WANDERERS new boy George Taft has revealed how watching German legend Franz Beckenbauer helped him get more adventurous on the pitch.

The 6ft 4ins centre-back studied videos of ‘Der Kaiser’ whilst playing for Cambridge United and believes his game improved as a result.

Taft signed a two-year deal with Wanderers this week to become the first defender signed by Ian Evatt this summer – and he hopes the move can help him realise his full potential.

“I like to do a bit of homework, watch videos and YouTube clips,” he told The Bolton News. “So on the Friday night before a game at Cambridge I’d been watching Beckenbauer, how he carried the ball out from the back, and then carried it into the game on the Saturday.

“I made a few charging runs forward and got asked about if after the match, so the story got out there.

“I think I improved in the last couple of seasons and I’m more confident on the ball. I’d had a few bad injuries earlier in my career so it has taken a bit of time to string games together.

“I do think that signing for the gaffer, who was a defender, will help me. I’m 27 at the end of the month and centre-backs don’t tend to be in their prime until 29-31, so that should coincide with the length of contract at Bolton. I’d like to think they can see the best of me.”

The days of centre-halves being employed solely for defensive purposes may be at an end, with Evatt already hinting that he will be employing the same back three he used at Barrow to great effect last season.

Although Taft accepts his primary responsibility will be to defend, he feels the job of a centre-half has evolved slightly in the last few years.

“I think you’ll always be expected to do the defensive stuff but, particularly if we are playing in a three, there is more scope to bring the ball forward and get better angles to play a pass through,” he said.

“If you are in a four it’s a bit narrower, you need to look at the full-backs for a pass more often than not. But I think it suits my game to step out and look for the forward pass if it is on. I’ve spoken to the gaffer about the job he wants me to do and it was one of the main reasons I wanted to come here.”

Taft has spent much of his career at this level, although he was part of a Burton Albion squad who got promotion in 2015 whilst on loan from Leicester City.

He got a call from Evatt soon after the new head coach was appointed at the UniBol but the decision on whether to sign for Bolton ahead of a cluster of other clubs in this division and above was made quickly.

“We had a good talk about his plans for the club and then he showed us around,” Taft said. “I hadn’t even stepped through the front door and I knew I wanted to sign for Bolton. I’d just pulled up outside the stadium in the car and thought ‘yes, this is it.’ “When you look around, everywhere is quality. It’s a very big club. And when you hear what they want to do with it, how they want to move forward you can’t help but be excited by the prospect of playing here.”

Taft cut his teeth in professional football at Leicester City, playing in a youth team which included ex-Bolton striker Joe Dodoo, Crystal Palace winger Jeff Schlupp and Hull City full-back Callum Elder.

And his pedigree is further underlined when you consider he was also a major part of the England youth set-up at the time, rooming with a player who would go on to make quite the impact at senior level.

“I used to room with Harry Kane,” he said. “And not long afterwards he came to Leicester too, so we knew each other pretty well. He did alright for himself, I suppose!

“You just knew he was going to go on and have a big career. Pressure didn’t get to him, even at an early age, and he was scoring goals for fun at the Euros.”

Although Taft will by no means be the only new signing looking to settle into new surroundings this summer, he will be doing so in extraordinary circumstances, with Wanderers returning to the training ground this week under very controlled conditions.

Players are limited at present to training in small groups of four and five and will undergo COVID-19 testing later this week as they look to move towards full-contact further down the line.

“It is all very new,” Taft said. “We’re in small groups for the moment, and then they will be swapped around, so it hasn’t been your normal introduction.

“But as soon as you walked into the club you could tell people knew what they were doing and that it is well-run. Everything is given to you on a plate, so all we need to do is concentrate on the football.

“As we’re talking now it’s only the second day – and it was a tough one – but the gaffer wants us to play, so we’ve already had the balls out, which was great. The running was saved to the end.

“It’s all a little bit strange because you are temperature checked on the way in and then you have to wear masks around the building in certain areas. But it’s all done for a good reason.”

Evatt was keen to bring his players back to the training ground as soon as was practically possible – not that you would hear Taft complain one bit.

“I’ve spoken to a few friends in League One and Two and they are not expecting to go back for a fortnight,” he said. “I just think this gives us every opportunity to be as fit and sharp as we possibly can be.

“It is going to be a hard season, we know that, and the harder you work on the training ground at this stage of the year, the better you’ll feel later on.”

The Bolton Wanderers that Taft walks into this summer is far removed from the one which was still pondering its very existence 12 months ago.

The sense of renewal which has come with a new managerial outlook has generated a positive atmosphere within the supporters and has also translated to the dressing room, Taft observed.

“I think you can pick up that people are looking forward to the new season,” he said. “It’s great to hear as a new signing at the club and when you hear what the manager has planned, the football he wants to play and the views he has on the game, you can’t help but enjoy it.

“I’ve been around this level for a few years and I know how tough it can be. The club wants promotion and I saw right away that they had signed quality players, so that shows what direction they want to go in.”