Orders barked by Matt Gilks have been the soundtrack of pandemic football at Bolton since he was cajoled out of semi-retirement back in November.
The former Scotland international has played nearly 200 games in the top two divisions and with no fans in the building, his well-educated orders can be heard loud and clear by anyone within earshot of the pitch.
But it was not meant to be this way. And if Gilks had stuck to his original plan, he would have been in the dugout at Bradford on Saturday, rather than standing on the touchline after the game, summing up a 1-1 draw to the local media.
With loan keeper Billy Crellin struggling in the first few months of the campaign, Evatt turned to his former Blackpool team-mate for one last hurrah. And after a bit of persuading, he took the goalkeeper’s spot for the televised victory against Salford, keeping the number one jersey ever since and passing 450 league appearances.
“He definitely needed to twist my arm,” Gilks smiled. “I can’t remember what game we’d played but we had Salford on the Friday and I said: ‘Gaffer, I’ll come in for the Newcastle Under-21s, we have got them in the cup next week.’ “He was having none of it. Decision made, I was straight in.
“Then your game head comes back on and being professional.
“I am helping, I think. My experience, along with Alex (Baptiste), has put us in a far better position than we were a few months ago.”
Though regular Bolton watchers have grown accustomed to Gilks’ stream of consciousness providing a substitute for crowd noise at grounds up and down the country, opposition media are often moved to comment on why he needs keep up such detailed conversation with his defenders.
“It’s just guiding and helping,” he said. “These days you don’t really get voices but when I started there were probably 10 or 11.
“It is me latching on to the old school way of doing things but it also keeps me in the game. It is easy to switch off and let your mind wander. “Even if the ball is in the opposite corner I am still shouting, just to keep in touch.
“Teams can hit you on the counter-attack and there were a few times in the first half where they (Bradford) might have been in with a better choice of pass. It only takes one clearance sometimes, so you definitely have to maintain concentration for 90 minutes.”
Gilks arrived at Bolton within a few weeks of Evatt’s appointment in the summer, having been part of a Fleetwood squad that reached the League One play-offs last season.
He had been winding down towards a move into coaching but the request from Evatt reignited a fire in the 38-year-old’s belly – and with added help on the training ground he has not completely ruled out playing on next season.
“I hadn’t played for nearly a year but I love training more than I do playing games,” he said. “I’d kept my eye in, played some five-a-sides, kept sharp, it was just getting back into that game mode and the Salford match went well and we went on a run of five wins… Then we went the other way.
“But I keep myself fit and sharp and I love it when people call me the veteran and that I’m old. It’s great.
“At the time I was solely doing the goalkeeping to start with and then I’d join the five-a-sides towards the end to keep my eye in.
“Luckily now we have an academy goalkeeping coach who stepped up who I’d previously had at Blackpool. He took over the reins so I could concentrate on playing. Next year, we’ll see what happens. Whether the gaffer tells me I’m done, or he doesn’t, we’ll see.”
Wanderers have kept six clean sheets in their last nine games with Gilks attributing a big piece of that improvement to the form of centre-back Ricardo Santos.
“He has come on leaps and bounds, even from when we joined,” the keeper said. “He has signed a new deal and rightly so, he deserves it.
“His whole world is in front of him if it wants it and applies himself. If he dedicates himself to his profession, then there is no reason why he can’t go right the way to the top.”
Tuesday night sees second-placed Cambridge United come to the UniBol for the first of 13 games remaining in the League Two campaign.
Wanderers’ promotion chances have improved significantly in the last month and victory against the U’s could reduce the gap between the two clubs to four points. At the start of February, it had been 14.
“Cambridge are top three, another good side,” Gilks said. “Every game is tough – I mean we played Barrow and only won in the 94th minute. They are hanging on but you hardly get a rest in this league, it’s recover and play, so that levels a lot of it out.
“We have picked up on our pitch so hopefully we can impose our style of play and put them to bed.”