PRE-SEASON friendlies rarely raise the pulse levels, unless of course they happen to take place in some far-flung destination or a ground I perhaps haven’t visited.

Wanderers announced their first four games of the summer this week, with trips to Longridge, Chorley and Southport all looking the type of standard jaunt you would expect in July as a League One club.

The one fixture which stood out a mile, however, was a game at Oldham Athletic, not because it would take place in any glamorous location but for the fact it plunged Bolton Wanderers into the most political environment in English football right now.

For the uninitiated, Oldham were relegated from the Football League this season after 115 years.

The Latics have been a ticking timebomb for some time as dissatisfaction steadily grew among supporters against owner Abdallah Lemsagam’s running of the club culminating in the highly publicised protests and demonstrations which have littered Boundary Park throughout this season.

From the moment the Bolton game was announced, various Oldham fan groups made it clear they would not be attending. And it did not take long for them to reach out for Wanderers fans to show some solidarity.

“We would encourage fans of both Oldham Athletic and Bolton Wanderers not to attend this friendly fixture,” wrote independent supporters group, Push the Boundary. “We have both suffered from incredibly poor ownership in recent years and we would appreciate your support in sending a message loud and clear to the regime at our club.”

The response from the Wanderers faithful has been predictably sympathetic. After all, it is not that long ago that the placards were out at the front of the University of Bolton Stadium to voice anger at the way the previous owner was driving the club over a cliff.

Those protests in early 2019 did their job and represented a point of no return. At Oldham, that marker of reconciliation was passed a long time ago.

Which brings us to Bolton Wanderers’ part in all this. Without question this fixture was organised on footballing principle. Oldham are exactly the standard of opponent you would expect to play two weeks into a friendly schedule, and the two clubs have met several times down the years at this stage of the summer because they have maintained good links behind the scenes.

You cannot hide away from the fact, however, that by agreeing to play Oldham at this unhappy point in their history the club has kicked up some dust – and that is a real rarity under this ownership.

There is an undeniable moral quandary. Should Wanderers have put themselves forward as opposition? In my humble opinion, no.

I wish ex-Wanderer John Sheridan well next season and hope Oldham use next season as a time to regalvanise and come back stronger, ideally with ownership who connect with the fanbase in the same way Sharon Brittan and Co have done here.

This is only a pre-season friendly, and the volume of supporters will be nowhere near what they would be in a regular season game. But Oldham’s angry fanbase may well use the visit of a high-profile local neighbour to make their point – and at that stage, is it worth considering whether the game is useful to Bolton?

For those Bolton fans who choose to back the stance of Push the Boundary and others, they have the opportunity to pledge the money they would have used to further their cause.

A website has been set up by the Oldham Athletic Supporters’ Foundation which allows a one-off pledge of cash to go towards their efforts to purchase the stadium.

Even if you choose to go along and see Ian Evatt’s side in action it may be worth bearing in mind. There but by the grace, and all that.

<h3> Gone with the wind? </h3>

I CAN’T wait to see the new FanZone at the start of the season, I just hope it is well-anchored!

We found out a few interesting details about the new venture this week, including the fact that it will house 1,000 supporters and open three hours before kick-off on a Saturday.

It was also revealed that the FanZone will be built on the directors’ car park, adjacent to the bridge which crosses Burnden Way from the Arena.

Credit to the Neil Hart and the Supporters’ Trust for clearing the various planning and licensing hurdles which have been thrown in front of the venture from day one.

I can’t help but think, though, that they have chosen the windiest patch of land in the UK to build the thing.

Genuinely, I have known folk to unzip their jacket on that corner of the ground and end up in Blackpool during the winter months.

<h3> A big hand for MJ </h3>

CONGRATULATIONS to MJ Williams, who I hear has recently got engaged.

Presumably his broken hand is better if he’s placing rings on fingers – I’m just happy he didn’t give me a left hook at the end-of-season awards.

MJ is one of the most approachable lads in the Wanderers dressing room, so early in the night I asked if he had time for a quick to-camera interview on how the season had gone.

He chatted like a consummate professional and wished me well for the summer, then just as he walked away, I went to shake his hand, like the idiot I am.

Had his reactions not been fast, who knows what would have happened. I doubt sincerely I would have got another interview this season. And I wouldn’t have blamed him one little bit.