Ian Evatt reckons Salford City’s struggles to escape League Two underline how well his own club did to secure promotion in his first season at the UniBol.
Wanderers bounced back into League One at the first attempt in 2020/21, finishing third behind Cambridge United and Cheltenham Town.
Bolton and Salford had been strong favourites for promotion that season, but the Ammies could only finish eighth, two points outside the play-off places. Since then, they dropped to 10th last season, a full seven points off the top six, despite having one of the top budgets in the division.
As the two sides prepare to face each other at the UniBol in the Carabao Cup, Evatt looked back on the extraordinary run his team went on in the second half of the season to snatch an automatic spot.
“I think it is a little bit underappreciated,” he said. “People forget that there was a salary cap, and that we had no players at the start of the season.
“We had to rebuild a completely new squad, and then go again in January, so it was a phenomenal achievement I must say.
“You shouldn’t take it for granted. People say all the time, ‘Bolton Wanderers in League Two should have been promoted’. But they forget there was a salary cap.
“We could only spend what everyone else could spend and we didn’t overspend to get out of that league. In fact, we were probably at a disadvantage because everyone had historical squads – we had none.
“Their squad went into cap average, so they got the benefits of that. We had none of that, we could only spend £1.5million so to get out of it at the first attempt was actually a pretty good effort, to be honest.”
Salford are again favourites to go up this season under former Manchester United academy coach Neil Wood and have made a bright start, taking four points from their first two games.
Evatt has been impressed by the standard of football Wood has introduced and anticipates a tough game this evening.
“We have moved on since League Two, developed and evolved again,” he said. “We are now trying to get out of this league and win a cup match, so we’ll concentrate on that.
“Leagues are ultra-competitive from the Premier League downwards, and they are becoming more and more competitive.
“Salford are a prime example that, regardless of your recruitment or what you spend, it doesn’t guarantee you getting out of the leagues. But I think what they are trying to do there is pretty good. I like the way they play, I like the way they are coached. I think it will be a good game.”
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