Ian Evatt eyes glory with Bolton Wanderers in League One play-off final

Ian Evatt eyes glory with Bolton Wanderers in League One play-off final
 Ian Evatt the head coach / manager of Bolton Wanderers applauds the fans at full time during the Sky Bet League One Play-Off Semi Final 1st Leg match between Barnsley and Bolton Wanderers at Oakwell Stadium on May 3, 2024 in Barnsley, EnglandGetty Images

Ian Evatt says his Bolton side will enjoy the chance to win promotion back to the Championship after going to some “dark places” in the past few years.

Wanderers will face Oxford United in the League One play-off final on Saturday, with about 36,000 of their supporters expected to make the trip to Wembley.

That comes five years to the week since Bolton went into administration amidst a crisis which saw players go on strike over unpaid wages.

There were also winding-up orders over a £1.2m tax bill, the deduction of 12 points, a second successive relegation, and the threat of liquidation.

Evatt arrived at the club just as they were about to pull out of the nosedive, under new owners Football Ventures, and even though they were 17th after 24 games, he sparked a revival that saw them grab third place and promotion from the bottom division.

Feel-good factor

Since then, Wanderers have finished ninth, fifth and then third, and last season won the EFL trophy – with a 4-0 thumping of Plymouth.

Evatt believes that the optimism and feel-good factor around the club feels sweeter because of what has gone before.

“Moments and occasions like this do give you the chance to have some perspective, and think about the journey so far,” he told BBC Radio Manchester.

“We’ve progressed every year, the statistics show that, and we’ve built a football department which is ready for the next level. It’s something we’re extremely proud of.

“Touching on the supporters as well, the connection we’ve built with them, to sell 30-odd thousand tickets in a 10-day window in a cost-of-living crisis speaks volumes to what they think of us and what we think of them. That togetherness will be key on Saturday.

Dion Charles with the trophy after the Papa John Trophy Final between Bolton Wanderers and Plymouth Argyle at Wembley Stadium, London on Sunday 2nd April 2023

Getty Images

“It’s great to witness how this club has grown again, and we are one game away from achieving our primary goal.

“If we’re not enjoying it we’re all doing the wrong thing. It’s hard to get to these games, it’s hard to achieve what we’ve achieved. We have to enjoy it because we’ve been to some dark places in the not-too-distant past.”

Last season’s winning trip to Wembley gave his team the template for success, Evatt believes.

“It’s something we can look at and try to replicate,” he said.

“It’s not just the performance, which was exceptional, but our preparation for that was pretty smooth.

“What we did pre-game and in terms of travel arrangements we know works, so it gives us a head start in arranging all of those things.

“We’ve got good memories there, which can never be a bad thing.”

Related Topics

  • Bolton Wanderers
  • League One
  • Football
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