FOUR transfer windows, 32 new signings, one never-ending embargo and a total spend of absolutely zero: Phil Parkinson has certainly not had things easy in his two seasons with Wanderers.

Twelve months ago the Bolton boss had a medal to show for his hard work, as promotion from League One was achieved at the first time of asking. Yet on Sunday, having put every ounce of effort into keeping his team in the Championship against the odds, he had to be content with handshakes and slaps on the back.

Some may argue he was more deserving of a medal this time around. And yet there are also Bolton fans who feel Parkinson has taken the club as far as he can.

Wanderers’ revival comes to a crossroads this summer and thanks to Sunday’s Macron Miracle, the options are plentiful and exciting.

Ken Anderson has made no secret of his aim to secure foreign investment and with Championship football guaranteed, the club is infinitely easier to market. Whether he will look to sell outright, and relinquish the total control he has held since buying Dean Holdsworth’s shares last August, remains to be seen.

The uncertainty goes some way to explaining why Anderson cannot offer a definitive statement on Parkinson at present. Should new ownership come in with their own ideas, both are experienced enough football men to know change is extremely likely.

Parkinson found that out in his previous job at Bradford City, for example, where new German ownership was confirmed a matter of months before he moved on to the Macron.

A very good argument can be made, however, that Wanderers owe Parkinson and his staff a debt of gratitude for guiding the club this far with dignity.

No club had been promoted before under the same embargo cloud. And though the manager inherited a decent squad in the circumstances, they were a group completely devoid of confidence after a hellish eight months of financial problems.

Every loophole was exploited by Anderson to preserve a competitive squad when injuries hit in 2016/17 – yet the following summer the continued wrangling with his former business partner Holdsworth ensured the embargo rumbled on, impinging on the business which could be done in the transfer market.

Even after Wanderers announced they were free of the transfer restrictions, Parkinson has had to deal with the grim reality of managing a club which could not compete financially. The sale of Gary Madine – and the lack of a direct replacement – was a significant gamble, which very nearly backfired.

Bolton’s transfer business in January warrants some scrutiny. And Bolton’s struggles post-Madine perhaps provide the most compelling evidence for the anti-Parkinson brigade.

Questions have been asked about the manager’s tactical flexibility, style of play and selection policy in times of difficulty, particularly after the international break. But under-pinning most problems faced by the manager was the fact he had assembled a squad on loans and free transfers, whereas his rivals in the relegation race had not.

The success of Sheffield United and Millwall – the two clubs who accompanied Wanderers into League One this season – is often cited. Neither club has spent huge sums on players this season, yet it must be noted both have seen consistent steady investment over the last few years without the same need for wholesale cuts to the wage bill.

When judging Parkinson it must be assessed how much the club’s struggles have been affected by what he was able to recruit.

Burton survived for one season on a budget of £8m in the Championship – yet their relegation on that dramatic final day illustrated just what an unforgiving division it can be.

Parkinson may feel he deserves a pre-season of relative normality, if such a thing exists.