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Why Bolton could be building a team around George Thomason

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karlypants

karlypants
Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse

Five-one down at home to Port Vale and subbed 55 minutes into his full Bolton Wanderers debut, George Thomason probably did not feel that he was at the start of a beautiful journey back in December.

The midfielder, then 19, had been plunged into League Two football just a couple of months after he had been turning out for Bamber Bridge in the Northern Premier League. To some, it looked too much of a step up in class.

Crucially, Ian Evatt was not among the doubters. A week later he kept faith with Thomason at Walsall, then again three days later in a steely win at Cheltenham.

And just a couple of months on, Wanderers were tying the youngster down to a new contract – his name now very much a part of the first team picture.

There is still an element of rawness about Thomason’s game, but positional and defensive improvement has been made. His range of passing – illustrated perfectly by a glorious sweeping ball left-to-right against Morecambe in midweek – continues to delight the thousands watching back home on iFollow.

Evatt remains convinced there is plenty more to come. And though the Bolton boss would never attempt to remove Thomason’s ‘street’ style, he is excited by the prospect of planning away some of those rough edges to create a real Wanderers player.

“If you look at his first game in the team this season compared to his last there’s a massive improvement,” said Evatt. “He is starting now to believe in himself and dominate games. For such a very young boy that’s impressive. If he keeps improving at the rate of knots he is, then he will become a very big asset for this football club, and one we can build a team around in the future.

“He is doing very well at the moment but he has a lot to learn, and knows he has a lot to learn. There has been no resting on laurels, he’s asking me every day what he needs to do to improve, how does he get to where I need him to be. He works tirelessly on his game and that’s what you want out of any young player. If you have that attitude it is half the battle.”

Thomason was released by Blackpool in 2018, seeking regular football in the North West Counties League with Longridge Town.

In a year at the Mike Riding Ground under the watchful eye of former Wigan and Preston winger Lee Ashcroft, Thomason was converted from a left-back to central midfield, showing he might be ready for another shot at professional football.

Ashcroft had previously recommended full-back Joe Bunney to former Bolton boss Keith Hill at Rochdale a few years earlier and after a short trial, the tip-off earned Thomason an 18-month deal.

Evatt came in with little knowledge of Thomason but got a good reference from former team-mate John Murphy, Blackpool’s Under-18s boss, and quickly saw some potential in pre-season.

Before Covid-19 decimated the non-league calendar, the idea had been to get several Wanderers fringe players out on loan to local clubs to get football on a Saturday afternoon, and Thomason joined Callum King-Harmes for a short time at Bamber Bridge before being recalled to sit on the bench for the Papa John’s Trophy game against Newcastle United’s Under-21s in November.

Evatt admits he has been given little opportunity but to keep Thomason involved in the first team ever since.

“When I came into the club I assessed George with my own two eyes, as I have everyone,” he said. “And it is the same for them. Everyday is an opportunity to impress the manager and George has done that from minute one, hence why he is in the team.

“I think his character is very strong and credit to his family and parents for giving him that mental strength and resilience that many young people don’t have these days.

“George is a real throw back in terms of his attitude to football and training. From minute one in pre-season he impressed me and Peter (Atherton) and took on board what we ask him to do. He works tirelessly at his game and is always one of the last to leave the training pitch, wants to improve all the time. And he gets his head down and works, that’s what we expect.

“He has seen the fruits of those labours now by getting in the team regularly.”

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