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"We must show up" - Ricardo Santos sounds rallying call

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karlypants

karlypants
Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse

Ricardo Santos goes into Bolton Wanderers’ biggest game of the season so far with a message for his team-mates: “We have nothing to fear.”

The big defender knows performance levels will have to pick up from the weekend’s narrow win against Walsall but after a run of 12 games unbeaten he says the dressing room has never been more confident of success.

“It is a massive game for us,” he told The Bolton News. “But we won’t be going there with nerves. Every single one of us are up for it.

“They are a bit higher than us in the table but I don’t think they are a better team than us.

“In big games you need to show up. We must show up. And I don’t think we did that in the first half against Walsall.

“It shows no matter how high or low a team is in the table, they can hurt you, so we need to start faster than that at Forest Green. There is nothing to fear.”

Santos has become a talisman at the back for Wanderers in the last few months, playing his way to a new deal with the club and even taking on the captain’s mantle in the absence of Eoin Doyle and Antoni Sarcevic.

He acknowledges, however, that on-pitch guidance from experienced keeper Matt Gilks and centre-back partner Alex Baptiste has been a big factor in his rise to prominence.

“Baps is a good guy, I learn a lot from him, and with Gillo behind us as well – they both believe in me and give me the confidence to go out there and play,” he said.

“When I get home after games I can still hear Gillo’s voice ringing in my head. It’s good because it keeps everyone switched on.

“I have played in all the games and I am learning every day. I watch all my clips and try to improve on the next game.”

Wanderers have conceded just three goals in their last eight games, another stat which pleases Santos after what had been a very different story in the first half of the campaign.

“At the start of the season I knew I could perform better than I was doing. I just stayed focused, trained hard every day and I knew I’d turn a corner and get going.

“There was a lot of quality in the squad. But there were missing pieces that we didn’t have, and it shows week-in, week-out. It has been helpful to get those players in during January.

“We have been hard to break us down and with the two guys in front as well. We are working hard.

“Kieran Lee – his running, you don’t really notice just how hard he is running. MJ (Williams) as well, there’s a good togetherness.”

Confidence in the camp cannot be allowed to develop into arrogance, says Santos, and with his sights set on promotion he feels that Bolton can stay unbeaten to the end of the season.

“We know what we can do and what we have got left to do,” he said. “We haven’t cracked it yet. We have 10 cup finals.

“We can’t look too far ahead and take the games one at a time, three points at a time.”

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