Nothing against Lostock, but you can see why Ian Evatt was keen to bring his side to this part of the world for a pre-season training camp.

Blue skies, friendly people, immaculately manicured pitches. Honestly, I don’t think I have ever seen a halfway line shine brighter.

In fact, the only thing missing from the gorgeous complex that Wanderers have called home this week are plug sockets, which made for some nervous moments as I filed copy back to the paper on a rapidly fading battery.

The same facilities will apparently be used by Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa, Monaco and Sevilla this summer, and you can see why; they are top class.

Sadly, The Bolton News’ travel budget didn’t quite stretch far enough for me to stay in the same hotel, alas, even the same town. Not that I have any complaints. I have followed Wanderers round some pretty dreadful places in the last 15-plus years, and this isn’t one of them.

The players are doing three or four training sessions a day at the moment, and their existence is a regimented one. Squeezing in time for interviews with the local press is not a high priority but due credit to the press team of Peter Oliver and Luke Gallagher, we managed to get a good chat with the manager and a few of his players in between lunch and gym work.

Training was suitably possession-focussed, with Evatt and Peter Atherton barking out instruction to keep passing drills tight, so as not to allow opposition defenders (or in this case giant wire dummies) room to pinch the ball.

I sometimes marvel at the simplicity of these kind of drills and at 30 years of age, you’d expect someone like Jon Dadi Bodvarsson to know how to pass a ball properly. But then you see it at close quarters and realise the speed and accuracy with which it is being done. We are dealing in millimetres and microseconds.

Only one person was missing – but he had a good excuse.

Kieran Lee stayed at home because his wife is about to give birth. The point was made to me, though, that he would be training with the B Team regardless of what time the little one arrives.

It was great to see Lloyd Isgrove and Josh Sheehan back out there too. As the old cliché goes, they will be like new signings when available again, although I understand both of them still have a little way to go before they join in fully with the group. Just being in the mix on a trip like this must be a big confidence boost.

It always amazes me that wherever we go in the world, Wanderers fans will turn up.

I was asked not to publicise the details of the club’s hotel, other than to say it was in Lagos, or the Algarve, but sure enough – there was a scattering of fans outside the training ground gates yesterday.

I spoke briefly to one gentleman who goes by the name of Darcylad on our message-board, but sadly didn’t get time to have a proper chinwag. With any luck, this won’t be the last time Wanderers visit this neck of the woods.

Continuing my tales of pre-seasons gone by, I’m going back to 2015 and the white-knuckle ride that was Austria.


Lenny's white knuckle ride


Choosing where to base myself on these pre-season tours is almost always based on price, and so I have stayed in some weird and wonderful hotels down the years.

I somehow found myself at a bikers’ hotel in Holland during Gary Megson’s time as manager, got booked on to the wrong island on the US trip with Owen Coyle a few years later and stayed in an entirely different country when Wanderers went to Sweden in 2016.

Austria was an expensive place to be. Neil Lennon’s side stayed in a hotel way up in the mountains, whereas the nearest place I could afford was smack bang in the middle of Graz, but at least near to the train station.

Lennon had been relatively inaccessible over that summer, due mainly to speculation linking him with the vacant Leicester City job. It eventually went to Claudio Ranieri, and goodness knows what happened next.

Once the speculation had finally ended – and some three days into the trip – I was invited up to the training base to have a chat with the manager and a few players to talk about the season ahead.

Neil was always good value. Things didn’t go the way he had planned at Bolton but there haven’t been many Bolton managers who dealt so well with the media and always offered an educated thought.

In order to access said interview, however, I needed to take public transport. And a lot of it.

A train ride from Graz into Fehring then another into Hartberg was followed by a bus ride into the hills of Pallau, where the players were based.

Genuinely, I have never made a journey like it. The bus hurtled up a steep incline at top speed despite a thunderstorm restricting visibility over the steep and unguarded cliffs to practically zero at some stages.

The journey back was not much better, although by that stage I was crashing out stories to send back to the paper and trying desperately not to concentrate on my impending doom.

Back in Graz, and relieved to be safe and sound, I discovered I had left my phone up in the mountains. That old Nokia was never recovered, a casualty of what remains the most arduous away trip I have made covering this club.