Dapo Afolayan knows how big a challenge League One will pose for Bolton Wanderers next season with division potentially increasing in difficulty but is adamant the squad are focused on reaching the Championship.
Wanderers finished ninth in the third tier of English football this campaign with a total of 73 points, a fine achievement for a newly promoted side.
A total of 73 points would in most seasons be enough to have the Whites in and around the top six, but the high standards in League One this campaign meant that Bolton were 10 points behind sixth placed Wycombe Wanderers.
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The third tier of English football has been full of big clubs this season with the likes of Sheffield Wednesday, Sunderland, Portsmouth, Ipswich Town, Wigan Athletic, Charlton Athletic and Rotherham United in the division.
Though the Millers and Latics will be in the Championship next campaign, Derby County, Peterborough United and Barnsley will drop down to make it a highly competitive division.
But Afolayan believes Wanderers are capable of being one of the three sides going up in the 2022/23 season and the top scorer and player of the season is keen to come back and be better next campaign.
And he believes his know how on the pitch has been the aspect of his game which has changed the most as he feels he is pinpointing the moments to make his mark on an encounter better, as he expects the rough treatment he gets from opposition teams to continue and want referees to clamp down on it sooner before booking players.
He said: “This club speaks for itself, it should always be going for promotion. But it won’t be easy, it will be just as hard if not harder than this year with a lot of big clubs in here.
“A lot of the teams have the same ambition and only three of us can go up. That will be the goal for us as a squad, 100 per cent. I have seen a lot of interviews with the lads and every one of them talks about getting into the Championship, so we have to start now, focus over the summer and get ourselves ready.
“I haven’t really taken time to think hard about it but I know there is improvement there and stuff that I can come back and be better at next season. I will go away and work on those things.
“From what I have done so far I want to get as many goals as I can.
“I keep seeing stats about previous players here – me, Doyler and Michael Ricketts – just to be in that bracket is brilliant and something to be proud of on its own.
“My know how (has changed the most), and what I mean by that is I always knew I had ability and could do things but being able to go and actually perform, being cleverer on the pitch, dribbling at the right times, being confident to run at people and know I can beat them and not doubting it. I think that is what has changed.
“A lot of the time when I lose the ball it is because I am doubting myself a bit.
“It is something I have learned to deal with over the years. For me, it is always going to be something that happens because of the way I play.
“I think referees need to cotton on to it rather than letting players have six or seven free hits before something happens, but I think I have done well to stay injury free from some of the tackles I have had this year, hopefully that continues. ”
Afolayan believes the away following has been ‘remarkable’ in the recently concluded campaign and is pleased the supporters have pride back in their club once again after some difficult recent seasons and not being able to watch the team in person for a year in 2020/21 .
He said: “I think what they have managed to do this year, especially away from home, has been remarkable.
“They were away from the game for so long and there was everything the club went through before that.
“I think they are just happy to have their club back, really, and that is one thing we have tried to do is give them that pride in their football club again. They deserve it.”