IN a squad that currently bears a striking similarity to the one that finished last season like a train, there is one new addition who will have to make this week’s Portugal trip count.

For football-starved Wanderers supporters it seems an age since their heroes were cheered off the pitch against Fleetwood, or applauded off stage at the end of year awards, but pictures from Friday’s fitness testing at Lostock fired up the senses once again.

Among the pics from a sun kissed Lostock, the unfamiliar face of Jack Iredale, at time of writing the only summer signing who will definitely be joining the squad in the Algarve.

The former Cambridge United defender was signed before the League One play-offs were completed and has spent time with friends and family in Perth, Australia, over the past few weeks.

There was one former team-mate he recognised driving through the gates on the first morning however, vice-captain Gethin Jones, who played alongside him at Carlisle United just before signing at Bolton in the summer of 2020.

Jones recalls travelling to Loughborough University in Ian Evatt’s first few weeks at the club alongside a brand-new squad, with football only just emerging from the shadow of the pandemic.

“Whenever I have been on trips like this I’ve found them really important when you are building a team,” he told The Bolton News.

“Back when we all went to Loughborough it was vital because it was a completely new squad and it was the first time we’d all been together in one place because of the way things were at the time.

“I haven’t been away, abroad, with a football club since going to Hungary with Fleetwood, and no matter where you are the time you spend with team-mates is priceless.

“I remember the gaffer pulling a couple of us aside at the end of last season and explaining that he wanted us to go out somewhere this summer – and even though there might not be a load of new players on the trip, even for the boys who came in during January, this is a really important time.

“Jack Iredale, who I have known since Carlisle, it’s a big chance for him to come in and gel with the lads, room with someone, and just to be around the lads 24/7, I don’t think people realise how important it can be.”

Jones can vouch for Iredale, even though he saw the Australian leave Brunton Park during their time at Carlisle after a change in manager.

In the last couple of seasons he has watched him blossom at Cambridge and become a sought-after free transfer this summer.

“He’s a really good player,” said the Welshman. “When I went to Carlisle I was the right-back and he was the left-back to begin with and the manager – Steven Pressley – got sacked. Chris Beech came in and every manager has his opinion but Jack ended up out of the team and Nick Anderton came in. Jack went on to Cambridge United and progressed a lot more.

“He’s a very sound footballer and I know towards the end of last season we moved from left-back and played on the left side of a three, more like I was doing. So the way our positions have gone have been quite similar.

“He likes to play out from the back, he’ll get himself forward and he’s a very good defender as well.

“He went back to Australia the last few weeks but I have been keeping in touch with him, just to explain how we’ll go about it this summer, what pre-season is going to be like, where things are, what training will be like.”

Jones did his bit to talk Iredale into picking Bolton ahead of a cluster of other interested clubs.

“I know he got told at the end of last season that Bolton were interested in signing him and he spoke to the gaffer,” he explained.

“But we’re talking three or four months ago now, I just said to Jack if he gets a chance to go to Bolton, don’t even look at any other club, there’s no point. That’s what he did.”

Iredale’s introduction to the squad has prompted some discussion as to exactly which position that he will be contesting.

Traditionally able to play as a wing-back, a la Declan John, and last season shifted to a left-sided centre-half, like George Johnston, it seems he will be in for a tussle for one of last season’s first team regulars regardless.

Jones has reinvented his own game in the same way over the past 12 months and thinks Iredale’s versatility can be just as effective as his own has proved for Evatt.

“He can definitely do both and I’ve seen him play well in both positions over the last few years. It will be interesting to see which way he goes and good for the gaffer that he has got different ways to play. It was the same for me last season, playing right side centre-back, then going out to the right wing-back, a lot of the lads are getting different sides to their game and it is only going to make us better, really.”

Wanderers are in the market for more signings with Liverpool’s Conor Bradley on the verge of joining on loan, and feelers out for reinforcements at centre-half and up front.

Jones believes the addition of new players is a must if Bolton are to push towards the top six and beyond.

“It’ll be a challenge for everyone next season because there’s only one way we want to go – we want that promotion next year,” he said.

“There will be competition everywhere. Nobody can sit around and expect to be picked every week because the gaffer has got someone challenging for every position on the pitch and that’s how good clubs operate. That’s how you get promotion.”