CHANGE is on the way at Wanderers, you might say it is in-Evatt-able.

Even though minds have been distracted over the last few months by a global pandemic which put football and its importance into its correct context, the fact that Bolton are playing League Two football just eight years after dropping out of the Premier League – or 12 since fighting Sporting Lisbon in the last 16 of the UEFA Cup – is still a truly depressing thought.

Once it became clear that Keith Hill was not the man to lead the club forward, it would have been forgivable to reach for something familiar. So-called ‘proven’ managers at this level of football were freely available, as were those with historical connections to Wanderers who would most likely have fanned flames of local pride.

Instead, Bolton’s owners have opted to go in an entirely different direction. Backing their judgement with hard cash, the decision to bring in Ian Evatt, a manager who has had but the briefest taste of Football League management, and whose success at unfashionable Barrow had hardly registered in the public’s collective consciousness until very recently.

At 38, Ian Evatt will become the ninth youngest manager in the top four divisions and Bolton’s youngest since Phil Neal took the job at Burnden Park in December 1985.

His progressive approach at Barrow, whom he guided back into the Football League after a 48-year absence, has been lauded as ground-breaking with the Bluebirds nicknamed “Barrowcelona” in reference to the modern brand of football the team employs.

At Holker Street he was able to secure top spot in the National League, a division not traditionally known as a breeding ground for the game’s purists, with a team that averaged salaries of just £750 a week.

Barrow’s average possession of the ball last was 59 per cent. Bolton’s average in League One last season was 48.7, and for the previous two years under Phil Parkinson it had struggled to peak above 41.

The Bluebirds also averaged 507 passes last term. Bolton’s average of 380 last year under Hill was their highest for five years.

Practicality played its part in Wanderers’ safety-first mindset, particularly in Parkinson’s reign. The financial issues which plagued preparation, recruitment and levels of confidence made getting pats on the back for style a secondary concern.

But with Evatt handed a fresh start, a squad of just 11 young players and scope to rebuild and reshape, there are optimistic murmurings among supporters and staff at the University of Bolton Stadium that this could be the reset button that Wanderers have been waiting for.

And yet is it realistic to expect instant change? Evatt had 12 months to put his plans in place at Barrow and finished 10th in his first full season.

His side also stuttered early on in August and September, losing six of their first nine games, before a change in formation from 4-3-3 to 3-4-1-2 prompted an impressive run of consistency.

Coping with levels of expectation at Bolton will be a pressure the new manager will not have previously experienced. And as the last man in the job will attest, the demand for results does not necessarily match up to the fact the Whites have won just 18 per cent (23) of their league games in the last three seasons.

Evatt speaks openly about ridding his dressing room of the ‘fear factor’ and its importance in trying to get his players playing the way that he wants.

“I always say that winning is a habit you develop long before you win games,” he told The Athletic in May. “You have act and start believing you can win games before you actually do start winning them. I think that’s what my team has done.”

As a player, Evatt picked up coaching tips from Steve Round, now assistant to Mikel Arteta at Arsenal, Paul Cook at Chesterfield, and Ian Holloway, whose gung-ho Blackpool team won plenty of plaudits as their flame burned briefly and brightly on the Premier League stage.

His playing days also coincided with managers who may now be viewed as ‘old school’ – the likes of Jim Smith and Roy McFarland at Derby County.

Evatt believes his own style is a mixture of new and old and at Barrow he introduced some idiosyncratic processes which may now be on their way to Lostock.

“I treat players as human beings,” he said. “Every morning I have a simple sign-in sheet in my office, not just to know that they are in and not late, but for me to have that social contact. I can ask them how they slept, if there are problems at home, you have to have that bond and relationship, that empathy, and then all of a sudden on a football pitch they will start going that extra mile for you.

“My non-negotiables are for every dead ball, especially goal kicks, we have to show for the ball. My back three or four, whatever I play with, the centre-backs have to show for the ball. We don’t like kicking the ball long, I just believe it turns it into a 50-50, a fight ball. The more we can keep possession and draw teams on to us, we have good pace in the team, so the more opposition players try to press us, we can hurt them.

“Another main one is that we always run in at half time. You might find that strange but body language is huge in football, going back to the mental side of the game. My team is wining or losing and regardless of the conditions you see my players puff their chests out and run in to a changing room – it sends the message ‘we are ready’.

“In the tunnel we want the players to speak and shout loud. Shoulders back, chest out, just to give that message that you should be fearful of our confidence and beliefs. It’s a huge part of the game which is overlooked, for me.”

It is clear from listening to Evatt’s managerial philosophies that he has been taking notes from some of the top names in the game.

Whether he can implement Pep’s “six second” ball recovery rule in League Two in the same successful way he did in the windy wilds of Barrow remains to be seen.

Evatt is insistent that the quality football he played last season was down to repetition on the training ground, and so it would be no surprise to see Bolton’s players return early in preparation for the new season ahead.

It seems some time since Wanderers fans were genuinely proud of the style of football their team played. There were false starts for Hill and Neil Lennon, and something to be said for the mechanical way Parkinson’s side carved out results in spells of their promotion push in 2016/17.

Perhaps not since the days that Stu Holden, Mark Davies, Chung-Yong Lee and Co patrolled the midfield under Owen Coyle a decade ago could we have truly described the terraces as content, however, and if Evatt gets his way, that may be soon about to change.

“It’s massively ballsy,” Evatt said of his approach in an interview recently. “But what is football? What do you believe in? I believe that football is there as an entertainment industry. Supporters work hard, 9-5, five or six days a week, to be able to afford to come to football. If my team are just going to set up to win games by set pieces and long balls, it’s not what I would want to spend my hard-earned money to watch.”