WANDERERS are confident they can fend off a clutch of Premier League clubs and hang on to young defensive talent Rob Holding.

There have been no shortage of admirers watching the 20-year-old since he broke into the first-team reckoning this season, especially with his contract now ticking down to its final months.

Among them are Saturday’s opponents Reading, who had a bid of £400,000 rejected in January and are rumoured to be planning another approach this summer regardless of whether Wanderers secure his future.

Interest has also come from higher up the Football League ladder with Everton among a handful of top-flight clubs who have tracked the academy graduate’s progress in the last six months.

Wanderers are looking to give themselves security if clubs come calling for Holding, however, and The Bolton News understands they will soon invoke a clause in the player’s contract that automatically extends the length of his contract.

As the player is aged under 24 the club does not require permission from the Football League as part of their transfer embargo to offer a new deal.

Though he would not comment specifically on the negotiations, chief executive Dean Holdsworth told The Bolton News the club is “comfortable” with Holding’s situation.

“He is a great prospect,” he said. “It doesn’t surprise me that other clubs are interested in him.

“I’ve said before that in the next four or five years he could be a captain at Bolton Wanderers. He has got a lot going for him.”

Wanderers will step up their preparations for the Reading game this morning with interim manager Jimmy Phillips promising a performance that will “restore some pride” in the team following the humiliating 6-0 defeat against Bristol City before the international break.

Holdsworth has been happy with the work he has witnessed on the training pitch over the last couple of weeks and is also hoping for a reaction from those involved at Ashton Gate.

“Jimmy and Peter (Reid) have been working the lads very hard,” he said.

“There’s a lot to do but at least we’re starting to see a few smiles back on their faces.

“We just want to see something positive on the pitch come Saturday.”