GETHIN Jones didn’t have to wait long before being told exactly what was expected of this season's crop at Bolton Wanderers.

Arriving at Lostock on Monday, the former Carlisle United full-back and Everton youth product was brought up to speed immediately on the high standards being set under head coach, Ian Evatt.

This will be only the second season in the Whites’ distinguished 146-year history that they have played football in the fourth tier, and all the stops are being pulled out to make sure their most recent stay is a short one.

And you won’t find Jones complaining one bit.

“I came in on Monday to meet the staff and the lads and the first conversation I had was about promotion,” he laughed. “I thought ‘wow, they are not messing about!’

“The last few years has been really hard for Bolton, you could see that from the outside, but the minute I walked in the place you could tell they wanted a fresh start.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever heard automatic promotion talked about as the number one aim this early. At Fleetwood it was play-offs, at Mansfield or Plymouth a few years back I’d come in halfway through the season, so it was a case of carrying on.

“I’m grateful to get an opportunity to be a part of that and I’ll be doing everything I can to make sure it happens.”

Such has been the influx of new players on the training ground over the last few weeks, Evatt has probably had to repeat his promotion target speech on several occasions.

Optimism in the camp is high – which is a far cry from the scenes 12 months ago when Wanderers’ future hung in the balance and they could only put tickets on sale to their first home game against Coventry City with a couple of days’ notice.

A few members of the squad may be able to tell the horror stories of Ken Anderson and administration on the team bus as some stage this season, but for now there is a wholesale change in attitude which makes Jones confident he will enjoy his time at the club.

“What has happened in the last couple of years must have been tough,” he said. “But you get no feeling of that; it’s just a group of players who really can’t wait to get the season started.

“We know there will be pressure on us to deliver on our targets. And that’s good, it’ll bring out the best in good players.”

Jones has learned to value stability. After a decade on the books at Everton his first permanent move away from Goodison Park, to Fleetwood, proved difficult. And though he helped Mansfield Town into the play-offs during a loan spell last year it was only when he decided to sign for Carlisle in League Two that he felt the benefit of regular football.

The Bolton News:

“I owe the players and staff at Carlisle a lot, really,” he said. “Things hadn’t gone that well at Fleetwood but I had a year left there, had gone out to Mansfield on loan, and there were a few clubs in League One who wanted me.

“But I looked at it and thought ‘am I going to be playing every week?’ I felt I needed that.

“I wanted a club that felt stable and I have to thank Steven Pressley who took me there because he brought me in on the Friday to meet the lads and on the Saturday I was playing at Stevenage away and didn’t really miss a game.

“Touch-wood I stayed clear of injuries and I think I played consistently well. It was a shame, really, because I think Carlisle were playing some great football when lockdown came along and it all just stopped.

“They offered me a chance to stay there. I had options in January when I signed a six-month contract and I told them I wanted to see where things were at the end of the season.

“Normally at the end of your contract there’s a bit of concern there but within a couple of days of the season finishing my agent was getting clubs checking up on where I was, so I was in a very fortunate situation. I know there are people who have lost their jobs with everything that has gone on.

“Obviously, when Bolton came along I was delighted. You can’t help but be excited to play for a club like this.”

Though Jones will have to wait for fans to be allowed back into the University of Bolton Stadium, he has sampled his new home in full voice.

Last September he was in the crowd as Wanderers’ fans showed their appreciation for the Junior Whites in a Checkatrade Trophy game against Bradford City, which also coincided with Football Ventures’ takeover.

“I know Ronan Darcy through my agent, so we came to watch the game against Bradford and it was an unbelievable feeling in the ground,” he said. “I think it was the first time the fans had come back properly after all the problems they had been having, so there was a brilliant feel about the place.

“So when I heard that Bolton were interested in signing me that was the first memory that popped into my head, really. I was sold.”

Understandably, Jones was keen to do his homework on his new club and has been in touch with a few different former team-mates to check out what it is like to play at Bolton.

“I saw that Billy Crellin had signed and dropped him a text, saying ‘well done mate, I might be joining you soon!’ the defender said.

“I’d also spoken to lads like Joe Williams and Antonee Robinson, who I played with at Everton, and they had a lot of good things to say about the place. They spoke very highly of the fans here, so hopefully I can get the same sort of positive relationship.”

The Bolton News:

Jones was born in Perth, Western Australia but moved to Wales at an early age and made his first steps into football with Wrexham.

He has been capped at youth level by Wales and was brought into the senior set-up to train by Chris Coleman a few years ago – but has also had talks with Australia about wearing the green and gold.

At Everton, he came through the ranks in a rich seam of young talent which won the Under-23 Premier League in 2016/17, many of whom have now broken into senior football, including Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Jonjoe Kenny, Tom Davies, Callum Connolly and Luke Garbutt.

“I don’t think there’s many in the Under-18s or 23s group who didn’t make it into senior football,” he said. “It was an unbelievable time to come through at Everton.

“A lot of it was down to attitude. You get lads at that age who can be a bit big time, don’t really care about football, more about the lifestyle it can give you.

“But the lads there worked really hard to be the best players they could be. We were always getting offers to go out on loan but we stayed as a group for the majority of the time and we got the success.”

Jones got the reward for his persistence with a senior debut for the Blues against Krasnodar in the Europa League – a cameo from the bench which lasted only fleetingly but will be forever embedded in his mind.

“Roberto Martinez came into the changing room and said he’d be at the next few games to take a look at who was ready because he had a game coming up in Europe where he could make a few changes,” he explained.

“You’ve never seen a team work so hard. We were winning four and five-nil every time we went out there because we knew he was watching and everyone wanted to be involved.

“Playing for Everton was something I’d always dreamed of. I’d joined at Under-13s and worked so hard but to step out there for only a few minutes is something I will never, ever forget.”

Jones also looks back on the decision to leave his ‘comfort zone’ on Merseyside to strike out and make it on his own in loan spells at Barnsley, Plymouth and beyond as an important stage in his career.

“I think it happens quite a lot when you play in the Under-23 for a while, as I did at Everton,” he said. “It’s an unbelievable set-up and I can’t think of a club I’d rather have been at while I was coming through but it got to the stage where I needed to think about my future, and playing more regularly.

“David Unsworth (Everton’s coach) had been brilliant for me and since then I’ve had to stand on my own two feet, making tough decisions like the one to leave Carlisle.

“Now I am at Bolton I’ve got to trust in my ability again and hopefully help this team get where it wants to be.”