Ricardo Santos will be heading back into League One in a better place then he was in the colours of Peterborough United a few years ago.
By his own admission, the big defender did not take his career seriously enough as a youngster at London Road and had to rediscover his form in non-league football at Barnet before eventually being snapped up in League Two by Ian Evatt at Wanderers.
Santos grabbed his second chance with both hands last season, sweeping the club’s awards as he helped them to promotion at the first time of asking.
But as he makes his return to the third tier for the first time since 2018, Evatt believes Santos is now a stronger and more stable player than he was at Posh.
“He’s a different character now than he was then, and he’s the first to admit that,” he told The Bolton News. “He is fantastic, I can’t speak highly enough of him as a person and as a football player.
"The way he has matured over the last season, the way his game has improved, he has got a wonderful young family that have bought into he football club and moved up here.
“He can be anything he wants to be.”
Santos may not be ready to make his League One bow for Bolton in today’s home game against MK Dons after picking up the Covid virus a fortnight ago. A minor foot injury had also kept him out of training for a few days, which means George Johnston is likely to be given the nod alongside Alex Baptiste at the heart of Bolton’s defence.
Evatt is backing Santos to bounce back quickly and has not completely ruled out him playing some part this afternoon.
“He has been really unfortunate catching Covid when he did but he is over it now and back training fully,” he said.
“He is showing real maturity. When Rico speaks, everyone listens, and that is because he is a fantastic young man. Everyone likes him.
“We are delighted to have him and I hope he has a great year.”
Evatt is equally confident that this can be a positive year for Wanderers, on and off the pitch.
“It is a big year for everybody,” he said. “We have set our targets and we know where we want to be. It will take an almighty hard push to get there.
“In every way, shape and form this club is moving forwards. And the backing we have had on and off the pitch from the board has been brilliant.
“The club is changing for the better more or less on a daily basis at the moment.
“It is a happy place and we’re delighted where we are at.”