WHEN Ian Evatt walked through the doors at Bolton Wanderers to much acclaim in July, he never read the part of the script where he failed to meet his own club’s supporters for another calendar year.

There have been times in the last eight months that the lack of accusatory stares and murmurs of disquiet at the UniBol have worked to his advantage – but the Whites boss might yet get a Hollywood ending in an unprecedented first campaign in the hotseat.

Bolton entertain in-form Scunthorpe United tonight sitting 10th with 17 games to go, four points off Newport County, who currently reside in the final play-off spot.

The Prime Minister announced yesterday that limited numbers of supporters would be allowed back into stadia from May 17 at the earliest – meaning the play-off semi-finals and, dare we say it, final, are not beyond the realm of possibility.

Evatt has learned a lesson from the boastful promotion claims of last summer, ones which Wanderers were ill-equipped to deliver at the time.

Now better-stocked with quality players in his dressing room and backed by a club which has pieced itself back together during this pandemic, the Bolton boss just wants focus on the next 90 minutes.

“The place is different, there are smiles on faces, there’s positive body language,” he said. “It is a good place to be working both on the football front and the non-football side as well, everyone seems a lot happier.

“I think the board has played a big part in that because they have secured the club and rebuilt trust with the employees again. That sour, bitter taste that had been hanging around this place in the past has evaporated.

“Obviously results help and any football club can only function well when you are winning on a Saturday, which fortunately we are at the moment.

“There’s a long way to go for Bolton. We’re not sitting here thinking we’ve cracked it, but it is heading in the right direction.”

Evatt is desperate to replicate the good times he experienced before as a player at Blackpool, and as a manager at Barrow, in the grander surroundings of Bolton. Should he succeed, he admits it would be an achievement to surpass anything he has done before.

“I’m leaning all the time, but in terms of comparisons, this would be bigger and better. This has been a more difficult job in my opinion and not everybody will understand that. People will think I have taken over Bolton Wanderers, got the biggest budget, got the biggest club, but it’s not that and it’s certainly not that simple.

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“People inside the club will understand what we’ve all had to go through to turn this place around and get the structure needed to be positive again.

“And the football plays the biggest part. The hotel can be the best in the world, we can have the best facilities in the league, but nobody will want to come here unless the football club is doing well, that’s just the nature of the beast.

“I have twice seen first hand what a football club can do when it is successful. It can galvanise communities and bring people together. We want to make Bolton the place to be again, make people proud of their club. That’s one of my biggest priorities.

“It hasn’t happened that well so far. Things have affected what we can and can’t do – the pandemic being a big one, but performances and restructure have also made it tough. We are getting it right now and I can feel it.

“Next season when we are all back in the stadium and we’re progressing up this division, or the next one, then we will have a lot to shout and sing about.

“For now, though, it’s less talk, more action. Head down, keep winning football matches.”

Next Tuesday will mark exactly one year since the UniBol last housed a game with supporters.

Evatt’s long-distance relationship with the Bolton fans has been a complex one thus far but he is confident that recent results have sparked people’s interest once again.

“It’s madness that I haven’t managed to see anyone yet – but it’s probably quite fortunate too because it’ll have saved my ears and the back of my head from burning,” he said.

“We have been able to get our act together. It has bought us some time to really be able to restructure properly and get the right people in the right roles, when that happens, success follows.

“I am hopeful with the new appointments at board level and with the technical director, Chris (Markham), that we can really start pushing in the right direction.

“We’re excited and I sense everyone else is too. I can’t tell you the exact numbers but I think our iFollow numbers are the best in this division by a country mile. It shows you we’re starting to capture the fans’ imagination again and galvanise as a club.

“That can only all happen when you are winning matches on a Saturday.”

Join Marc Iles and Henry Hewitt to discuss all the latest headlines and who might line-up against Scunthorpe United in our weekly podcast, The Buff.