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Key targets being met at Wanderers in slow and deliberate summer window

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse

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It has hardly been the kind of adrenaline-packed summer we have grown accustomed to at Wanderers – but Ian Evatt may have already ticked off half of the jobs on his ‘to-do’ list.

Securing the future of club captain and key defender, Ricardo Santos, was always going to be the first task, and one which had to be settled before any thought of a holiday could be entertained.

A three-year deal agreed, and Bolton could move forward knowing they were well insured on their biggest playing assets should any of their Championship admirers come calling.

The second crucial assignment was to ensure that Wanderers went into the new season with a settled number one keeper.

Whether it was Billy Crellin to Matt Gilks, Matt Gilks to Joel Dixon, or Joel Dixon to James Trafford, the constant passing of the baton has been a destabilising factor of Evatt’s first two years in charge.

In getting Trafford for a whole season from Manchester City – and perhaps just as importantly, a whole pre-season – there should be no ambiguity about who is number one as the Whites prepare for League One.

The 19-year-old Cumbrian is a cocksure, modern goalkeeper, whose strengths suit the way his manager wants to play. And the relationship he struck up with the Wanderers fans during his loan spell last season should give him a big advantage this time around.

Whereas there were some minor issues when Trafford turned up midway through a season, particularly in moving the ball out from the back, they should theoretically be reduced with the opportunity of several weeks on the training ground and a handful of friendly fixtures to play.

City rate Trafford, now a bona fide Under-21 international, and with Southampton seemingly on the verge of signing Gavin Bazunu for big bucks, he has been elevated a step thanks to his solid form in a Bolton shirt.

The trick now will be for him to progress further, forget the fanfare and the social media and concentrate fully on becoming the best goalkeeper he can be. The omens are good, as beneath that eccentric exterior is a young man with serious ambition.

Wanderers’ defence should benefit from having played in front of Trafford for a few months – although what shape it takes could depend on Evatt’s view on last season’s back three.

With Santos and Gethin Jones most likely starters as captain and vice-captain, respectively, there is a debate to be had about the other three defensive options – George Johnston, Will Aimson and new arrival Jack Iredale.

Many feel another experienced centre-half is still needed if Wanderers are to push themselves into the upper echelons of the division, and Evatt does like to have cover for every position which leaves him one player short. The same could also be said for defensive midfielder, MJ Williams, who no longer has a deputy within the senior squad since Andrew Tutte stepped down to player-coach duties in the B Team.

Finally, we come to the right wing-back slot, which for so long this summer looked like it would be filled by a curly-haired Californian.

The fact that Marlon Fossey is no longer on Bolton’s radar came as an obvious disappointment to the Wanderers supporters, who like Trafford, had taken him to their hearts in the good times last season.

Concerns were raised about his injuries and relative lack of experience for a 23-year-old, but evidently that has not put off a cluster of Championship clubs from sniffing around him and raising the amount it would have cost to take him from Fulham.

Bolton entertained it to a point. But there was a clear shift in mood over the last week which suggests another similar player has become available, which may fit more in line with the budget.

Evatt could not afford to sit and wait in the queue, and the decisive action he took shows just how important it is to have a first-choice wingback in place soon.

A cluster of signings is expected this week, albeit for the B Team. Wanderers’ fans will have to make that distinction from here on in.

Otherwise, we can probably expect more slow and steady work in the transfer market as Evatt and Chris Markham continue their policy of quality over quantity.

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