ALEX Baptise and Ricardo Santos were back in the old routine in midweek against Preston – but last season’s promotion heroes have been warned their place in the side is not guaranteed.

The pair, who were integral to success in the second half of the League Two campaign, were reunited on Tuesday night for the first time in pre-season.

Evatt admitted they hardly missed a beat but after bringing in George Johnston from Feyenoord and Will Aimson from Plymouth, he feels he has ample competition to keep everyone on their toes in the middle of his defence.

“Funnily enough, I had that conversation with Peter (Atherton) and Chris (Markham) this morning,” he said of his defensive quandary.

“I thought Baps was brilliant again (at Preston) and Rico, them two have struck a real solid and good partnership and I thought they were brilliant on Tuesday.

“They are going to take some shifting but that is the nature of the beast, it is part of football.

“The lads have got to step up to the plate and get the shirts off them, but again them two proved what good players they were on Tuesday.”

Evatt’s options have been limited slightly by enforced Covid isolations and injuries in the last couple of weeks but, in general, he feels there is a good level of competition in most positions on the park.

He hopes the rivalries will spur on results, and give Bolton a better chance of starting their League One campaign more consistently than they did in League Two 12 months ago.

“Where this club wants to go, we need that sort of competition,” he said.

“We can’t have players that just expect to play and not have to perform and can keep their shirts.

"In parts and sometimes, especially pre-January, that was the case last season.

“What we have done post January is get some real competition for places and added some real quality and now if you look around the squad, there is hot competition.

“You have a midfield which a lot of League One managers would die for. There are four centre backs that can all play and compete.

“You have Liam Gordon that’s now hunting down Declan (John), you have Gethin (Jones) and Brocky (Harry Brockbank), Doyler (Eoin Doyle) and Baka (Amadou Bakayoko), Izzy (Lloyd Isgrove), Nathan (Delfouneso), you keep going through that squad and it is exceptional.

“You add to that some of the young talent we have with Ronan (Darcy) – who has done a great pre-season – Adam Senior who is developing all the time, Dennis (Politic), who is coming back – it is a strong group.

“But on paper teams win nothing and you have got to go and earn the right on Saturday to get results.”