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'Perfect opportunity': Why Evatt is pleased to bring back reserves

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse

'Perfect opportunity': Why Evatt is pleased to bring back reserves 12761015

Wanderers will play a reserve team in the revamped Central League next season.

Ian Evatt has confirmed that for the first time two decades, a second-string side will compete in oldest reserve league in England, which first began in 1911.

Traditionally competed between teams from the Midlands and the North, the Central League was expanded to the whole country in 2014 and is now played in regionalised divisions.

The exact make-up of the league has yet to be finalised but Bolton – who won the Central League in 1955 and 1995 – aim to use it as a pathway for younger players who are not featuring regularly in the first team.

New first team coach Sam Hird will take charge of the squad, which will also cater for first team players who are not getting a regular game.

“I think there will be about 12 teams in the competition so there will be good, competitive football against reserve teams which will enable me to play lads who are not getting minutes in the first team but also younger development players who have probably moved on past youth football and need men’s football on a more regular basis,” Evatt explained to The Bolton News.

“It’s the perfect opportunity to get the minutes they deserve and need to keep them sharp when we need them for the first team.”

Last season Wanderers failed to field a reserve team or development squad for the first time in a century after the decision was taken to downgrade the academy to category three and disband the Under-23s team.

The plan had been to try and get some of the younger players affected out on loan but when the pandemic hit, options were limited.

“It was impossible,” Evatt admitted. “And we couldn’t help those players out because lower down the pyramid there was no finance, then the league stopped.

“Covid wreaked havoc on the football industry as it has with everything else, and this season we are in a better position to get them the minutes they need to develop and improve.”

From 1911 to 1999, Wanderers competed in the various divisions of the Central League, which was also sponsored at one stage by Pontins.

Other than a single season in the Avon Insurance Premier League in 2000/01, they played in the FA Premier North until 2012 when the Elite Player Performance Plan brought in academy grading and the Under-21 Premier League.

When Wanderers downgraded to a category two academy they began to play in the Professional Development League, winning the competition in the 2016/17.


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