting all of Wanderers’ last eight games. “Doyler was straight off the coach. Sarce was trying to but the police weren’t having it. “The boys were really frustrated. The fans were messaging us saying ‘where’s the bus?’ The police told us we couldn’t say a thing.

“Then all of a sudden we were being told to get in a police van. It’s the first time I have ever been in one but I was buzzing, they have cells and everything. And it was the only way we were getting in there.

“Some of the lads in the front even had to put police jackets on to mix in, so the fans wouldn’t clock on. It was absolutely mad.

“Finally, we got out the front door to be with the fans and it’s all we really wanted.”

The swell of support had not only taken the emergency services by surprise.

“We got closer and you’re thinking, what is going on?” Isgrove told The Bolton News. “You don’t get that at every club. Look at how many there were outside against Exeter and then us getting back so late from Crawley, we didn’t expect that many people. “We knew it was a big club but because there haven’t been any fans in this season we haven’t really felt it. You see social media but when you see it live, it just blows you away.”

The party capped what has been a strong finish to the season for ex-Southampton and Swindon man Isgrove, who had grabbed a crucial goal at Salford and had another ‘controversially’ pinched by team-mate Kieran Lee a few days before against Harrogate.

The 28-year-old admitted, however, that by the start of March he had sought talks with his manager Evatt about the lack of game time he had been given.

“I think I found my form at the right time,” he said. “A couple of months back I had a conversation with the manager, I’d been in and out of the team, and I just asked him what I needed to do to stay in.

“He told me straight and so I knew when I got the chance again I knew what I needed to do. I stayed in the team from that point, so I think the talk helped. The consistency of being involved Saturday-Tuesday really got me to my best and I’m really happy with how the last couple of months went, at the most important time.

“That’s my third promotion, to be fair, and it felt like the best one. The way we did it, just incredible.

“The way the season started, going into Christmas and even as far as February we still hadn’t got going,” he said. “It took the last 20-or-so games to actually get firing, and I suppose it can happen. But in the end everyone pulled together and we finally got there. It was third but we would have taken that back in February if you’d have said we had to win on the last day of the season to go up – your hand would have been snatched off.”

Isgrove had sampled League Two promotion with Swindon the previous season but the truncated season had taken the edge off the celebrations. This time around, and given the drama that had built around the Crawley game, Isgrove was determined to make the most of it.

“Last season we found out we’d gone up at home in lockdown,” he said. “Obviously it was a nice feeling but you can’t compare it to what happened with Bolton. Even though we didn’t have the fans in, actually finishing the season, the way we did it, it was so crazy.

“Some of the lads were saying when we went out on Sunday that it hadn’t sunk in that we’d actually been promoted. It is probably only doing that now because at the time it was just a whirlwind.

“When we’d lost that game to Exeter, the boys in the changing room, it was surreal. It was scary quiet. But then we took our anger out on Crawley and finally battered someone!

“Everyone was saying we get a goal up and sit in, and I know we won a lot of 1-0 games, but to win that so convincingly was really nice.

“The gaffer said on the bus ‘finally my front four scored!’ and it was overdue, to be fair.

“Those one-goal leads, you are never safe in football. Anything can happen, like Exeter. It was nice to do it in the last game, especially on Sky.”

Isgrove is one of several players who is out of contract at Wanderers this summer, having found himself cut adrift by Swindon last season as they looked to make budget cuts in the pandemic.

“I only signed for Bolton about six games into the season,” he said. “I literally didn’t have a club and when I came in I signed for a year just to make sure I got playing again. “It was tough. There were a lot of issues there at Swindon. “Covid was a big one, I think there was a lot of uncertainty, and then there was the chairman. I don’t know, the whole thing got messed up. We wanted to stay together but it was a really difficult time.

“And because I had got the promotion it made it feel even stranger because I had expected the group to stay together. I hope that will be the case at Bolton too.

“At the start it wasn’t the greatest, but we had a good January, brought in some real quality, and after that people just gelled. They gave the manager their time and we really turned it around.

“If you keep that team together, there are players who have been promoted from League One in there, so I don’t see any reason why we won’t be right up there again.”