BACK in the summer, Bolton’s first meeting with Salford City was billed as a battle of the big spenders – but Ian Evatt maintains that statement is only half correct.

Whereas the men from Moor Lane, backed by the riches of Peter Lim and the glamour Manchester United connections of the Neville brothers, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and David Beckham, have invested heavily in their promotion dream, the situation at Bolton is a little more complex.

The signings of Eoin Doyle and Antoni Sarcevic were enough to convince many that Wanderers were also pushing the boat out in order to seek an immediate return to League One. But recent claims from Evatt and those within the club insist they are yet to test the £1.5million cap voted in this summer.

Clearly, there is some belief at Bolton that their opponents tonight may have pushed the financial boundaries in bringing in some big names over the summer, and then recruiting Richie Wellens from League One Swindon.

Asked whether the club from down the road had met the salary cap, Evatt joked: “Which one? The Championship?”

But the Bolton boss believes it is important that his club plays strictly within the rules, particularly given the problems encountered under previous ownership.

“The most important things for this club moving forward and the group of owners we have are the ethics and morals, the way we want to act and carry ourselves,” he said. “We want to be respected, we want trust and integrity, so when the salary cap came in we said we would abide by it. Our budget is under that salary cap, simple as that.

“We are going to be self-sustainable, a club to be proud of. We will not exceed that total.

“Yes, it means my budget is less but it is what it is. You have to recruit to any budget and we recruited what we thought was right at the time, as fast and as best as we could in the circumstances. And obviously it has taken some of them longer to settle than others.

“But I am sure we will get it together sooner rather than later.”

In the middle of the pandemic, clubs in League One and Two voted in salary caps over the summer to prevent the kind of overspending which has pushed clubs like Bury over the edge in recent years.

The speed of its introduction caught some clubs by surprise. And Evatt explained that the recruitment policy which is now being scrutinised so closely by the Bolton fanbase was drastically affected by the uncertainty which existed in the summer on what clubs would eventually be allowed to spend.

“The difficulty was that we all knew we needed to recruit players but the timing was awkward because we didn’t know when the restart was, first and foremost, then when season tickets would go on sale or whether they would sell. So to budget and plan was almost impossible,” he said.

“We took risks, calculated ones at that, and some have paid off, some haven’t. But that is recruitment.

“At the end of the season I think we will see a better and more rounded squad than the one we are seeing right now, and that will be down to repetition, practice, work-rate and work ethics on the training pitch.”

Evatt took his coaching badges with Salford boss Wellens and believes he is a good choice to lead the Ammies forward.

“Salford have spent a lot of money, they have a wealthy owner – group of owners – and Richie knows them from his days at Manchester United. He fits the remit, fits the bill,” he said.

“I wish him all the best, I genuinely do. I love to see young managers doing well. But after Friday, I must say. We’ll shake hands before the game and afterwards but during the game I want to beat Salford and Richie as much as I want to beat every other team in his division.”