LIAM Gordon could have saved his Wanderers career by going out on loan last season.

The young left-back was shipped out to his former club Dagenham and Redbridge last December after a rocky start at Bolton, with few giving him a hope of getting back into Ian Evatt’s good books.

But Gordon has returned this summer in good form and the Wanderers boss believes his time in the National League – where he played 23 times and scored four goals last term – has brought his game on.

“The aim for Liam was to get him more experience,” he said of the move back to the Daggers. “He got his move here last season but hadn’t played very much men’s competitive football. The loan has done him well.

“He has got serious competition in Declan John for the left-back spot but as I said before our recruitment strategy has been to get real depth in every position. So there is no drop off in quality and standard when you change players.

“Liam has hit the ground running this pre-season and he has done great in the games.

“The proof will now be against the better opposition where he we will be tested more, defensively, and will also have to be a bit more creative.”

Gordon played 15 times for Wanderers last season, his last appearance coming in the 3-2 win against Newcastle United’s Under-21s in the Papa John’s Trophy.

Incredibly, that proved the only win in his nine starts, with the other eight games all ending in defeat.

Evatt believes Gordon is now starting to look more prepared for the physical rigours of league football.

“Primarily you need to be really fit, especially in those full-back areas,” he said. “You have got to be able to get forwards and then get yourself back again, box to box.

“Liam will be the first to admit that he should have been fitter last season and that he didn’t quite understand the expectations but now he seems to be getting fitter and stronger all the time.”

Fitness is very much the byword for Wanderers this summer, with Evatt keen to ensure his side can match any side in the division for workload.

“If we can be the fittest team in the league, we have got an advantage,” he said. “It isn’t about ability or what we can spend on wages or transfer fees, we can have that advantage just by working hard.

“That is why I am so strict on some things, whether it is a pre-season friendly or in training. I want high standards because I want to be stronger and fitter than anyone else.

“Leeds are a prime example. They don’t have the best players in the Premier League, they don’t spend the most money in the Premier League, but are they the fittest team? Yes. And they get results because of it.”