WANDERERS have proven adept at giving their own supporters an excuse to withhold their money in recent times.

The club, which became so hard to love, had seemingly been on a mission to self-destruct.

It paid no bills, made no friends, treated its employees with disdain but each summer the bowl would be passed around the congregation to ask fans to pay for another season of the same.

Many still forked out, either with a sense of obligation or blind devotion. And since the day Bolton Wanderers dropped out of the Premier League they have never registered fewer than 10,000 season tickets for a campaign in which sales have not been truncated by a pandemic or an administration.

That statistic is quite hard to believe when you consider what a rough ride it has been – but those folks who stuck with the club at its worst now deserve to enjoy it at its best.

Around 90 per cent of people who had a season ticket last year renewed before last weekend’s deadline. And since seats went on open sale on Monday another 1,000 has been added to the total.

And wouldn’t you just know that the 8,000th ticket was sold by Ian Evatt himself.

If anybody required evidence that Wanderers were working hard to repair their reputation in the town, then how about the first team manager manning the phones in early June?

It is a rare thing to see a Bolton boss at this time of the year – usually reserved for family holidays on the beach and contact restricted to a few lucky texts from local journalists which rarely elicit a reply.

Older readers will remember Bruce Rioch’s first summer at Burnden Park, the great play he made of tidying the ground, painting woodwork, cleaning seats and concourses, restoring some pride in the club’s home.

Evatt’s efforts are along similar lines. Whereas 12 months ago the rebuilding effort had to be focussed on the squad, now he can do some of the finer tuning as he looks to foster the community spirit that worked so well for him in his previous job at Barrow.

It is a similar story for Bolton’s owners, Football Ventures, who have largely been free-wheeling since taking the club out of administration, into a massive squad rebuild, a pandemic, and then a promotion.

There has been little opportunity to set down a real agenda, talk about the mechanics of their plan to improve Wanderers’ lot, or indeed the finances which will be necessary to get them to where they want to be.

This summer should also reveal more about the Whites fans who have lapsed since the Premier League heyday.

There has been a whole litany of reasons why people have seen fit not to buy a season ticket, some of them having nothing whatsoever to do with the club itself. But for those who bemoaned the owner, the style of football, the manager, the half-time entertainment, it is perhaps now time to think seriously about coming back into the fold.

It seems apparent that Wanderers are looking to reward their season ticket holders’ loyalty and so to get in on the ground floor could be a wise investment if Evatt and Co hit their targets in the next few years.

For context, a glance at the pages of The Bolton News two years ago to the day provides a telling insight into the mood within the club at the time.

Sammy Ameobi told us he quit after feeling he had been continually fed “lies” from the previous ownership, Peter Reid was telling us about his concern for Bolton’s future and we ran a special report on the consistent breakdowns in communication which had brought the club to its knees.

It was heart-breaking stuff to cover and no doubt it was difficult to digest for the people who had invested so much into their team down the years.

Compare that to last week’s output from Wanderers, a club which has just put legend John McGinlay – a man banned from the ground by the previous owner – front and centre of their advertising campaign for next season.

Harry Brockbank, a captain-in-waiting for Bolton, talking about the touches of kindness from Football Ventures which have made working at the UniBol such a pleasure.

And let’s not forget the meat-and-drink for us football supporters, the summer signings, which thus far signal an intent to really push on after promotion.

The beating heart of Wanderers – that is the staff who greet on reception, who sell tickets, who run the lottery, who wash the kits, sweep the floors, pull the pints and prepare the press releases – keeps on going. They have been through the worst and after some success on the pitch there is a palpable sense around the football ground that things are getting better.

It is OK to fall back love Bolton Wanderers. Spread the word.