Bolton Wanderers boss Ian Evatt on facing Doncaster Rovers & transfer window preparations



Bolton Wanderers have four games left of their season still to go as the League One season approaches its climax.

And Wanderers travel to take on relegation-threatened Doncaster Rovers tomorrow on Good Friday as they seek to finish as high up the table as possible.

For the hosts, however, all focus is remaining in the third tier of English football and sit five points from safety heading into the upcoming fixtures.

READMORE: Won’t be on beach’ – Gary McSheffrey’s big Bolton Wanderers claim ahead of Doncaster Rovers

Doncaster gave themselves a glimmer of hope thanks to a 2-0 win over Crewe Alexandra last weekend, a result which relegated the Railwaymen to League Two.

But Wanderers are seeking to go through April unbeaten and achieve a top 10 finish in the third tier of English football, having been promoted out of League Two last campaign.

Ahead of the encounter, Wanderers boss Ian Evatt spoke to the media at a pre-match press conference and here’s a transcript of what he had to say to broadcasters.

Any encouraging news injury wise?

“Declan John is fit and available. Dapo Afolayan is fit and available. Other than that, I think that’s it.”

Not too long to go now, but this is a big game for Doncaster?

“Yeah, they’re fighting for their lives, no doubt about that. They’re not just going to give it to us. We’re going to have to go and earn it.

“Obviously we’re not at full strength but whatever team we put out will be competitive. I know the manager really well, grew up together, pretty much from the same area. We had kids football together, we’re the same age, same friendship group, so it’ll be nice to see him and credit him for getting that job and opportunity and I hope he does really well apart from Friday.

“One of his coaches Steve Eyre is a man I know very well as well, so I know they’re going to be well coached and well prepared. It’s going to be a challenging game but one we’re looking forward to.”

How do you get the message across to the players now at the end of the season that the remaining games are still important?

“There’s an expectancy here to win football matches, we’re in the business of football and that means winning games. I told the players a couple of weeks back that even though it doesn’t look like we’ve got a lot to play for, there’s always something to play for.

“You’ve got professionalism, personal pride and also the fact that we’ve got another transfer window coming up and they need to make sure they’re still in the plans for next season because things change really quickly in football and this club progressing , it’s only going one way, so they want to be part of those plans.”

With regard to the next transfer window, you’ll be preparing and doing your homework for that, Bolton will be seen as a very attractive proposition for players who are out of contract or you’d like them to come?

“I think that’s what we’ve done. What Sharon (Brittan) and myself and all the other staff have done is created a really solid environment, an environment which is healthy.

“You’ve seen the togetherness in recent weeks. We do things the right way, we’re a club that play exciting and expansive football and players want to be a part of that. It’s a wonderfully supported club, a massive football club, so we tick a lot of boxes and hopefully that stands us in good stead.

“Even though we’re financially on a better footing now, we’re still not going to overpay, we’re still not going to put this club at any sort of risk and we want players to come here for the right motivational reasons and not just for finance. As you’ve just spoke about, there’s a lot of pluses to what we can offer here.”

You’re still a very young manager, what have you learned this season?

“I use every day as a learning tool really. I class myself as a bit of a sponge and I’m always learning, I never want to stand still, I always want more and want to be better.

“Of course, I’ve made mistakes this season, and of course I’ll continue to make mistakes, but it’s how you learn and develop from those mistakes and how we keep moving forwards and I think we’ve done that this season. We’re obviously really disappointed not to be in the play-off shake-up and the play-off mix.

“I don’t think we’re a million miles away and a costly November and December has probably killed us overall, but I think we’ve been awfully unlucky with injuries. But what we have done is create a huge stable foundation to be able to progress from next season.

“Obviously I’m personally disappointed, this would have been the three peaks so to speak and three in a row for any manager is great. Sometimes I have to be humble enough to say this season we haven’t collectively been good enough, but next season is another opportunity for us to go again.”

What has your assessment been of three 1-1 draws so far in April?

“Mixed emotions really. We are now competitive with the big teams even though we have been under par in terms of our squad depth and availability. But I also think we have been slightly under par with our performances and probably the two marry up together.

“I think there is loads of room for improvement, but what we have shown is that we can compete. We have had three really difficult games – you have only got to look at Portsmouth’s result (against Rotherham), Wigan as well and Sheffield Wednesday have been flying – and we have been competitive in every game.

“We have shown brilliant spirit and character to come back from 1-0 down in all of those games. But to get to the top of this league, we need to be even better. I keep saying that our record against the top 10 teams, conceding first is not good enough.

“When we score first, we are a very difficult team to get points from. That is the aim moving forwards really – to keep competing, to improve in every aspect and hopefully next season be in a much better position.”

Your team is fighting until the final whistle and in those three games you’ve ended them quite strongly – does that bode well for the rest of this campaign and potentially for next season?

“I keep harping on about our record of scoring in the last 15 minutes but it isn’t coincidental, it is just the way we play.

“We do challenge teams, we are constantly asking questions and teams become fatigued. The players have a great spirit and attitude to keep fighting until the very last whistle. We should not really have to speak about that, that should be the bare minimum – to fight until the referee blows the whistle is a given for any football player, but especially at this club.

“It is what the fans demand and it is what I demand. We want to see that continue and we just need to add some more quality for the first 75 minutes to make sure we try to get ahead in games because when we do get ahead, we are a very difficult team to peg back.”

Are you happy with the form shown since Christmas?

“I think we have lost three games since the middle of January, which is title-winning form when you average out the points.

“But as I said, we have given ourselves too much to do in the first half of the season and we have left some points out there in the second half of the season – there is no denying that. We want to improve, we want to be better.

“We are satisfied with our progress but we know we can do even more, and that is what we are hungry for and looking to do.”

What do you think these last four games are going to offer?

“We have challenged the players to try and stay unbeaten for the remainder of the season. We did that a couple of weeks ago and they have managed to do that so far.

“That has to be our aim and target, and to pick up as many points as we can. If we can finish in the top 10, that would be great. It would be a huge achievement from where this football club was two years ago.

“That is our aim and ambition and it looks like we are going to have a big say in the relegation battle, which is also important. I think that last game of the season has a bit of irony about it, we are looking forward to that one.

“But in the meantime, we have just got to keep going, keep working hard and try to get as many points as possible.”




www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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