'It gives us something to aim at now' - Evatt sets sights on Ipswich opener
HANDED a tough start to the League One campaign, Wanderers will know quickly what standards must be met for success this season.
Ian Evatt’s side face a trip to Ipswich Town on the opening day followed by a first home game against Wycombe Wanderers.
The Bolton boss believes both opposing sides will be in the promotion race but believes his own side go into the season as a team other manager’s will be watching too.
Wanderers rattled five goals past Ipswich to end a long wait for a win at Portman Road last year and Evatt anticipates a clash of similar styles.
“On paper it’s a difficult game, but for both teams. Both finished last season strongly and Kieran McKenna is a very talented young coach, plays the game in what I believe is an attractive way,” he said.
“We have to play each other at some stage, so why not first game?
“We have good memories down there from last season, good performance, good result, but the past is the past and we have to concentrate on moving forwards.
“We have to concentrate on carrying on momentum forward from last season. We have a tough pre-season schedule and players are working tirelessly hard to make sure they are ready for that first game. It is one we are looking forward to.”
With the season now in shape, Evatt says the game at Portman Road gives him a chance to tailor some of his pre-season work accordingly.
“It gives us something to aim at now,” he said. “We know how they play, they know how we play, so functionally we can start working on how to affect them, tactically, and how to combat them. There is lots of hard work to get through before then and pre-season is going really well at the moment. We’re excited to get there.”
Beaten play-off finalists Wycombe are expected to be among the front runners once again and are the only side in the Football League against which the Whites have lost 100 per cent of their meetings (four).
“We know what is coming, what to expect,” Evatt told the club. “They are always a good yardstick in this division because they are always there or thereabouts. I believe Ipswich will be as well. We’ll know pretty quickly where we’re at.
“We put a marker down last season. It’s easy to look at the fixture schedule and say ‘that’s tough’ or ‘that’s a big one’ but all of the other clubs will be looking at Bolton and thinking the same thing.
“What I will say is that we have to be calm, and if we don’t pick up wins at the start of the season then it is not the end of the world or the season. Promotions are won in May, not August or July this time.”
Derby County come to the UniBol on Boxing Day having currently endured nine months in administration.
It remains to be seen exactly what shape Wayne Rooney’s Rams enter into League One this season but Evatt, who got his professional debut at the East Midlands club, is rooting for their recovery.
“I hope their situation gets resolved because it is a wonderful football club and being the Bolton Wanderers manager we know only too well what they are going through,” he said.
“Boxing Day will be a huge game and big revenue for our club. It’ll be a great game to be involved in.”
With 36 days to go before the big kick-off, Evatt is pleased with the shape his squad is in.
“As a benchmark, the running times are miles ahead of where they were last year,” he said.
“They need to be fit enough to do themselves justice with what I need from them, tactically.
“They have all got that in their mind now.”