Bolton Wanderers can confirm that the club will introduce a new ‘B’ team next season to aid player development.
The Wanderers’ Academy will stay at Category 3 level for the time being with a side still playing in the Central League and the U18s continuing in the EFL Youth Alliance.
In addition, the ‘B’ team model will allow further flexibility in choosing extra games to be fitted alongside the core fixture calendar of the Central League.
This season, the Whites were able to benefit from playing Premier League opposition in the shape of Burnley in the Central League Cup.
And moving forward, they will now be able to hand-pick additional opposition from senior teams to Under-23s sides, and teams across academy category ranges, to build a bigger games’ programme and give young players a better opportunity to move towards a first-team career.
Wanderers plan to appoint an additional member of their coaching staff to lead the ‘B’ team and recruit more young players to operate in a designated squad with a clearer pathway to the senior set-up.
Some of the existing younger first-team squad members and most promising U18 players will also feature at ‘B’ team level to continue their development and further bridge the gap to the senior side.
Manager Ian Evatt said: “Our first team is improving all the time and in turn the gap between the first team and the U18s is becoming bigger and bigger.
“So how do we bridge that gap and give our U18s and younger players a longer time to mature, to get stronger physically, tactically, technically and mentally?
“This will enable us to do that and having a ‘B’ team will give us the flexibility – alongside the Central League programme – to play against all different types of opposition and they can develop accordingly.
“It will be a group with new coach who will coach the way we do and it’s an exciting development.
“There are lots of things happening behind the scenes where this club is moving forwards and getting back towards what it once was.
“Credit, again, to Sharon and the board for everything they’ve done behind the scenes to enable us to do this.”
Wanderers will now begin a recruitment process to have the new ‘B’ team set-up in place for the start of next season.
And the club will continue to invest at Academy level – with the longer term intention of regaining a higher category status under English football’s Elite Player Performance Plan – as part of the major strides forward being taken by Wanderers on and off the pitch.