Bolton Wanderers boss Ian Evatt on Wigan Athletic & setting record straight after ’embarrassed’ loss

Bolton Wanderers return to action after the international break with a big derby clash against Wigan Athletic.

Wanderers make the short journey to the DW Stadium to take on the Latics this Saturday in League One.

The 12.30pm kick-off sees automatic promotion chasing Wigan take on a Bolton side sitting midtable and with slim play-off hopes.

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Wanderers are 11 points from the top six as things stand with seven games of their season remaining, while Leam Richardson’s side are battling it out with Rotherham United for the League One title.

Wanderers will be seeking to keep their slim play-off hopes alive with three vital points this Saturday, and ahead of the game, Bolton boss Ian Evatt spoke to the press and here’s a full transcript of what he had to say to broadcasters.

How are you feeling after the international break?

“Yeah obviously refreshed. We feel like it’s been a long time since we played, but we’re in a really good place. We’ve trained really well this week. The lads returned from international duty with no issues, which is a positive and I’m looking forward to the game on Saturday.”

The lads on international duty made a good impact for their countries and Amadou Bakayoko scored – does that give them a lot of confidence coming back?

“Hopefully yeah. They all played a part in their respective teams. James played against Germany, Dion was involved in both games and set up a goal. Baka scored, Jon started both games for Iceland and probably had a running session against Spain for the 70 minutes he played! It’s really positive that we’ve got some international footballers in our ranks now.”

You’ve got three big games now – how much margin for error is there between now and the end of the season?

“None, absolutely none. It’s a crazy league. This season I think the high 30s will probably keep you up and you’re probably going to need 80 points to get into the play-offs. All we can do is win all seven and hope.

“That’s the target, that’s the ambition. It’s going to be challenging but this is a big week and come the end of this week, we could be right in the mix providing we do the business.”

Are the squad relishing the opportunity?

“Absolutely. We feel like we were embarrassed here against Wigan earlier on in the season. That wasn’t us and obviously we had a lot of injuries on the day and were punished accordingly but we want to set the record straight.

“We’re better than that, we’ve evolved as a team since then and we’re really excited for the game on Saturday.”

How far has this team come?

“A long, long way and the club in general has come a long, long way. We mustn’t lose sight of that. The top 11 teams in this league are now well clear of everybody else and I think it’s kind of two divisions in one really.

“It’s almost a mini Championship with the teams that are in that block of teams. We’ve come a long way, we’re progressing all the time, we’re improving all the time, our recruitment has been good, the players are improving and getting to grips with what we want and the expectations.We’ve got another transfer window to come in the summer, everything is looking really positive.”

Where did the Wigan defeat rank in your career in the dugout?

“In terms of in the dugout, really low. Everybody wants to beat their local rivals, especially on your home patch and we let ourselves down that day and we don’t want to make too many excuses, but we had catastrophic injuries that day.

“Both full-backs were missing, but since then we’ve completely evolved and changed and things are looking really positive. We’ve had a good run, whether it’s good enough I don’t know, but we’re going to do our best and it starts with a big game on Saturday and we have to go and compete.”

Do you even have to do much for a game like this in terms of motivation?

“I think we just need to focus on ourselves and just be the best version of ourselves. We try and play a certain way and our brand and identity and philosophy will never change and in that environment, which is intense and intimidating, we’re going to have to show some character and courage and personality to control the ball and play in tight areas against pressure. They’re going to be well organized and if we can do that, we know we can cause them problems.”

What have you made of the work that Leam Richardson has done at Wigan?

“Very good. Their recruitment was strong and they’ve got a team of experienced players that are used to winning games. They have good character and a way of playing which is effective and they’ve done great. But we’re not there to congratulate them. We’re there to try and win a football match and that’s what we’ll be trying to do on Saturday.”

The fans that will be there will want nothing but the win – do you enjoy that pressure?

“It’s why you’re in the industry. We want to be involved in these big games. The players have to embrace it. At the end of the day, this is a big, big football club and you have to play in big games and win big games, that’s what’s expected of you so we’ll be going there on Saturday to play our way.

“We will not change for anybody, we’ll try and implement our game plan and style on them and hopefully that’s enough on the day.”

How have you been training over the past couple of weeks?

“We gave the players some time last week to refresh and regroup. We’ve had a really busy couple of months so they came back in Monday after a few days off and have been great this week. They’re really excited for the run-in, there’s no flip flops or anything like that. We’ve got a job to do and it’s strictly business.

“I think the way they’ve performed the last couple of months, they’re earnt that time off and physically it’s been demanding. We needed to refresh and regroup.

“We’ve got a really big week coming up which will pretty much define our season and which way it goes. We’re all guns blazing and going into Wigan trying to win game.

“We don’t go anywhere afraid. We don’t go anywhere to draw. We go expecting to win every game and that won’t change this weekend, but to do that against one of the best teams in the league we’re going to have to be at our very best.”

What do you do from a playing and managing point of view to make sure that you don’t let any kind of complacency set in?

“We’re professionals. We’re in an industry which is all about winning and we have to carry momentum and that’s something that we’re looking to and the fans buying 12,000 season tickets is absolutely amazing and that just shows you the momentum that this club has got at the moment and we have to keep moving that forwards.

“That’s our responsibility, we’ve got some big games coming up and footballers want to win. They’re training really well, I can see they’ve got the bit between their teeth. They really are looking forward to the game on Saturday and we have to go and show the real Bolton Wanderers and if we can do that, then we’re going to cause team problems.”

How has Gethin Jones been since he returned from compassionate leave following the death of his mother?

“Brilliant. He’s a big part of this group, a big character, we all think the world of him and vice versa. That (attending the funeral) was a mark of respect for him and his family of him and his wonderful mother and we’re here to support him with whatever he needs, but he’s been fantastic since he’s been back and we’re lucky to have him.”

How is Lloyd Isgrove?

“He’s reinjured that hamstring. It’s the same prognosis. He will be missing for three to four months and that just shows the harsh realities of football.

“He’s worked tirelessly hard to get himself in excellent condition. Post-op, I think there was less than a five per cent chance of the injury reoccurring and unfortunately that’s happened to him. We’ll support him, we wish him well and we ‘ll give him everything he needs.”

What can you do to try and silence the crowd at the DW Stadium just a little bit as there’s going to be quite a following of Bolton fans to outshout their counterparts in the Wigan end?

“There’s different ways to damper opposition crowds. Our way is to control the ball and if we can have possession and build and control the ball and look a threat going forwards with our forward players and our pace in the team, that will quieten their fans and hopefully give our fans something to sing and cheer about.

“But they’re not just going to allow us to turn up and play from back to front through the thirds without any pressure on the ball and that’s where our personality and character must come to the fore.

“We must stay calm and composed under pressure, pick the right passes, make the right decisions, and if we can do that we know we can cause them problems.”

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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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