Ian Evatt’s arrival at Bolton Wanderers was confirmed earlier in the week and the club’s Head of Football Operations Tobias Phoenix admitted he was delighted to be able to bring in the number one candidate.
‘We’re absolutely delighted to have brought Ian to the Football Club. There was a high calibre of applicant and we’d like to thank each and every one of them for taking the time to apply for the role, but Ian was our first choice. We’d also like to place on record our thanks to Barrow for their professionalism throughout the whole process.’
Undertaking his role with Wanderers back in February, Phoenix spoke about the work being done behind the scenes to get a grip on recruitment and bring players to the Football Club; touching on the shared footballing philosophy of playing attacking and expansive football, detailed by Evatt earlier in the week.
‘I’ve been absolutely flat out on the recruitment side of things. I arrived at the start of February and we’ve really used the period over lockdown to be as forward as we can in our processes.
‘The beauty of bringing Ian to the football club is that he sees football how I see it, but he sees it from a professional’s point of view. I can’t do what he does, but I’ve got a basic idea of what I want it to look like, as have the board and as has Peter Kenyon – obviously Ian can then take that forward and turn it into something beautiful on a Saturday.
‘The type of players we want to bring to the Football Club are the players that Ian likes and he and I are very much synchronised in our thinking and how we see the blueprint for our players at Bolton Wanderers and how we’d like to see the team on a Saturday afternoon.’
Despite financial restraints on Football Clubs up and down the country amidst the Coronavirus pandemic and the potential of spending restrictions put in place by the EFL, Wanderers’ Head of Recruitment insists the board will back both himself and Evatt to be able to bring in the players required to ensure the Football Club has the best opportunity to succeed.
‘Some of the answers to what we can spend on bringing players to the club will be dictated to us by the EFL, if the salary caps come into the divisions. In terms of pre-pandemic and without a potential wage cap, the board are going to back us to bring the players to the Football Club that we want.
‘We’re not looking to be a cash cow for players and agents, that’s not the way we see it. We’re not trying to buy our way out of the division, we’re going to recruit strategically.
‘We’re working on blueprints and player-types on and off the pitch, because the characters in the dressing room and the characters around the club are really important. We’re going to work within our means and we’re going to deliver the best players we can for the Football Club.
‘The potential salary cap (£1.5 Million) doesn’t make a difference to my day, because it is what it is. It’ll be outside of my control and it’ll be outside of Ian’s control. The difference between us and other clubs is that we do have a blank canvas to work with.
‘We’ve got to focus on the positives and press the reset button and whatever tools we have to work with, we’re going to maximise the value for money in bringing players to this Football Club.’
Perhaps on the face of things, Evatt may not have been an obvious choice to many people as the successor to Keith Hill. But, he was identified as the number one choice by those responsible for his recruitment including Phoenix who made clear he didn’t want the club to opt for any of the names usually found on the long list of potential replacements for Evatt’s predecessor.
‘It would have been really easy for us to have taken a manager or Head Coach who has been around a bit longer than Ian with a slightly different CV but as soon as we got the opportunity to speak to Ian there was only one man for this job and the board and Andrew Gartside have been brilliant in helping to make sure that could happen.’
Offering clarity on Evatt’s role as Head Coach, Phoenix also detailed what his own role looks like.
‘I think football has changed to be honest. The days of a Manager coming in at a Training Ground and saying ‘I want that wall knocked over and I want it rebuilding there’ and then somebody doing it - I think those days are long gone.
‘Our take on it is different and I’ve seen a few different bits in the media and people have their own versions of what they think the Head of Football Operations and Head Coach Role looks like.
‘The job title is absolutely irrelevant, but what is relevant is understanding the project, understanding the expectation, understanding my role and what that looks like and what the decision making model is. The title on the door is irrelevant for me and Ian shares that opinion.
‘A lot of people have a pre-conceived perception of what my role is and what Ian’s is. There is no manual that says a Head of Football Operations does this and does that, and equally there is no manual for the Head Coach.
‘What’s important is the dynamic between Ian and I and the obvious synchronisation of how we’d like to see football played at the University of Bolton Stadium, the type of footballers we want to see in our building and the type of people we want to see in our building.
‘We want to reconnect with the fan base, not just on a Saturday on the pitch but also outside of the game time in the local community.
‘I don’t see myself as the focal point. Nobody is bigger than this Football Club. It’s about getting the right people in the right places and giving them the support that allows them to do their job. If we all stay in our lanes and do what we’ve been brought in to do, then we’re going places.’