I don't think I like Ian Evatt much, but this is why I think he will succeed here.

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I don't think I like Ian Evatt much, but this is why I think he will succeed here.

Post by GhostoftheBok » Tue Sep 15, 2020 4:46 am

When Ian Evatt arrived in the port town of Barrow-in-Furness, he took over a club that was all at sea. Barrow AFC had 3 first team players on their books and, as with many non-league clubs, lacked the scouting and recruitment networks usually seen as vital when playing more technically demanding tactical systems. It was a club with no footballing identity, in need of rebuilding on and off the pitch.

A famously working class town, based around the shipbuilding industry, Barrow was known to some as the grumpy corner of Cumbria. The town's decline, from it's peak as one Europe's leading centres of maritime manufacturing to an area desperately hanging on to its few remaining major employers, had been mirrored by that of its football club. It had been 50 years since Barrow had lost its status as a Football League club and in that time many local people had come to treat the club with a sort of mild indifference. Young fans were a rare sight in the stadium - the stands more often occupied by disgruntled men-of-a-certain-age, many of whom seemed to attend the football more out of habit than as a result of passion.

A football club in the wildness, lacking players and an identity. A working class town with an historic sense of pride in an industrial past now on the wane. Town and club looking increasingly divorced from one another, or at least in need of a good marriage councillor. The parallels to Bolton are not difficult to see. At Barrow, Evatt threw himself into the challenge with relish. He was not only determined to build a team that would give the club a brand of football to envy, he also believed he could bring the fans back by putting the club at the heart of the community. After all, Evatt reasoned, there's no point playing entertaining football if there's nobody there to entertain. Equally, happy fans in the stands provides an atmosphere in which players are more likely to perform. Evatt, always concerned with his own career progression, knew that getting the fans back onboard would help him achieve his personal goals.

New players arrived in short order. Some worked out and some didn't, but after a rocky start Barrow began to turn on the style and slowly climbed the table. During a season that saw “Brand Evatt” go from theory to reality, active community outreach (and no shortage of word of mouth) saw interest in the club increase. It took until Evatt's second season for him to truly transform Barrow on the pitch, by which time the good will built up in the community saw an impressive increase in gate receipts over the season, with attendance almost doubling for some fixtures over the previous season. Evatt took over a club that was simply happy to avoid relegation - a club which considered 1500 a massive crowd and expected around 1000 on a normal match day. By the time he left the club had been promoted back to the Football League with crowds regularly hitting 2000 and even exceeding 3000 on two occasions. When Evatt talks about his time with Barrow he insists he is as proud of returning the club to the heart of the community as he is of returning the club to the professional leagues.

The question for Bolton fans is, “Can the new manager replicate what he achieved at Barrow?” Whether he can or not will probably depend a lot on the fans themselves. Bolton fans are a famously cynical bunch and whilst it is unlikely the Big Screen Brain Trust have spent lockdown in serious self-reflection, the manager will hope the majority of fans will buy into Brand Evatt. Expectations are clearly higher amongst Wanderers fans than those of the Bluebirds, but a major rebuilding project will take time.

In Evatt's first season at Barrow he finished 11th. Barrow fans cheered in delight, whilst Evatt claims to have been disappointed by “mediocrity”...a similar finish at Bolton and fans may agree with the manager. Putting the Brain Trust aside, many reasonable fans have questioned the idea of playing technical football in the lower leagues. “Why complicate things?”, they ask. To Evatt, his style is not up for debate. In a manager with a longer record of success this might be seen as a commitment to his philosophy that is to be respected, in a rookie manager in his first “big job” it may be seen simply as stubbornness and arrogance. If the results do not flow as quickly as sections of the support demand, will the boss's inevitable perseverance be tolerated?

If Evatt were to need “cover” this season, it may come from the distrust of so many in the “Moneyball” recruitment policies of the club. Whilst Evatt actively embraces what he describes as “modern scouting techniques”, it seems likely that fans will be understanding that a rookie manager, signing players for free and on short notice, should be allowed a degree of latitude. The board is almost certain to back their manager to the hilt and Evatt seems like a man incapable of quitting in the face of adversity. In situations like this, the new boss being given less than two seasons to implement his designs seems unthinkable.

