THE last words Ian Evatt uttered to the press after the play-off final defeat in May appeared to rule out a return for Paris Maghoma at Wanderers – but did the Bolton boss speak too soon?

Having seen his key midfielder limp off the field at Wembley with an ankle injury he picked up in the first minute of the game, it was an inglorious end for a player which had brought such joy in his loan spell from Brentford.

“It is going to be difficult to sign Paris now we are stuck in League One,” Evatt shrugged. “That is just how it is.

“We are thankful for him, thankful for what he has achieved this season, and we wish him well.”

Maghoma had been voted Bolton’s young player of the year in the lead-up to the play-offs and batted away questions about his future as he looked ahead to the semi-final with Barnsley.

“I love this club and I always will – but the only focus I have at the moment is promotion,” he told The Bolton News. “As long as we get over that line then everyone will be happy. That is my aim right now.

“The way the gaffer has treated us off the pitch is second to none. He has helped me so much mentally, not just as a footballer but as a person. Honestly, I am so grateful to him, and he knows it.”

When the promotion push came to an agonising conclusion against Oxford, Maghoma left the building wearing a protective boot and needing crutches to get back on to the team bus.

Several days later he released an emotional message to the Wanderers supporters on his social media accounts, which looked to have given some closure to the situation.

He wrote: “Next season, Bolton are going to need its fans to support, cheer and push the team through so I ask that you stick with the club, keep the belief, be the anchor and help the club get promotion into the Championship.

“Bolton, you have a very special place in my heart. I’ve made memories and friends that I will cherish for life. Once a Wanderer, always a Wanderer.”

But his very next message, several weeks later, went off like a hand-grenade.

“Irreplaceable,” was the enigmatic, single-worded sentiment.

Wanderers had indeed been looking to replace Maghoma over the past few weeks and the club had been linked strongly with a move for Peterborough United’s Joel Randall, with some outlets claiming a six-figure bid had been refused.

Posh had paid Exeter City £1million for the versatile midfielder in August 2021 and though he struggled badly in his first two seasons – some of which was put down to homesickness and being away from his family further south – Randall excelled last year with 12 goals and 11 assists in all competitions.

Even though Peterborough brought in the highly rated Chris Conn-Clarke from Altrincham this summer and Randall was entering the final year of his contract, there was considerable doubt among people close to the club that owner Darragh McAnthony would sanction a sale to a direct promotion rival without significant profit. Prices north of £900,000 have been touted.

Bolton have refused to comment on whether any bid has been made, let alone whether they would go in for a second attempt. And that is what made the timing of Maghoma’s reappearance on social media all the more intriguing.

Sharon Brittan has already confirmed this summer that Ian Evatt will be supplied with an improved playing budget, something that the overwrought Bolton boss probably could not have envisaged in the mixed zone at Wembley.

Did the subsequent conversations with his chairman bring the possibility of an exciting Maghoma reunion back within reach? And will Evatt gamble on the 23-year-old being able to replicate the fine form he showed in the second half of last season across a whole campaign?

The manager suggested at the end of last season that Maghoma’s chances of returning to Brentford and getting regular football in the Premier League were slim but all signs pointed to a Championship move in one way or another.

If Wanderers have managed to convince Maghoma to play another season at League One level – where he managed 50 games and scored nine goals last time out - then this could be very well be the grand gesture needed to cheer up supporters as they build towards the new season.

As they say, Paris is lovely at this time of year.