News – UK – Wish You Were Here: Can Hikers Hit An Ascent Trail To Meet The Fans Again?


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When Ian Evatt walked through the doors of the Bolton Wanderers in July with great success, he never read the part of the script in which he failed to meet supporters of his own club for another calendar year

In the past eight months, there have been times when the lack of accusing glances and murmurs of unrest at UniBol has worked to its advantage – but the whites boss could still achieve a Hollywood end in an unprecedented first campaign on the hot seat

Bolton tonight maintains formidable Scunthorpe United in tenth place with 17 games remaining, four points ahead of Newport County, who are currently in the final play-off spot

The Prime Minister announced yesterday that a limited number of supporters would not be able to attend until April 17 at the earliest May return to the stadiums – which means the play-off semi-finals and, as we may say, the final are not out of the realm of possibility

Evatt learned a lesson from last summer’s boastful promotion claims that Wanderers were ill-equipped for at the time

The Bolton boss, now better equipped with high-profile players in his locker room and supported by a club that has put itself back together during this pandemic, only wants to focus on the next 90 minutes

“The place is different, there are smiles on their faces, there is positive body language,” he said. “It’s a good place to work both in football and outside of football Everyone seems a lot happier

“I think the board of directors played a huge role in securing the club and rebuilding trust with the staff. That sour, bitter taste that was hanging around this place in the past has gone

“Of course the results help and any football club can only function well if you win on a Saturday, which we are fortunate enough to be doing

“There is still a long way to go for Bolton. We’re not sitting here thinking we cracked it, but it’s going in the right direction”

Evatt is desperate to repeat the good times he previously experienced as a player at Blackpool and as a manager at Barrow in the greater Bolton area, should he succeed, he admits that it would be an achievement to top it all what he did before

“I lean all the time but by comparison this would be bigger and better. This was a tougher task in my opinion and not everyone will understand that. People will think I took over Bolton Wanderers, the biggest budget and the biggest club, but it is not and it certainly is not that simple

“The people at the club will understand what we all had to go through to turn this place around and get the structure it takes to be positive again”

“And football plays the biggest role. The hotel can be the best in the world, we can have the best facilities in the league, but no one will want to come here unless the football club is fine, that’s just the nature of the animal

“I’ve seen first-hand twice what a football club can do when it’s successful. It can shake up communities and bring people together. We want to make Bolton the place again and make people proud of their club. It’s one of my top priorities

“It hasn’t happened so well so far. Things have affected what we can and can’t do – the pandemic is big, but accomplishments and restructuring have also made it difficult. We’re getting it now and I can feel it.”

“Next season, when we’re all back in the stadium and developing this or the next division, we’ll have a lot to scream and sing”

“Right now it’s less talking, more acting. Head down, keep winning soccer games”

On Tuesday, exactly one year has passed since UniBol last hosted a game with fans

Evatt’s long-distance relationship with Bolton fans has been complex so far, but he is confident that the recent results have rekindled people’s interest

“It’s insane that I haven’t seen anyone – but it’s probably also a godsend because it kept my ears and the back of my head from burning,” he said

“We managed to pull ourselves together. It bought us some time to really be able to restructure ourselves properly and put the right people in the right roles When that happens, success follows

“With the new board-level appointments and technical director Chris (Markham), I hope that we can really go in the right direction

“We’re excited and I can feel everyone else is too I can’t tell you the exact numbers, but I think our iFollow numbers are the best in this division as measured by a country mile, it shows you we’re starting again to spark the imagination of the fans and establish ourselves as a club

Join Marc Iles and Henry Hewitt to discuss the latest headlines and who might face Scunthorpe United on our weekly podcast, The Buff

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News – GB – Wish you were here: can hikers hit an ascent path to meet the fans again?