DAVID Flitcroft wants to throw the gates of Wanderers’ training ground wide open.

Speaking to The Bolton News, the assistant manager has voiced concerns about the lack of openness at the Lostock-based Eddie Davies Academy, which now houses both the youth and senior section of the club.

Plans are being made to increase the number of community visits made by players in the town, increasing its general visibility around Bolton and to strengthen links with local businesses who have distanced themselves in recent years.

And proud Boltonian, Flitcroft, believes it is high time the first team site becomes more accessible to local clubs, which could help Wanderers access an even wider range of talent in the future.

“I think this is a hidden site,” he said. “I am talking about the people in the grassroots game, the Bolton and Bury District League, and those it shut out for a long time.

“We have got to make this a place that the people of Bolton are proud of. They should want to come and watch the team train, we can’t shut it off, we can’t hide what we’re doing, we want to show people what we are doing on the training ground and it’s important that businesses see it as well.

“We all get attracted just to what’s going on with results. We’re either in a foul state of mind because we have lost on a Saturday or Tuesday or it’s jubilation because we’ve won. It can’t be like that, though, you have to have a wider view and a bigger plan.

“I think to rebuild this great club we have got to be great, to do great things every day. For example, we have got to get out in the community and do more.

“When you see the club nearly going out of existence you understand what it really means to people. I will never forget that week where people talked about it going bust and thinking ‘there might not even be a club to talk about soon’. It was a scary thought and that week will always be etched in my mind.

“It isn’t about the football product, like the results on the pitch, it’s all about passion. We can’t take that lightly. It’s more personal, it’s more emotional because we’re working for Bolton Wanderers. It’s just the way it is.”

Flitcroft believes there could still be a hangover from the Premier League years, when a clear differential was drawn between the first team training base at Euxton and the academy base less than a mile away from the main stadium.

That was reinforced during Dougie Freedman’s reign as manager at Bolton, where strong criticism was aimed at the club’s hierarchy for allowing the relationship between the two arms of the club to deteriorate.

Wanderers moved to one site in the summer of 2016 after selling the land near the new Buckshaw Village to Wigan Athletic, which was widely regarded as a positive move within the club.

But Flitcroft still regards the training ground as too much of a ‘closed shop’ and he intends to take a more hands-on role with all the junior sides under Bolton’s umbrella to ease the transition between age groups and smooth a path to the senior set-up.

“What we want to make it is an elite training ground site,” he said. “We are working on that with Emma Beaugeard and Andy Gartside so that whoever comes in is doing things exactly how we need them to be, being coached exactly how we need them to be.

“We have shut it off in the past but it has to change. We have to get tournaments back here. I was at Bolton Lads Club the other day for Under-7s and Manchester City ran it, in our own town, Bolton Lads Club. That just can happen. I, personally, don’t think that’s right when we have got this facility.

“We have got people wanting to do it, wanting to open these doors to we can find the best possible players for Bolton Wanderers. Let’s take the word academy and first team and put them together – we’re one club, it’s one site.

“Why shouldn’t I be interested in a 14,15, 16-year-old player who is coming through with a fantastic football future? I should be because that’s my job, that’s my passion. There won’t ever be now a ‘them and us’ here, we’ll get them communicating.

“It might be a spill over from the Premier League days, I don’t know, but we’ll certainly get it right.”

Flitcroft says he has also encountered division within the squad since being appointed in August.

The new management team have made the training ground available to players earlier in the day and Keith Hill has spoken of his desire to make it so that players “don’t want to go home”.

The mood, says the Bolton assistant, has already improved over the last few weeks.

“The second day we were in here Ronan Darcy came into the canteen and went and sat on a different table,” he said. “There was space on our table and I said ‘come and sit with us’ but he said ‘I am not allowed’.

“Now if I thought that was going on with my own son at his place of work I wouldn’t be too happy. We are trying to connect people, make them communicate. Football is a tough world and it can be a ruthless business, so sometimes you have to grow up quickly. I just think we can get kids quicker through the academy if they spend more time with us.

“I want that time to be on the training ground, in the hub, in the gym – we’ve got an early-morning session now. We’re open from 7am and it has never been open so early. But we have got players who come in for an 8am start who need certain bouts of work.

“Normal is what you are used to. And for me, I want normal on this training ground to be coming in early and working hard.”

Fans have noted that Flitcroft has been ever-present in the dugout at Under-23s games, alongside development squad coach David Lee.

He says his presence is designed to help reinforce a message to the younger players looking to force their way into the team above.

“It has all been about the football product, so far,” he said. “You go Saturday to Saturday and all you are looking at are results but there’s a bigger picture and that’s trying to cascade our system, our methodology, on to everyone at the club.

“The easiest way to do that is not by going off a book or doing a Powerpoint presentation, it’s by getting in there, getting it done. I enjoy working with the players and I always have done.

“It’s really important to pass on what we are trying to do and get it all connected.

“It’s making sure the players who are hitting the first team know exactly what they want of them.”

The desire to mend broken bridges has also spread to the Bolton Whites Hotel, who recently hosted a ‘Made In Bolton’ event designed to welcome businesses back into the fold after the financial issues experienced during previous ownership.

The night proved a huge success, and reinforced Flitcroft’s belief that there is an appetite within the town to embrace the club once again.

“We went to a Made in Bolton event at the stadium and the energy around the place is brilliant to see,” he said.

“The one thing I didn’t realise is what the Bolton Wanderers Community Trust do around the town, the work they do, so I want to set a plan in place to make sure the players get out and about miles more than we ever have done. We want to win awards for that now.

“Honestly, it’s a bigger picture we’re looking at. The talk on the night was that it’s ‘more than 90 minutes’ and that’s right.

“A football club has got to live and breathe the town, live and breathe the people, welcome people in and make them fall in love with the place.”