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Evatt on the prospect of Gilks playing on for Bolton next season

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse

Evatt on the prospect of Gilks playing on for Bolton next season 12465682

Golden oldie Matt Gilks can carry on as Wanderers’ number one next season, if he fancies the challenge.

The 38-year-old came out of semi-retirement this season to bail out his former Blackpool buddy Ian Evatt and has since racked up some of the best numbers in the league.

Bolton boss Evatt sees no reason why Gilks cannot carry on beyond the summer and towards his 40th birthday after seeing the former Scotland international get the playing bug during Wanderers’ late-season promotion surge.

“If you asked him, he’d probably say he is the best keeper in the division – that is his mindset,” Evatt told The Bolton News. “That is why he has played at the highest level, “We have had this conversation of late and he is loving it. He has fallen in love with football all over again.

“At the start of the season he was thinking about the other side of things and transitioning towards coaching but for various reasons he has been chucked back into the deep end again and he’s loving it. Why wouldn’t you?

“He is playing every week, the team is winning games, he is keeping clean sheets, it’s fantastic for everyone.

“It is great to see a smile on his face again – and Matt will go on as long as he wants to, provided he’s doing the things he is doing right now.

“He has been fantastic this season, he really has.”

Gilks has been one of League Two’s most effective keepers since he took control of the number one jersey in November, keeping 12 clean sheets in his 26 appearances.

That clean sheet percentage (46.2) is only bettered by Cheltenham Town’s Joshua Griffiths.

Gilks also compares favourably with his peers on save percentage (72.3), which is only marginally behind Cambridge United’s Dimitar Mitov (73.2) among players at the top seven clubs.

He has conceded 26 goals in his 26 games – but if you were to exclude the bizarre six-goal home defeat against Port Vale, his average comes down to just 0.8, which is comfortably the best total in the division.

Evatt took some time to decide that Fleetwood Town loanee Billy Crellin was not the right man to be first choice keeper but says Gilks’ imperious form has not been a surprise to him.

“Not one bit,” he said. “I have known him a long, long time and I know how much he dedicates his life to being the best goalkeeper he possibly can.

“Now there will come a time when his body won’t allow him to do the things he wants to do.

“I don’t think your head ever leaves the game, it is more the physical capabilities to do your job.

“But he is a specimen, a fit, fit lad. We didn’t want to throw him in earlier in the season because he hasn’t been training and he wouldn’t have been able to do himself justice.

“That was the biggest part of it – making sure that when he did get into the team he was fit and sharp enough to hit the ground running, and he has certainly done that.”

Gilks has also been a major influence in bringing things together on the pitch.

His communication from the back has been key in getting Evatt’s tactical plans to settle, and the squad now look to have complete faith in the manager’s style of play.

Last weekend’s win against promotion-chasing Forest Green was their most professional to date – and the whole performance pleased Evatt greatly.

“I never felt we were under pressure on Saturday, genuinely,” he said. “I thought we managed them really well, “They had one or two opportunities from our own mistakes in the first half but afterwards Matt didn’t have a shot to save.

“We defended from the front, kept the ball at times, and limited them to very little.

“To play the way we play, possession-based and playing out from the back, you have to have belief in it, otherwise it breaks down.

“You have to be brave in possession, show for the ball in tight areas, back each other up and trust your team-mates. They are doing it really well.”

Evatt on the prospect of Gilks playing on for Bolton next season 12465684


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