Wanderers boss Ian Evatt reckons there are as many as “10 to 12” clubs who could be in the League One promotion race this season.

The Whites finished ninth last term and were one of the form teams in the division since the turn of the year.

But the likes of Sheffield Wednesday and this afternoon’s opponents Ipswich have all strengthened over the summer.

And Derby, Peterborough and Barnsley will all be aiming to win promotion back to the Championship at the first time of asking.

But Evatt believes his side have improved since last season and is hopeful they can get off to a positive start against Ipswich.

The Tractor Boys climbed up the table last season following Kieran McKenna’s appointment and have been tipped as early favourites for promotion.

“I think they are extremely well coached,” Evatt told The Bolton News. “I think Kieran is a really good young manager.

“When you are able to recruit the players they have and spend the amount of money they are able to spend, you have to be favourites – there is no denying that. But football isn’t that easy.

“If the divisions and promotions went to the biggest spenders every year it would be a pretty boring game because we would know exactly who was getting promoted based off budget sheets.

“Football isn’t like that – you have to go out and earn it. I think they will fancy their chances but there will probably be 10 to 12 clubs that have got realistic hopes of promotion this season.”

When asked if the standard of League One is even higher this season, Evatt added: “I do think that. The teams coming down will be well prepared.

“Derby have recruited almost 2,000 Premier League appearances in players so it shows you their level of recruitment.

“Peterborough are always a bit of a yo-yo club in recent years and their squad is able to cope, they haven’t lost many if any.

“I think it is going to be challenging but also exciting because we have improved. We haven’t got any entitlement. We know we have to go out there and earn it.

“We know where we need to improve. We have looked at last season and seen where we slipped up and where we didn’t. Hopefully, we are going to try and rectify that this year.”

Wanderers recorded an emphatic 5-2 win at Portman Road last season thanks to goals from Eoin Doyle, Josh Sheehan, George Johnston and a Dapo Afolayan brace.

However, the Whites’ last win on the opening day came in 2018 when Yanic Wildschut scored a dramatic late winner in a 2-1 victory against West Brom at the Hawthorns.

George Thomason has been regularly invovled in pre-season and the Bolton boss is delighted with his progress over the summer.

"He has been one of the highlights of pre-season for me," the manager explained.

"Physically, he has lived for football 24/7 and what that has done with his nutrition, his recovery away from the club and the way he trains in the gym and on the grass, he has just blossomed into a real physical specimen.

"Add to that his technical ability, he is a really good technical player. He has really excelled and I believe he is going to be a really big player for us this season."