Bolton Wanderers are delighted to confirm the appointment of Dave Gardiner as the club’s new Head of Academy.
The long-serving Gardiner – who has held a number of key coaching and development positions in Wanderers’ youth set-up in almost 15 years with the Whites – takes over following the departure of Mark Litherland earlier this month.
Wanderers have also appointed Matt Craddock as the club’s new ‘B’ team Head Coach as part of key changes within the club’s Academy and football department.
Craddock steps up from his role as the Head of Coaching at the Whites’ Academy.
Top trio: (from left) Julian Darby, Dave Gardiner, Matt Craddock
And former Wanderers’ midfielder Julian Darby – whose coaching career has also included spells with Leeds United, Nottingham Forest and Preston North End – moves up from the U16s to replace Gardiner as the club’s U18s’ (youth team) coach after close to six years back at Bolton.
“There have been some big decisions behind the scenes and what we’ve tried to do is promote from within – people that know the club, the community and the town. I’m a big believer in giving people opportunities,” said manager Ian Evatt.
“Dave deserves this opportunity. There’s no-one better than Dave for knowing the Academy, how it runs, what’s working and what’s not.
“Matt came in as Head of Coaching last season. We feel his relationship with Dave is an important one and he is very much a modern-thinking coach who believes in our brand and our identity and can really help develop those players in the stage between U18s and first-team football.
“Julian is another Bolton man and experienced coach and I’m really pleased with those three taking up those important roles.
“The club is moving in the right direction. That’s the most important thing.”
Wanderers are working hard to revive the club’s Academy system – which currently has Category Three status – under the ownership and management structures now in place, with Gardiner, 42, delighted to be leading the way.
“I’m excited by the challenge. The club is really going places and now it’s about making sure the Academy goes forward with that vision,” Gardiner said.
“We’re excited to really get things going and align everything.
“We have a great infrastructure in place, we’ve got some fantastic youngsters in the Academy and some great staff.
“It’s now about making the most of the potential and being ready to move forward in the future as we do step up as an Academy.”
The new appointments will see Wanderers aim to improve and develop the pathway of its young players, with the newly-established ‘B’ team having a key part to play under Craddock.
The 37-year-old, previously Head of Coaching at Preston North End and with experience of working for the FA, will head up a specific squad which will compete in the Central League and also play frequent other fixtures against a variety of opposition.
“I’m really thankful to the people who have put their trust in me because it’s a real opportunity for me,” said Craddock, who will also work closely with Evatt and his senior staff.
“It’s something I think I’m ready for and what has struck me over the last few days from the conversations I’ve had is that there are a lot of people working in the same direction.
“We are all aligned and I think when you get a lot of good people going in the right direction you can do so some really good things and I’m really pleased to be part of it.”
The ‘B’ squad will be made up of a core of Wanderers’ existing young players and some new arrivals this summer, with Craddock hoping to propel them towards a first-team career.
He added: “The first team is getting better and better and, like the manager has mentioned this year, the U18s are doing a really good job but the gap between the two is getting wider and wider as the first team progresses.
“The role of the ‘B’ team is to try and bridge that gap so that we can give some more time and dedicated effort to the players who are showing promise that maybe aren’t ready for the first team now, but we think have potential to impact the first team at a later stage.
“That’s what our job is going to be – to support those players, give them an opportunity and really specific training so we can develop them to hopefully get closer and be ready to be called upon as and when they’re needed.”