Covid-19 is likely to be a double-edged sword for Evatt's tenure. The lack of fans in the stand will insulate the manager and players somewhat from difficult results, but will also mean that they will be unable to build an atmosphere and rapport with the fans that could drive them on. Bolton's continuing special measures also mean that active community outreach is out of the question for the time being. The rebuilding of the club's standing in the town and amongst the “lost” fans of Bolton will have to wait.

Ultimately, barring the worst kind of season, Evatt is almost certain to go into next summer as Bolton Wanderers manager. It is to be hoped and assumed that Bolton will be released from their transfer embargo on schedule and Evatt's hands will be somewhat untied in the transfer market. The ability to buy contracted players and a year of coaching groundwork should mean that the manager's fastidious approach to recruitment will yield dramatic squad improvements – either to strengthen us for League One football or (in my view more likely) to strengthen us to achieve promotion from League Two.

When Evatt is afforded the opportunity to compete fully in the transfer market it will be a unique experience for him. A man who openly admits to annoying his wife with his constant scouting of players and who embraces analytics will for the first time have the chance to establish a full recruitment network. Gone are the days of Evatt's home made spreadsheets. No more scribbled notes and hand-drawn tick boxes. Although Bolton's days of having a full analytics and scouting department are gone, the manager will be able to rely on more than just online promo videos and calling around old contacts for information. Instead of being at the bottom of the pile and relying on cast-offs from rivals, Evatt will have the pulling power of an establish club with a high profile. For a manager who believes he is destined for the Premier League and silverware, this is a real opportunity to show he can be trusted with league-level recruitment.

Ian Evatt has shown he can create a strong team ethos and instil a winning mentality in players who have previously struggled to find a home at other clubs. He has taken on difficult personalities and identified traits and abilities in players that other coaches hadn't seen. He has, in truth, turned numerous sows' ears into silk purses. He has used limited resources well, reconnected a club with its fans and done it all playing great football. On top of that, Evatt is likely to be afforded that most precious of resources for a manager – time. The more time Evatt gets, the more likely he is to be able to put together the team he needs to be successful here. Above him is a relatively stable hierarchy with the ability to back the manager financially. The more Evatt shows the ability to put on a show and win games at this level, the more likely he is to be able to sell the club to the town and fans again.

Of all the managers we have had since Sam left, I think Evatt is the most likely to succeed here. Due not only to his own traits, but also the position of the club, the improved ownership and the fact that he will have the ability to stamp his identity on the football side of things. I think people need to moderate their views of what success looks like this season, but then again Evatt would say that's me settling for mediocrity. The man himself will only be satisfied with winning the league. We'll see how we go, but a couple of years from now I think we'll be in a good place, all things being equal.

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Re: I don't think I like Ian Evatt much, but this is why I think he will succeed here.

Post by Dave Sutton's barnet » Tue Sep 15, 2020 7:29 am

Interesting and well-written piece, thanks Ghost. Maybe you’ll even come to like him...

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Re: I don't think I like Ian Evatt much, but this is why I think he will succeed here.

Post by officer_dibble » Tue Sep 15, 2020 8:36 am

Good read. I can certainly see a season of stabilization - same as what has happened to Portsmouth. I still think we should be aiming for promotion butI suspect I have underestimated the rebuild job with a new squad post pandemic, and the quality of some of the league.

It’s right he gets time.

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Re: I don't think I like Ian Evatt much, but this is why I think he will succeed here.

Post by GhostoftheBok » Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:10 am

Dave Sutton's barnet wrote:
Tue Sep 15, 2020 7:29 am
Interesting and well-written piece, thanks Ghost. Maybe you’ll even come to like him...
Anything is possible, DSB. In truth, I didn't like Sam. I thought he was a superb manager (and still do), so it didn't matter. I did like Coyle, but didn't rate him as a manager and thought he deserved the sack. It's satisfying when things line up and you don't like the guy and think he's a bit crap (Neil Lennon), but ultimately if the manager is good at his job I'm fine.

I don't think Evatt would deal well with Premier League players unless he develops a lot, but I think he'll be good for us where we currently are. With the caveat that most managers fail, obviously, I think he has a better than average shot.

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Re: I don't think I like Ian Evatt much, but this is why I think he will succeed here.

Post by BWFC_Insane » Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:22 am

I like him and think if given the time he'll do well here. I like the fact he isn't trying to suppress expectations. I like his professional outlook. I do think there are questions over his ability to handle the pressure and make decisions in our framework. But there always are. I want him to get years and to see us gradually become a club with an identity again.

