FOR George Thomason and a handful of other Wanderers, there is a ghost waiting to be exorcised in this weekend’s derby.

October 16, 2021, and a 4-0 home defeat to Wigan which stands as a rare low point in Ian Evatt’s time in charge at Bolton, an opinion certainly shared by the few players still around who took to the pitch that day.

Thomason, who came on as a second-half substitute, joins Ricardo Santos and Josh Sheehan as the only survivors likely to get a shot at redemption on Saturday lunchtime.

“It will be a good game, a feisty one, a competitive one,” he said. “In the back of our heads we still know we owe them one from what happened the last time we played each other in the league.”

It has now been confirmed that Evatt will be there to direct operations from the technical area, despite picking up a mysterious red card in Tuesday night’s 3-1 win against Fleetwood.

But speaking before the decision, Thomason had played down the impact it might have on the players looking to earn a first league win against the Latics for just over nine years.

“I don’t think so – obviously the manager has a big presence on the side-line but we have to trust the information he gives us,” the midfielder explained. “Then it is down to us on the pitch.

“We always say we can prepare and analyse, get given all the data you want, but when you are on the pitch the pictures might change and it is up to you to go and solve the problems yourself.”

Thomason is celebrating a new contract with Wanderers, presented after he turned down a £1million move to Bristol City last week.

The 22-year-old midfielder was given the final say on whether the move went through, after the Championship club met with Bolton’s valuation.

But after a heart-to-heart with manager Evatt, Thomason was sure that staying put was the right move.

“I don’t want to dive too deep into what we talked about but we did have many conversations over the weekend and he was adamant it wouldn’t be for him to sway my decision, it would always be down to me,” he said.

“Ultimately it came down to my thoughts, my thinking on what he had done for me as a person and a player, what he has done for the club, the way we are moving and my ambition with this time – and that is why I chose to stay.

“I am happy both ways because the gaffer has always shown that loyalty to me, so I am happy I get to show that back.

“It has always been an open and honest working relationship with one another, and I think that is rare these days in football. The way the coaching staff work every day is an important thing for me and it can only unlock more of my game and make me better in the future.

“I am feeling confident, there is no second guessing when I go on to that pitch.”

Being at the centre of the headlines was not a natural position for a young man so modest – and he admits there is a degree of relief that he can get back to doing his talking on the pitch.

He told us: “I spoke to my close friends and family and said: ‘I’m quite happy to go under the radar!’ “It Is flattering to be in the headlines for the right reasons, and this has been for the right reasons, but I’m happy we came to a resolution. It was a tough couple of days thinking many factors over. I probably zoned out a couple of times with a feeling of being overwhelmed.

“I am happy now, though, and I can’t wait to get going.”