WANDERERS put their first markers down for the new season ahead with the announcement of two pre-season friendlies.

Ian Evatt’s side will face Stoke City at home on Tuesday, July 30, followed by Port Vale away on Saturday, August 3, in the build-up to the opening weekend of EFL action on August 10.

Other than a retained list announced shortly after last month’s play-off final defeat to Oxford United, there has been little by way of official communication from the club as players and staff went out on holiday or international duty, gathering their thoughts after failing to seal promotion at Wembley.

But yesterday’s announcement – the first two of several planned first team friendly matches to be played after a training camp on the continent – is the first sign this summer that the cogs are starting to turn once again.

The summer transfer window officially opens next Friday (June 14) and it is understood that Evatt and his sporting director Chris Markham are now working on a shortlist of new signings intended to freshen the squad.

Wanderers will have to work hard to lift the fog of disappointment and win over some of the critics who were left shortchanged by the club’s finish to last season.

Former Bolton striker Tony Philliskirk hopes Evatt and his players will react in the right way and make a positive start when they return.

“Players are different and some react differently to the type of criticism you get in the modern world,” he said. “I am not on social media but I can imagine how difficult it can be.

“I know there are positives to it, but the negatives outweigh them a lot of the time and I can well imagine what has been said and posted on there.

“But at the end of the day Ian and his players have got to use the disappointment, or even that criticism as a motivating factor. You have to find a way to make that negative into a positive and go one step further, and that isn’t getting into the play-offs again, it’s getting into the top two and going up automatically.

“I think the start of the season is going to be really key for that.”

Philliskirk lost a play-off final with Bolton against Tranmere Rovers in 1991, and can recall the changed mood at Burnden Park after Phil Neal’s side failed to gain any consistency in results the following season.

“I can remember it well,” he said. “Everyone is patting you on the back three months earlier when you get to Wembley but then you lose a game and everyone is screaming and shouting at you the next time you run out on to the pitch.

“It can become a very different environment very quickly and I’m sure Ian and the rest of the club know the start of 24/25 will be key.

“The sad thing about losing at Wembley is that it’s the last game of the season and everyone has got all summer to stew about it. But 90 minutes into the new season if you’ve won 2-0 then everyone is saying ‘let’s go again’ and everything feels a bit better.

“That’s how football works. We never got going that next season, it was always lingering , always there, and ultimately it caught up with us all.”