The wheels are well and truly in motion for new boss Ian Evatt as he plans his route for the Trotters return to League 1 football. As was reported from the behind closed doors friendly with local side, Atherton Collieries, Evatt will indeed be sticking with his favoured 3-5-2 formation, and amongst a couple of trialists, and familiar faces, the new signings took centre stage. Wanderers have already seen a whopping eight new faces through the door with a few more seemingly ever closer.
With the squad taking shape, we’ve looked at how the Trotters could line up next season…
A product of Fleetwood Town’s academy, Billy Crellin has spent most of his career to date out on loan at lower league clubs. The most recent loan spell being at Bolton’s non-league neighbours Chorley, where he played 19 times for the Magpies. Along with this, Crellin has a small amount of first team experience, playing five times in League 1 for Fleetwood, whilst also noting up a 100% win record when he featured in cup competitions for the them last season.
Wanderers protege, Matt Alexander will also be vying for the shirt having impressed many of the fans at the start of last season, and amongst the two, this division could prove to be the making of these young keepers. Joey Barton expects Crellin to gain first team experience at the Unibol and will surely be a competitive battle for the number one jersey.
As has been well documented, Evatt’s style is with a back three. The recruitment so far has seen two central defenders confirmed in the form of Barnet’s Ricardo Santos and Cambridge’s George Taft. Both have first hand experience of playing at this level, with Santos also featuring 63 times in the division above for Peterborough.
Both players bring the height to the defence, notching a height of 6 foot 4 inches each. This could prove key when facing wide men that like to whip crosses in, and also could potentially see their fare share of goals. Looking back at the League 1 promotion season, David Wheater and Mark Beevers found the net 16 times between them, and this partnership could be re-emulated in the coming season.
Unless another centre back comes through the door at Bolton, Evatt will have to look at the existing squad and potentially give someone a chance. Notable possibilities are Adam Senior, who has made just two first team appearances, and Ryan Delaney who featured in the White strip just four times last campaign. It is clear that Evatt will need to assess both of these options, or dip his hand into the transfer market once again.
The midfield arsenal that Ian Evatt is creating is one that looks really exciting. Ali Crawford’s signature was the one that started the chain reaction of new signings at Bolton and is one that was met with open arms by the Trotters’ faithful. His wonder strike at Rochdale last season was the highlight for the midfielder and we’re keen to see him become an integral part of the squad next season.
Brandon Comley would be ideal to sit in the central defensive midfield role, maybe alongside Crawford. As he has shown at Grimsby, Colchester and Carlisle, he likes dictating the play from deep lying positions. Along with his attack minded play, he is not frightened to get stuck in when out of possession. Having said that, he picked up eight yellow cards last season, so with a little bit of work, and the discipline required at this level, he could be the perfect replacement for the already departed Jason Lowe.
Highly rated Antoni Sarcevic could potentially spearhead the five in the middle, sitting behind two strikers. Sarcevic has been hailed as the ‘Manchester Messi’, (no pressure) but has proven to have a keen eye for goal, from distance and likes to attack.
Two more names who were ever-present last season would see the wide positions fulfilled. Both Ronan Darcy and Dennis Politic came on leaps and bounds last season, and look to be the perfect fit in the wide areas. Darcy can play through the centre as well, however the versatility of his game, and the acquisition of Sarcevic, would allow him to make the wide areas his forte. Politic last season looked sharp and comfortable on the wing, and League Two could be the place for him to really prosper. The pace he possesses, and the ability to cross the ball into the danger areas could be a real asset to the squad, with the height of the forwards in the mix.
It goes without saying, Eoin Doyle is a magnificent capture for the club. The mere fact that he’s turned down a shot at playing in the division above with Swindon, where he finished as the top goalscorer in the division on their journey to the title, just shows that Bolton Wanderers is still a big name. The Irish finisher scored 25 goals in 34 games before the league’s suspension and it just goes to show exactly what Evatt’s immediate targets are. If Doyle can recreate his form from last campaign at Bolton, he could be the key player in the quest for promotion, and who knows, the League Two title.
Could this year be the year of the Faal? Muhammadu Faal didn’t get his opportunity under Hill and Flitcroft and was played out of position in the games that he featured. However, he is another one that knows where the goal is. The 6 foot 4 front man scored 20 goals in 23 games for Enfield Town, and it remains to be seen if he can make the step up to League football. He could learn a lot from Eoin Doyle in training, and become a worthy strike partner on the pitch should he find his feet under Evatt.