Ian Evatt is targeting the next step of Wanderers’ climb back up the ranks as he approaches his third anniversary as Bolton boss.
Evatt has led the Whites out of League Two and into League One’s top six since his appointment on 1 July, 2020 – a year on from the club being saved from potential oblivion by its current ownership.
A play-off semi-final defeat to Barnsley in May cost the Papa Johns Trophy winners a second Wembley visit in two months as the Whites just missed out on another possible promotion.
And following Wanderers’ return to pre-season training, Evatt believes the foundations are in place to try and overcome that disappointment and eye a Championship return as the next stage of the club's renaissance.
“We have had three years of progression. Three tough years,” said the manager from the Whites’ training base in Portugal.
“A lot of hard work has gone into getting this club where it is today, not just from me, but my staff, Sharon and the Board, Neil (Hart) and Chris (Markham). They have all played a huge part in that.
“It’s now time for us to go and take that next step. It’s almost that phase one is complete. We are now ready for phase two and getting ourselves back in the Championship.”
Evatt – who signed a new three-year contract as manager in May – added: “It’s really important to me that we keep progressing. Every year as a manager my teams have progressed and I think we will be doing the same again this season.
“You do need a bit of luck, as well, along the way, and I don’t think last season we had too much of that, especially given the injuries we had at key times.
“Around Christmas we lost Jack Iredale and Jon for the rest of the season – and Jon is a goalscorer and we’re excited to see him back fully fit again.
“We know what we need to do. We know what it looks like and now the hard work starts to make that happen.”
That hard work is taking place on and off the pitch as the players build up their physical fitness and Evatt and Technical Performance Director Chris Markham spearhead the recruitment process aimed at strengthening a squad that finish fifth in the division last season.
Wanderers have already made four summer signings in striker Dan Nlundulu, wing-back Josh Dacres-Cogley and goalkeepers Nathan Baxter and Joel Coleman.
And there will be more to follow as the Whites aim to be ready to roll when the new campaign kicks off at home to Lincoln City on Saturday, 5 August.
“We are in that almost difficult scenario at the moment where we’ve kind of moved past the free agent market and now we are looking to improve by taking players from other clubs,” explained Evatt.
“There are transfer fees involved and lots of negotiations, with not only the player, but the selling club as well, and that takes time.
“(It needs) just an air of patience. We are working really, really hard but I think we’re in a really good place.
“The ones we’ve brought in so far, I’m delighted with. They have started really well and settled really well, especially over here in Portugal, so it’s onwards and upwards.
“We are working really hard on improvements. We’re not too far away but we know what we need to do to improve. We are excited about pre-season and the start of the season.”
Watch the full interview with Ian Evatt in the video above as the boss discusses all the latest developments at Wanderers from their Portugal training camp