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Bolton Nuts » BWFC » Bolton Wanderers Banter » Bolton's first-ever XI under manager Ian Evatt - where are they now?

Bolton's first-ever XI under manager Ian Evatt - where are they now?

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karlypants

karlypants
Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse

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The retained list released by Bolton Wanderers yesterday included the likes of Alex Baptiste, Andy Tutte, Liam Gordon and Matty Alexander – who had all been included in Ian Evatt’s very first matchday squad.

By next month when contracts expire, there will be only TWO players still in playing employment by the club who were present in the team which faced Bradford City.

Ricardo Santos and Gethin Jones remain integral members of the squad as captain and vice-captain and together they have had an incredible 51 other team-mates who have represented the club at competitive senior level.

But what happened to the rest of the squad from September 5, 2020, which played in front of an empty stadium in the Carabao Cup?

We take a look at how they got on.

BILLY CRELLIN – It is fair to say the former England youth keeper’s Bolton career did not follow the path he’d hoped after signing on loan from Fleetwood.

He played 16 games for Bolton before being dropped in November with the club lulling near the foot of the table. Ian Evatt got himself some unwanted attention with comments made after a mistake at Cambridge – but Crellin’s performances had been poor and he played no further part in Wanderers’ promotion campaign, returning to his parent club.

Incredibly, after just four cup appearances this season, Crellin got a move to Premier League Everton. He has played once for the Blues – a 4-2 defeat against Brighton for the development squad.

GETHIN JONES – Signed on a free transfer from Carlisle United, the former Everton defender has proven a great bit of business for Wanderers.

Despite picking up a couple of injuries and suffering personal heartache after his mother passed away this year, he has amassed 71 appearances for the club and scored three times, becoming one of the most consistent players at Evatt’s disposal.

LIAM GORDON – Signed from Dagenham and Redbridge on a free transfer, the young Guyana international started the season as Evatt’s first-choice left-back but struggled for consistency and was loaned back to his former club by the following transfer window.

He retuned last summer to show real improvement in his game and featured 21 times in all competitions this season. Despite that, he was released in Tuesday’s retained list and has been tipped to move back to London to resume his career.

GEORGE TAFT – One of Bolton’s more feted signings in the summer of 2020, the former Leicester City centre-back managed just five appearances before being farmed out on loan to Scunthorpe United.

He signed a two-and-a-half year deal with the Iron in January 2021 and made 37 appearances this season as the club dropped out of the Football League under Keith Hill.

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RICARDO SANTOS – Signed from Barnet on a free transfer, the Portugal-born defender did not have the best start in Bolton colours but a switch in formation transformed his season and he ended up being voted into the EFL Team of the Year and sweeping the board at Bolton.

Appointed captain in October after Antoni Sarcevic’s departure, the centre-half has become a real leader in the dressing room, winning this season’s Players’ Player of the Year award.

ALEX BAPTISTE – Bolton fans knew all about ‘Baps’ when he came back to help his former Blackpool team-mate Evatt, and there were a few who questioned the decision after his previous spell in the Championship had not ended well.

This time the experienced defender proved invaluable to Evatt, bringing the best out of Santos and proving a steadying influence right the way through the promotion campaign.

He played infrequently this season but was still a big authority in the dressing room.

Baptiste has indicated that he wants to play on for a 20th season of his professional career but has not been offered a new playing contract with Bolton.

BRANDON COMLEY – The stats all added up for former Colchester United midfielder Comley before he arrived at Bolton, particularly in possession, but the reality was quite different as he struggled to find any sort of rhythm in Evatt’s side.

By January he was completely out of the reckoning, playing just once during 2021 in a Papa John’s Trophy game against Liverpool’s Under-21s before his release in November.

He trained with Carlisle United in League Two but eventually linked up with National League Dagenham and has been a regular in their side for the last few months.

ANTONI SARCEVIC – A promotion specialist at League Two level and one of Bolton’s biggest signings that summer, Mancunian midfielder Sarcevic was immediately installed as captain at the UniBol.

The club’s struggles in the first half of the season did not sit well – and he did explore options to move elsewhere before settling back down and helping Bolton to an unlikely third-placed finish.

