IAN Evatt says he will be first in line should Liverpool choose to loan out Conor Bradley again next season – but admits Wanderers will have to be promoted to stand a chance.

The Northern Irish wing-back has been a roaring success so far in his time at the University of Bolton Stadium and Reds head development coach Barry Lewtas says he is unlikely to return to Under-23s level again.

A cluster of Championship clubs enquired about taking the Tyrone teenager for the second half of this season but Liverpool have been pleased with the progress he has made, and the deadline for cutting that loan short has now expired.

Evatt hopes Bradley can help keep Wanderers in the promotion frame, and Saturday’s 3-0 win against Portsmouth consolidated their hold on a play-off position.

Were his side to go up this season the Bolton boss would have no hesitation asking to keep him for another 12 months.

“I’d be optimistic but I genuinely believe he will play for Liverpool, and play regularly, he is that good,” he said.

“He is developing and improving all the time. We’d be hopeful that we could get one more year of his education but I’d completely understand if Liverpool felt the need to keep him with them to play for them.”

Preston North End were very keen to take Bradley for the second half of the season, suggesting to Liverpool that they exercised their right to recall him earlier this month.

They were not the only ones – but through regular checks on the players’ progress on the training ground and a WhatsApp group which even includes first team boss Jurgen Klopp, the Reds were confident he was in the right place for the time being.

“Championship clubs have been interested but it is great testimony to Liverpool for keeping their word, because they could very easily have done what other clubs are doing, recalling their players and sending them higher,” Evatt said.

“This is a pretty good fit for Conor. The way we play gets the best out of him, we are treating and coaching him correctly and Liverpool trust us. Conor is loving it and didn’t feel the need to go anywhere else, he is a young man with plenty of time for that.

“For now it is about building a season into his body, understanding his body better, and how to manage it day-to-day to get through a 46-game season. He is being educated on that all the time but I think he has been doing brilliantly.”

Bradley has discussed his learning curve in League One openly. He arrived at Bolton having sampled first team football in the cup competitions, even the Champions League, but the mental and physical demands of playing each week have been something to which he has gradually grown accustomed.

Evatt also points out that with nine yellow cards this season – Bradley has also more than held his own in the physicality stakes.

“Conor’s best attribute since he arrived has been his attitude, even though he is a fantastic young player,” the manager said.

“He isn’t a muscular player, perhaps, but he is wiry, he is strong and aggressive in the way he plays, in the tackle and his pressing. His understanding of how and when to press is excellent and that is massive credit to Liverpool and the way he has been coached. He has taken to it really well.”

Making it feel more like a home from home, Bradley has been helped with the arrival of Liverpool team-mate, Owen Beck, and two more Northern Ireland compatriots, international regular, Dion Charles, and the as-yet-uncapped Eoin Toal, signed in the same summer window from Derry City.

Michael O’Neill watched the recent game against Plymouth Argyle and Evatt is optimistic that three of his squad could be considered when Euro 2024 qualifiers against San Marino and Finland come around in March.

Evatt says his own spell in Northern Ireland alerted him to Bradley’s talents before his first team breakthrough at Anfield.

“I was really fortunate to get ahead of the game,” he said. “I went over and did all my coaching badges in Northern Ireland, so everyone was raving about Conor from an early stage.

“I’d monitored his progress and then when the time came that he was available we were the first ones to jump and take the risk.

“We see the benefits of that now. And we know to see him again next season we would have to be promoted because I think he will be playing in the Championship, at the very least.”