IAN Evatt believes players are at greater risk of injury this season because of squad restriction rules voted in over the summer.

Clubs will be limited to 23 senior players this season after new rules were adopted in August alongside the controversial salary cap.

Evatt prepares to face Forest Green Rovers in his first league game in charge of Wanderers this afternoon and admits his own squad is not yet at peak fitness.

Most League One and Two clubs have not played a league match since mid-March, and the spell in lockdown has impacted upon conditioning.

“I don’t think the players are where I want them to be physically yet,” he told The Bolton News. “And I think to do it would have been virtually impossible.

“I was thinking about it the other night, and I believe every manager at every club is going to have the same problem. Players are going to break down.

“They have had so long off the pitch because of the lockdown situation, and not only the pitch but the gyms as well. They have not been able to train and condition properly.

“Now they might have got through pre-season OK but we know that once the season starts properly there is a mental switch on and players will go above and beyond their physical capability to try and get results. That will result in injuries.

“The problem we have at the moment is that some of the players who have joined us later in the summer are now picking up those niggles and injuries because we are trying to fast-track them. We’ll have to deal with it as best as we can.”

Evatt believes squad rotation will be much higher than normal this season, and not only in the cup competitions.

Along with weekend fixtures, Wanderers face 14 Tuesday night games as things stand between now and May, with a double header over Easter Bank Holiday.

Monitoring the wear and tear on players will be key, says the Whites boss.

“We’ll look at the data,” he said. “We are very fortunate in that the GPS stuff we use is the best on the market, so we can look at who has too much of a workload on their body, what their age is, and manage accordingly.

“Alex Baptiste, for instance, it would not have been wise of me to play him on Tuesday night and expect him to be fully fit and fresh for Saturday. He’s 34.

“Some of the other players are the same. Rico (Ricardo Santos), even though he’s a lot younger than Alex, he has had a bit of a history with tendonitis so we have to make sure we don’t lose him for any length of time by breaking him down too early.

“We all know the league campaign is the main priority and that’s why I rested a few on Tuesday.”

Wanderers were in support of the salary capping measures but Evatt believes the restrictions placed on squad sizes should have been delayed.

While the Whites have their own issues to deal with – as they are still limited by a transfer embargo which has regulations on squad size – Evatt believes all clubs will feel the pinch at some stage of the campaign.

“It is awkward and I think we have missed a trick in football,” he said. “There is a place for the salary cap in football because too many clubs are struggling. Too many are going out of business.

“But to limit squad sizes at this stage after lockdown, it’s going to be really, really tough.

“Maybe we should have got through the coronavirus situation, got the players back up to some consistency and condition, then looked at limiting numbers.

“For now, with all the games in such a condensed period, you are robbing Peter to pay Paul. It doesn’t work in my opinion.

“In a normal situation, a normal season, 23 would be ample. You find the more bodies you have, the bigger squad you carry, the harder it is to keep people happy and engaged. You are making your own problems when you have too much competition.

“This season is slightly different because of the length of time they have had off the pitch and the fact the season is truncated and there are so many Saturday-Tuesdays.

“Physically, you can’t keep going to the well with the same players, it will run dry. They will either break down or they won’t give you the same performance levels. Something has to give.

“We will manage the best we can and it’s the same for everyone. It’s a case of adapt and overcome.”