COMPETITION in the Wanderers goalkeeping stakes has gone up a notch with the arrival of two senior stoppers with designs on making an impact.

Nathan Baxter turned down big offers from elsewhere to stake a claim to be Bolton’s first choice keeper and create some stability in a career that has thus far been spent entirely out on loan from his former club Chelsea.

But the addition of Joel Coleman yesterday – a 6ft 6ins Bolton-born keeper with Premier League experience – will most likely ensure the biggest goalkeeping rivalry seen at Bolton since the promotion days of Ben Alnwick and Mark Howard under Phil Parkinson.

While Baxter got the spotlight of being Ian Evatt’s first signing of the summer, following up his capture with a keeper who has played in all four divisions and is still very much in his prime years underlines how serious Evatt and Co are about getting their promotion pitch exactly right this season.

Coleman got rave reviews at Ipswich last season, arriving in another competitive environment alongside Christian Walton and Vaclav Hladky and impressing with his professionalism as the Tractor Boys went on to secure a top two spot.

“You could get a sense straight away that he’s been at a really high level, being involved in teams in the Premier League and in big games,” said the club’s head of goalkeeping Rene Gilmartin. “It’s important that we have good quality goalkeepers to challenge each other and push each other on.

"The environment is huge for the management, the staff and the club. Having the likes of Joel is important to that and that’s why we want to keep those kind of people. His maturity in the group is welcome and important, and he’s really added to the goalkeeping department."

Coleman has not played regularly since turning out for Rochdale in League Two 12 months ago. An ankle problem picked up in April 2022 wrecked his pre-season and hampered a potential move to Stockport County.

By November last year, getting back on the ladder involved travelling down to Ipswich in the knowledge he would be back-up, but his attitude ensured a short-term deal was extended in January to the end of the season and he left the promoted club with head held high.

Now back in the town where he and his twin boys were born, Coleman has a two-year contract and a chance to push Baxter for the regular football he has missed.

Whether it was Billy Crellin, James Trafford or even Lukas Jensen, Wanderers have regularly looked to the loan market for goalkeepers in Ian Evatt’s three seasons. This change in policy gives Bolton two contracted senior goalkeepers from which to build a base for success – and both men have wasted no time in declaring they want Championship football as quickly as possible.

For goalkeeper coach Matt Gilks it will be the first time he has been able to work with two senior keepers owned by the club.

He was still registered as a player at the start of the 2021/22 season when he trained alongside Joel Dixon, after which his work with Trafford brought unquestionable success. Now keeping both Coleman and Baxter motivated and ready will be another type of challenge altogether.