IAN Evatt cannot wait to tread the same touchline as his former Blackpool and QPR mentor Ian Holloway, just as long as he is the one left smiling at the final whistle.

The Wanderers boss will pit his wits tomorrow against the man for whom he played nearly 150 games during his career, and one he credits with shaping his own coaching destiny.

Holloway could pass 1,000 games in the dugout by the end of this season but his 970th will be at the University of Bolton Stadium masterminding a Grimsby Town side fresh out of self-isolation.

Often lampooned, but always quotable, the Mariners boss will not have experienced anything quite like the last couple of weeks in which his team were unable to train because of a positive coronavirus test, forcing the cancellation of their last three games.

And though Evatt is looking forward to a socially-distanced cup of tea before the game, he believes Grimsby arrive as unpredictable opponents.

“Their situation is crazy, and it makes it more of a banana skin for us because everyone is expecting us to win,” he told The Bolton News.

“I know their manager better than anybody and I know he will have them fit, firing and ready to go, no question about it. I do think it will be a game where if we have possession of the ball and move them accordingly and tire them out we should have a physical advantage after 60 minutes, there’s no two ways about that.

“We have played more games, trained more, but we have to make sure we utilise that by moving the ball, keeping it away from them, and then in the last half-hour take over the game and win it.

“That’s how I see it being played, however, we have to actually do it.

“I’d love to build on the win against Harrogate and a very positive performance in midweek at Shrewsbury.”

Holloway’s reputation in the game for off-the-wall interviews and wry remarks has seen him gain popularity, even among rival clubs.

Evatt, his goalkeeper coach Matt Gilks and centre-back Alex Baptiste have together played more than 500 games under his tutelage, so the Whites boss can speak with experience that the ‘comedy’ hides a real football brain.

“He’s a great character but because he has a bit of a joke and a laugh, or uses the odd analogy here and there, people just don’t give him any credit for his tactical nous,” Evatt said.

“He knows the game really well and he’s one of those guys who inspires with the way he lives his life in general. His wife, Kim, his family, they are inspirational people and I can’t speak highly enough of him and what he did for me.

“Myself and Matt Gilks were talking today and it will be great to pitch ourselves against him. We want to win, obviously, but first and foremost it will be great to see him because he was great for us in our careers and taught me so much.”

The Bolton News:

Evatt twice helped Holloway’s Blackpool into the Championship play-off final, winning in 2009 against Cardiff City and losing against Sam Allardyce’s West Ham United three years later.

“Hopefully the pupil will win on this occasion,” Evatt added, “and we can if we can build on the performances we have given in the last couple of games.

“Knowing him, he will have them super motivated and ready to go.”

Last weekend’s win against Harrogate would normally mean changes are kept to a minimum in Evatt’s line-up but the Bolton boss was impressed by a handful of performances in the EFL Trophy in midweek, which could tempt him to freshen things up. Tom White will be unavailable after picking up a sprained ankle and knee ligament damage in the 2-1 defeat but after making nine changes to the team at Shrewsbury, Evatt sees signs that his plan is starting to bed in.

“We made changes to give some opportunities but we all train the same every day and in the last couple of weeks we have seen a real uplift in the players, they are starting to grasp it physically, technically and tactically,” he said. “I thought we should and could have won that game really comfortably against a League One team which was pretty much full strength with what they could have picked on the day.

“There were lots of positive things to take from it. The frustrating thing was that we made two bad errors and didn’t take our chances at the other end, including the penalty, but other than that we played really well."