Sarcevic continued as skipper into this season but by October Bolton had themselves started to plan to replace him in the next transfer window.

The issue came to a head after the 4-0 defeat to Wigan Athletic in which he played with an ankle injury but was then dropped to the bench for the following game against his former club Plymouth.

After a heated exchange with Evatt, the decision was taken to move him on ahead of schedule, and National League Stockport County stepped in to offer him the same wage as he earned at the UniBol, with a longer contract.

Sarcevic has since been a major part of Dave Challinor’s side which is now on the cusp of a return to the Football League.

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TOM WHITE – Evatt brought the young midfielder in on loan from Blackburn Rovers, having worked with him the previous season in a promotion-winning side at Barrow.

He made a slow start at Wanderers, however, and quickly found himself displaced, playing his last game for the club in a 2-1 defeat at Walsall in December 2020.

After returning to Blackburn he was loaned out to Hartlepool and then moved back to Barrow on a permanent basis, helping Phil Brown’s side avoid relegation this season.

NATHAN DELFOUNESO – Another of Evatt’s former Blackpool team-mates, Delfouneso was one of Bolton’s better performers in the early months, even out-scoring Eoin Doyle.

His impact lessened as the season wore on, however, and he was restricted largely to substitute appearances.

This season, Delfouneso scored twice in the Papa John’s Trophy but missed a penalty against Wigan in the Carabao Cup. He filled in as an auxiliary midfielder before Christmas but was eventually allowed to join Bradford City on loan in January.

EOIN DOYLE – The Irishman had scored goals for fun the previous season at Swindon, helping them to promotion, but he agreed to drop back down a division and spearhead Bolton’s attack early in Evatt’s reign.

Although he made a slow start, Doyle eventually racked up 19 goals, making him the first player to score more than a dozen since Michael Ricketts in 2001.

But like Sarcevic, there was a spell late in 2020 where a move elsewhere was being explored, with promotion rivals Salford City keen to take him at one stage.

Doyle stayed put and added another eight goals this season before deciding to move back to Ireland with St Patrick’s Athletic. He has scored four goals in three games so far.

MATTY ALEXANDER – Played in goal for Bolton in their youngest-ever side which drew 0-0 against Coventry City in August 2019.

Played understudy to Remi Matthews during the 2019/20 season and also turned out against Bradford in the Papa John’s Trophy.

Released on Tuesday after loan spells with Runcorn Linnets and Lancaster City.

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RYAN DELANEY – Irish defender who featured regularly at the end of 2020 before a controversial red card against Tranmere, which saw him replaced by Alex Baptiste for the rest of the campaign.

Released last summer, he joined Morecambe and then moved on loan to Scunthorpe United. He is currently available for transfer.

JAK HICKMAN – Ex-Coventry City full-back who made a handful of appearances for Bolton before leaving on loan to play for King’s Lynn. He turned out for Stourbridge and St Patrick’s before returning to National League King’s Lynn in February.

ALI CRAWFORD – Scottish playmaker who was Evatt’s first permanent signing, re-signing after a spell in League One the previous season under Keith Hill.

A regular starter early on, he dropped out of contention at the start of 2021 and was loaned out to Tranmere Rovers. He then moved to St Johnstone in Scotland, making the move permanent in January.

ANDY TUTTE – Steadying influence in midfield during the promotion campaign, making 20 appearances, but a run of bad injuries had restricted him to just one game this season.

His release was confirmed by the club on Tuesday – but there are rumours doing the rounds that he could be utilised in the B Team set-up.

BRIGHT AMOATENG – Brought in under the influence of head of football operations, Tobias Phoenix, and put in a few impressive performances in pre-season. Played just 20 minutes of first team football before dropping back down to Under-18s level and eventually leaving the club in a rather secretive fashion.

Wanderers never announced his release – and he has yet to surface at any visible level of football since.

SHAUN MILLER – Brought in from Crewe on a free transfer, the striker developed a reputation for scoring late and crucial goals, earning some precious points in the promotion campaign.

Miller left in summer 2021 and signed a deal with non-league Nantwich Town, close to his Cheshire home.

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