From September, Bolton Wanderers will be playing fourth-tier football for just the second time in their history, and the club are desperately hoping to make their stay in League Two a brief one.
Despite their recent struggles, the Trotters are undoubtedly a big fish in the small pond and are likely to be the side that every team wants to beat during the 2020-21 campaign.
Fans will be tasked with navigating their way to a number of new grounds next year, and there will be plenty of interesting match-ups along the way. As well as facing manager Ian Evatt’s former club Barrow, the former Premier League outfit will also be visiting the eco-friendly New Lawn Stadium, although with plans to build a new carbon-neutral venue already in the pipeline, it may be the only time that supporters get the chance to enjoy a trip to Nailsworth.
Change of management
Ian Evatt has been crowned National League Manager of the Season, after he guided Barrow back into the EFL as divisional champions.
— Burnden Aces (@BurndenAces) July 26, 2020
Evatt has been chosen as the man to lead the club back to the third tier, and despite his inexperience, the former centre-back appears to have the right credentials to get the club back on an even keel. With only a small pool of players on their books, the former Blackpool defender has had to move quickly to bolster his squad, with the capture of prolific goalscorer Eoin Doyle proving to be a real statement of intent.
Although the 38-year old had a reputation for being a no-nonsense centre-back, the new boss’ philosophy is a far cry from his own playing style. Inspired by charismatic Bristolian Ian Holloway, Evatt’s approach to management is based around hiring the right characters and getting the best out of his squad. Although he demands extremely high standards during training sessions, it’s his off-the-pitch demeanour which helps harness an unbeatable team spirit.
Tom White, who has recently arrived from Blackburn, has previously worked under the former Chesterfield captain and is looking forward to linking up with him once again. He suggested that whilst Evatt has a terrific camaraderie with his players, he still manages to command respect.
In Cumbria, Evatt opted to play three at the back with a deep-lying midfielder constantly screening the defence. The formation was often fluid, with the offensive players given plenty of freedom in the final third. Fans can look forward to an exciting brand of football at the University of Bolton Stadium this season, as well as a noticeable increase in work-rate.
Although the club’s financial situation has undoubtedly improved over the last twelve months, and they’ve been able to make a number of key additions to the squad, many supporters are just thankful that they still have a club to follow this season.
With near neighbours Bury having been unceremoniously expelled from the EFL, it looked as though the Whites could go the same way before Football Ventures Limited came to the rescue in August 2019. It is not uncommon for EFL clubs to fall on hard times, and fans will be hoping that off-the-pitch, they can follow in the footsteps of north-west rivals Blackpool, who have recently been able to rebuild following a period of decline.
Although the club are not able to spend frivolously this summer, with 14 out-of-contract players departing at the end of June, they still have plenty of room to manoeuvre when it comes to populating their squad. With a new long-term kit deal signed with Macron ahead of the new season, and Liverpool-based Home Bargains having renewed their shirt sponsorship agreement for the forthcoming campaign, things are slowly starting to look up in Greater Manchester.
Another 𝙋𝙀𝙀𝙆 👀
— Bolton Wanderers (@OfficialBWFC) August 1, 2020
From the Allianz Arena to the Globe Arena
Bolton Wanderers have an illustrious history and are one of the founder members of the Football League. Despite their lowly position, it is less than 15 years since they last graced the UEFA Cup. During this remarkable period, the Trotters became the first English team to take all three points in Belgrade, as well as holding high-flying Bayern Munich to a 2-2 draw at the Allianz Arena. The Bavarian outfit have recently secured their eighth successive Bundesliga title, and as of 1st August, are 7/2 second-favourites with Betway to win this season’s Champions League.
However, in 2007, that same all-conquering German side found themselves pegged back by a late Kevin Davies equaliser. This feat was made all the more remarkable by the fact that Gary Megson’s side were lying second bottom of the Premier League at the time.
Unfortunately, it is likely to be a long time before the fans can enjoy the glamour of European football once again, however, the club do appear to be finally heading in the right direction. With the aforementioned Doyle having arrived in Greater Manchester alongside League Two regulars such as Antoni Sarcevic, many supporters are beginning to feel cautiously optimistic about the club’s chances of returning to the third tier.
Evatt appears to be recruiting the right kind of characters for a promotion battle and having seen the likes of Plymouth Argyle and Blackpool bounce straight back at the first attempt in recent seasons, there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful at the University of Bolton Stadium.