CHRIS Markham believes there is a “hunger” for Championship football within the squad he and Ian Evatt have built at Wanderers.

Bolton’s sporting director has been a key figure in the club’s gradual rebuild, and hopes to see them take the next step with victory against Oxford United in next weekend’s League One play-off final.

Speaking to Five Live, Markham says the recruitment process over the last four years has largely avoided players with established CVs at higher levels.

Taking out the two most experienced players in Evatt’s squad, Cameron Jerome and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, there are fewer than 200 appearances in the second tier and above spread across the whole squad, more than a third of which have been made by Victor Adeboyejo and Nathan Baxter.

The net result is a team that is desperate for the chance to prove itself at a higher level.

Markham explained: “We have been given a good bit of time and stability by the board, who have backed us really well.

“That has enabled us to evolve and progress the squad every year in a measured way, without needing any big overhauls. But one of the keys we have always looked for is that hunger. We have not got many players in our team at the moment who have an experienced Championship CV and that is deliberate in a way, it is because we want people who are hungry and have a point to prove.

“We wanted players who wanted to show people they could play in the Championship, whether that was coming from lower leagues or having had a brief spell and dropped down, young players on loan, it is a real art.

“But the main point we need to ensure is that myself and Ian are aligned and I think we are in the way we view the game and the way we want to go forward.”

Markham – like the 24,000-plus around him – was living on his nerves in last Friday night’s semi-final, where Bolton edged through to Wembley against Barnsley.

But he feels despite the uncomfortable nature of the result, it can ultimately be beneficial for Evatt and his squad.

“It is better to be playing at those times, you are pretty helpless in the stand,” he said.

“You trust in the players that they have been put in the right positions to see the game out.

“Obviously you need the rub of the green as well, but you are watching on, sitting in the stands or not actually playing is the worst place to be. I know Ian said the same, you are more or less helpless.

“But it is almost like an iron sharpens iron type of moment.

“We had to show some resilience, dig in, the fans were incredible and particularly in the last 10 minutes.

“Once that relief had settled down there was a real feelgood atmosphere.”

Wanderers had aimed for automatic promotion but Markham has been impressed by the way Evatt, his players and the club’s supporters have avoided dwelling on disappointment to shift their focus immediately to winning the play-offs.

“We obviously had the same goal as Portsmouth and Derby managed to achieve but didn’t manage to make it in the regular season,” he said. “I think we were very clear, though, that there are three ways to get up out of this league, I don’t think anyone will care in August which of the routes we took. We’ll all start on zero points, and if we manage to get into the Championship, become an established team over the next couple of years, nobody is going to mind how we got there.

“You just immediately turn that disappointment into focus, which I think everyone has done really well.”