Ian Evatt will be leaving no stone unturned at Bolton Wanderers as he aims for his side to hit the ground running in the new League One campaign.
Wanderers finished the recently ended season in ninth place, a decent achievement for a side which was newly promoted to the third tier of English football in the 2021/22 campaign. The Whites finished 10 points from the play-offs, which they had made a late charge for but ultimately had given themselves too hard a task to achieve.
The club is aiming to mount a promotion charge and target the top six at least. The Whites are due to return for pre-season training on June 17, before jetting out to Portugal for a training camp a few days later on June 19.
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A pre-season schedule of matches then begins on June 28, five days after the fixtures for the new campaign are unveiled. The curtain raises on the upcoming EFL campaign on July 30.
Wanderers boss Evatt hopes to have the squad fundamentally in place by the start of pre-season in terms of getting their transfer window business done early. One signing has already been made in the form of defender Jack Iredale, who has arrived on a free transfer from Cambridge United.
Evatt has been at the helm at the University of Bolton Stadium for the past two campaigns and has achieved a promotion and a top half finish. Both seasons have had up and downs spells.
The Bolton boss has reflected on his two campaigns in charge and pinpointed various aspects which can help explain circumstances that have gone against him at Wanderers. In his first season, he had to recruit a new squad from scratch essentially, while the Wanderers boss was hampered in recruitment efforts last summer owing to a salary cap which was imposed and subsequently shelved in League One and League Two.
Evatt says everything is being looked at behind the scenes as Wanderers seek to hit the ground running in the 2022/23 campaign. A poor start is something he believes they ill afford owing to the quality of teams which now ply their trade in League One and was demonstrated this campaign.
Next season the division will have the likes of Derby County, Sheffield Wednesday, Peterborough United, Portsmouth, Ipswich Town, Barnsley, Charlton Athletic, Oxford United, MK Dons and Wycombe Wanderers all who should have aspirations of competing for the play-offs and beyond. Evatt believes that despite positive form in the second half of the season, too much ground cannot be given to overhaul the sides Wanderers will be competing directly against in League One.
He said: “We’ll look at things all of the time and obviously analyse what we do pre-season and how we do it. My Barrow team was the same, the season we won the league we had I think seven points from the first nine games and we ended up going on to win the league, so there’s something we need to look at there, no doubt.
“But I do think the circumstances here in particular has gone against us with that and I’ll explain why. The first season we had more or less zero players so we had to recruit a whole new squad, I was new, a whole new way of playing, not only having to educate the players on what was expected but the supporters and the fanbase because it’s different to what Bolton teams have played in the not so distant past.
“This season, because of the salary cap last year, it affected our recruitment in the summer in particular in terms of we could only spend what we could within the salary cap last season, so obviously when you’ve got earners at the top end of that cap and you have to fill the squad with players that have potential but aren’t going to consistently perform at the levels needed to win in League One and once we got all of those injuries, those players were having to step up to the plate and just weren’t ready for it.
“This season has really been adding the layers to the squad, making sure there is that strength in depth under the first 11, which I do believe now we’re starting to get to.
“I’m looking at myself and the coaching staff, pre-season, the fitness coach, all these things, how we layer pre-season, how many games we play, what the training schedule looks like, how we manage the workload at the start of the season because it’s really high and heavy. The answer is we’re looking at everything and obviously we want to start fast and try and maintain that because what we’ve learnt this season is unlike last, even though we’ve had a really good run of form, you can’t afford to give people ground because there’s too many big clubs and big teams in this division.”
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