BEING ruthless is just part of the job for Ian Evatt if he wants to turn Wanderers into real promotion contenders.

After releasing eight professional players this week, an announcement on academy scholars is expected soon in what can be the most cut-throat time at a football club.

Bolton’s excellent form in the second half of the season may have naturally led Evatt to try and keep his squad together – but the clear message from the manager this summer is that the club will not stand still.

From January 15, only MK Dons could match the number of points and goals racked up by Bolton and that has translated into a positive mood, sweeping around the fanbase, reflected in record season ticket numbers.

But Evatt says he will keep a clear mind in the coming months, and may yet make more brutal decisions for the good of the team.

“I don’t find it hard, especially because I am used to winning,” he told The Bolton News. “I am used to being in competitive teams and being in promotion places and fights.

“It kind of hurts that we haven’t been this season, even though many will view it as a successful year and in many ways it has been a successful year.

“But I know where we need to improve and I’ll be given the full backing to make sure we get what we need in the summer.”

The left side of defence is clearly an area which requires strengthening after the release of Liam Gordon – and Jack Iredale, who recently announced he is leaving Cambridge United, looks like the most likely replacement.

Goalkeeper and centre-half are other areas which will be addressed, along with the possibility of a permanent deal for Fulham’s Marlon Fossey.

Evatt is convinced he will have a squad capable of a more sustained promotion challenge next season.

“There is no doubt about that,” he said. “There are conversations taking place all the time.

“The board have been absolutely fantastic in their support of me. We’ve had conversations, we know exactly where we want to get to and what it is going to require for us to get there.

“It’s as simple as that. It’s exciting. I think next season we’re going to be in a much better place and a stronger place.

“We’re going to have a real depth of squad. We know where we need to improve and it’s really exciting.”

Back at the start of the season Evatt admitted it would “kill him” to finish mid-table. His assertion that – in his opinion – Bolton were the “best team in the league” was another statement blown out of proportion and context at the time.

Much of what the Bolton boss said at the time was to inflate the confidence of a squad still getting to grips with life in League One but the hyperbole was used as a stick to beat him with when the team’s fortunes flagged either side of Christmas.

“I’m always battling against myself!” he admitted. “I am ultra-competitive and I just want to win and want to succeed and I want it now and sometimes I have to have some perspective and manage myself a little bit with regard to that.”

Looking away from the league table, even the pitch, it is clear to see that the club is in a better place than it was when Evatt arrived two years ago.

Still in the grip of a pandemic, with administration wounds still healing, Wanderers were a different prospect in the summer of 2020 than they are today.

On Sunday night hundreds of fans and staff gathered for the end of season awards to celebrate how far the club had come, and Evatt has to remind himself that success is not always measured in points.

“From where we were two years ago and where we were when I first walked in the door, it is a completely different place, club, environment, culture,” he said.

“And I am definitely not saying that’s just down to me. In general, it starts from the top and Sharon (Brittan)’s leadership but the club on a whole and the way people are greeted around the stadium now is so different.

“I am talking about non-football staff, hotel staff, football staff, everyone has got a smile on their face again, everyone seems happy to be working.

“When I walked in, no-one said hello, everyone just walked past each other with their heads down, it was like they were damaged. But that damage has been repaired now and we can see where we are going, we can see where we’re heading and everyone’s excited again and that’s fantastic.”