Ricardo Almeida Santos was gutted that 2022 got off to a losing start for Wanderers but believes there are exciting times ahead.
Though there were mitigating circumstances to defeat at Rotherham United, the club captain was disappointed that a wholehearted performance had not at least been enough to grab a point from the New York Stadium.
A Covid-ravaged squad was only able to reopen their training ground at the start on Monday (December 27) and was still clearly affected by an unprecedented run of illness through the camp.
“Despite everything that has gone on, this is a tough place to come and I think we could have walked away with something,” Santos said.
“Dapo had a chance last kick of the game, Brocky had a similar one. Today wasn’t our day but the Gaffer walked in and said this is a new year, a fresh start.
“That desire, we haven’t seen that for a while, everyone was sticking together.
“It was hard. They are a physical side, direct, and they get a lot of bodies in the box but we haven’t played a game in three or four weeks and we were tired at the end because we’d given it our all.
“Nathan Delfouneso played centre mid, and we’re missing a lot of vital players like MJ and Kieran. We did well but we are walking out of here with our heads up and know we have to keep believing we can do something this year.
“And the fans were amazing and they were clapping up to the last minute which gave us belief to get a goal.”
Regardless of the result, Santos reckons there is reason for optimism as the players rediscover full fitness and Ian Evatt is able to make full use of the January transfer window.
Striker Dion Charles has already been added to the squad in what was Bolton’s first cash deal for three-and-a-half years and another signing looks likely in the next couple of days.
“It was the same thing last year,” he said. “We got those players in over the same time period and it was like a fresh start. We just have to stick together and believe.
“The gaffer wants to keep building a squad to kick us on, so it will be an exciting month.
“Dion is exciting. I think he trained for the first time on Friday and looked sharp. He looks like he could score some goals, so I can’t wait to see him.
“We have some good players in the attacking areas and that’s great as a defender because it makes you relax a bit.
“The gaffer will be trying to add a few more as well, so we have to keep going.”
Santos admits he has never seen illness impact a squad quite like it has at Wanderers in the last few weeks.
“I can’t remember any time where it has been like this. It has been mad.
“It was just one of those things – one day someone gets it, then the next someone else has it. You can’t really help but we tried to do the best we can.
“You start losing sharpness and fitness so it has been difficult, we don’t want to fall too far behind.
“But the gaffer did the best he could to try and keep us fit.”