Bolton Wanderers intend to develop the pathway to the first-team with the potential reintroduction of an under-23s side or a B team being considered to help bridge the gap which currently exists and is getting wider.
Wanderers set up a reserves team in pre-season which competes in the Central League and offers first-team squad players as well as youngsters game time in a competitive environment.
It is headed by first-team coach Sam Hird but, with the injury situation and the condensed nature of fixtures this season, Evatt believes the reserve teams have not been as strong as he would have liked.
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At present, there is no under-23s side at the club after Wanderers announced a shake-up of the club’s Academy in early 2020 prior to Evatt’s arrival at the club.
It led to it being re-categorized from a category two to a category three status and meant the club’s under-23s team was discontinued at the end of the 2019/20 campaign.
But Evatt has now confirmed there is planning and conversations going on about developing the reserves set-up and closing the gap to the first-team, with the potential reintroduction of an under-23s or a B team being established among the options under consideration.
The Bolton boss said: “For now, there’s just lots of planning and conversations going on behind the scenes. There is a huge gulf between the under-18s and the first team and that gap is only getting bigger because the first team is improving all the time.
“How do we bridge that gap? Because we have some real bright talents in that under-18s that literally are not ready to play for the first-team yet, but in two or three years time they might well be, so where do they go right now, and at the moment , they’ve got nowhere to go.
“It’s been really challenging this season because, yes we’ve had the reserves but with the amount of injuries we’ve had and the condensed nature of the fixture list, it’s been really difficult to pick strong reserve teams.
“What I will say is it’s probably going to be different again next season to what it’s been this season and we’ve certainly got an eye on how we bridge that gap between under-18s and first-team football.”
“It needs to be their own training group, it needs to have their own manager, they need to be coached the same way as I coach and then all of a sudden, that gap will become shorter.
“But there’s lots of conversations going on, there’s lots of planning going on and we’ll see what happens, but I would think it would be a lot different next season.”
An option for younger players perhaps not ready for the Wanderers first-team has been heading out on loan to the non-league pyramid to pick up experience.
Though it has its merits, Evatt outlined the lack of time with their young players when heading out on loan to certain clubs as an issue, with the under-23s or B team the optimum solution to the issue.
He added: “The most different part of that is when they go into these non-league clubs is that they go to the clubs which they’re going to be treated well and they play a certain way that will not mirror us but be that style more than anything else.
“But the problem we’ve got is those clubs want to train all the time as well and we want the players to be in with us and having the education with us day to day, but they can’t do both. They can’t have that education and go and train for them and go and play as they’ll just burn out.
“The best way to do it is to have maybe an under-23s or a B team and then the ones that are progressing and doing well that we don’t quite feel are ready for the first team then to go out on loan, but for now it’s about bridging that gap between under-18s and first-team football.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.