ALI Crawford cannot wait to see which new faces greet him on the training ground when Wanderers get back down to business later this month.

Ian Evatt has announced he will be bringing his players back at least eight weeks before the start of the League Two campaign to bed in new signings and a new system.

Exactly when the squad report back to Lostock has yet to be confirmed but with September 12 now looking the most likely date for football to resume for 2020/21, it is highly likely the gates will be opened before the end of this month.

Crawford anticipates big changes, both in the way the club has to operate during the midst of a pandemic, and with the new approaches that come with a change in manager.

“It will be good to get back into the swing of things,” he told The Bolton News. “It will be weird with social distancing and testing, and all the other measures they are putting in for safety but they’re all necessary.

“For me, it will be good to get back out there with the ball – even though you normally find it is lots of running for the first couple of weeks, which isn’t always nice.

“But I have no problem going back earlier after how long we’ve been away for. You couldn’t just be going in with a couple of weeks of training behind you, or there would be injuries all over the place once the season started.

“I think a good eight weeks should get us prepared, allow any of the new signings to settle a bit better, and then it’s up to us to set a high standard.”

Tactically, ‘Brand Evatt’ will be different from anything that Wanderers fans have experienced in recent years. The new head coach is promising a “possession-based, expansive and attacking” style of football which won him plenty of fans as he guided Barrow to promotion last season.

How easily it is grafted on to a new group of players remains to be seen. Crawford is optimistic.

“I think the manager has said it could be a couple of months before the team can be properly settled into it but having spoken to him I know what he wants to do, and how he wants to implement that football in games,” he said.

“Hopefully having a nice early pre-season will give us plenty of time to get that embedded and work out all the teething problems we might have.

“It’s definitely a style of football that suits my game and I’m sure that will be the same for the other boys.”

Another advantage of an early start will be the opportunity to get players physically prepared after what will be four months out of action.

As Wanderers found out to their cost last year, a full pre-season is vitally important to minimise the risk of injuries. Crawford recalls the influx of new signings in early September and the big differences in fitness levels.

“I was alright because I’d had a fairly normal pre-season with Doncaster when I came to Bolton but you could see some of the other lads were at different levels and that took time to sort,” he said.

“I think when the new signings came in lads like Remi (Matthews) and Lowey (Jason Lowe) were glad to see some senior players about the place. The kids had done well, worked hard, but it needed that experience at the time with the situation we were in.

“Hopefully there will be a few new faces when we get back on the training ground again but this time we’ll have more time to make it work.”

Crawford expects Wanderers to be among the favourites for promotion next season and sees top spot as an achievable target.

“There’s no point going into the season thinking ‘mid table’ – you need to aim as high as possible,” he said.

“There is no reason why Bolton Wanderers shouldn’t be aiming at automatic promotion and, as I’ve said before, a club of things size should be higher up the leagues than this.

“It’s up to us to turn things around now and make sure we start moving back up again.”