Josh Sheehan believes Wanderers’ current squad is among the strongest in League One.
The fit-again Wales international has fixed his sights on returning to Ian Evatt’s starting line-up for a league game for the first time since last year.
But he accepts that competition is far stronger than it had been when he picked up a serious knee injury last winter, with many new faces in a dressing room with serious promotion ambition this season.
Wanderers get back to business this weekend against Lincoln City at the University of Bolton Stadium and having played 90 minutes against Tranmere Rovers in the Papa Johns Trophy last week, Sheehan is ready for more.
“Since I last played the squad has changed a lot,” said the midfielder, who has now fully recovered from the cruciate ligament injury he picked up in last November’s FA Cup game at Stockport County. “There are a lot of good players come in and when I returned to training, you can see the quality and the standard has upped.
“It’s only a good thing for us, I think, that they can bring in these quality players and it’s just a challenge every day because in every position you’ve got two of each almost now.”
Sheehan will be up against Aaron Morley, George Thomason, MJ Williams, Kieran Lee and Kyle Dempsey for a spot in central midfield, but backs himself to offer Evatt something new compared to the options he has had over the first nine games.
“I feel like maybe I’m different to all of them,” he said. “Hopefully I can complement anyone. I feel like anyone can play with anyone, there’s no set ‘this one has to play with this one’.
“I feel like everyone can play with different centre mids, so I feel like I can complement a lot of them, so I feel like I play a bit different to them. Whoever the gaffer picks I’m sure the boys will get on well together and perform.
“It is probably one of the strongest squads in the league, I’d say. We’ve got a lot of players at good ages, a good temperament on everyone, so it’s going to be a tough choice for the gaffer every game.
“Everyone has just got to do as much as they can, work the best they can in training and the games, and don’t give him any excuses not to leave him out or if he does, then you just work hard.”
Sheehan had showed last season that he can supply goals from midfield, scoring against MK Dons on his debut, AFC Wimbledon, Ipswich Town and Crewe before his injury.
And he believes an extra goalscoring threat in the middle of the park could be an important resource if Bolton are to challenge the top six.
“Hopefully I can complement the other lads and get them goals, that’s one of my jobs in the team, getting the ball and playing the ball forward and setting up chances for those players,” he said.
“That is my target is to set a few goals up for the boys and that’s the one bit where, if we can get flying with that then we’ve got a good chance this year.”