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Re: I don't think I like Ian Evatt much, but this is why I think he will succeed here.

Post by Worthy4England » Tue Sep 15, 2020 10:29 am

To some extent, he's set the rod for his own back. You can't blame supporters for pointing out that something looked less than an "automatic promotion" performance, when the Manager has come in and said that's what he expects - not in a couple of years time, but now and here.

We went through the squad building window - now almost complete and I think we were all pretty happy without having seen a ball kicked, that we could retain Crawford, sign Doyle and Sarceivic and looked to find the remaining warm bodies for each position, all with as much "number crunching and Champ Man" as they could muster. So squad for title assault nearly assembled.

Pre season looked to be a game of two halves. Playing teams much below our current standing, yielded large score-lines in our favour and all looked well within the camp. Playing teams above our station yielded defeats, one of them a heavy defeat, then into three competitive matches which we were all able to see, fairly lacklustre v Bradford and beaten, better against Crewe but beaten, then godawful against Forest Green Rovers. Did FGR do anything particularly special? - no, they just did the basics better than we did the basics - I didn't come off that game, thinking FGR clear League 2 favourites, I thought mid-table, maybe a tilt at playoffs.

For all this bollocks about moneyball, championship manager, FIFA20 and all the other systems, we're in danger of believing our own management-speak bullshit. It comes down to 11 v 11 on a gameday and if you attack better than they defend, defend better than they attack and do the basics of hitting one of our players with a pass and recover the ball when we don't have it, you'll win more than you lose (obviously putting the ball into their net more than they put it into ours). None of those statements means we can't play a "feck-me-I'm-embarrassed-to-say-it - Brand" of football that we're striving for. I watched Brum v Brentford for my sins over the weekend - Brentford's "brand" didn't look great on the day - so there will clearly be bad days at the office. Teams will try and prevent brand Boltolona as is their job and we need a way round that.

Any new manager has time for me. Evatt has probably had a fairer run-up to the season than Hill got where we were making 9 signings in one day. He's had the advantage that he was involved for a start. He's had time to see the players on the training pitch - and everything he's saying about that is along the lines of "it's going really well". So it's time to translate that into a performance on the pitch - most things I saw on Saturday went backwards from the Crewe game, it needs to go the other way.

I think most reasoned supporters would accept us getting beaten by a better team as long as we've covered the hard yards. But to conclude as I opened, it was Evatt that said his target is "Champions" so there's little point blaming the HMS Piss The League crew for echoing those sentiments.

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Re: I don't think I like Ian Evatt much, but this is why I think he will succeed here.

Post by BWFC_Insane » Tue Sep 15, 2020 11:44 am

Agree with Worthy there. I like Evatt but am always a bit wary of 'brands' and 'projects'. However, we do need to realise this is a long term turnaround.

And frankly whatever merits Hill had - I could not stand the bloke and his ranting - he came across as a bully to me and given some of the behind scenes reports - may well be one.

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Re: I don't think I like Ian Evatt much, but this is why I think he will succeed here.

Post by LeverEnd » Tue Sep 15, 2020 12:34 pm

I think worthy sums up with 'management speak bullshit' what has put me off so far, plus all this brand-talk as bwfci points out. Phoenix seemed a bit too keen on himself in that one interview too. Both have limited experience and at much smaller clubs. If they back it up I'll be delighted, but always prefer people to do something first before talking about it.
Evatt sounds like he's been at the self help library with all his 'I'm a winner' clichés.
It'll be interesting to see where it goes next and how they adapt.
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Re: I don't think I like Ian Evatt much, but this is why I think he will succeed here.

Post by BWFC_Insane » Tue Sep 15, 2020 1:42 pm

LeverEnd wrote:
Tue Sep 15, 2020 12:34 pm
I think worthy sums up with 'management speak bullshit' what has put me off so far, plus all this brand-talk as bwfci points out. Phoenix seemed a bit too keen on himself in that one interview too. Both have limited experience and at much smaller clubs. If they back it up I'll be delighted, but always prefer people to do something first before talking about it.
Evatt sounds like he's been at the self help library with all his 'I'm a winner' clichés.
It'll be interesting to see where it goes next and how they adapt.
The whole brand and management speak stuff often is said by those without the real understanding and skill to pull it off. But Evatt strikes me as having real substance, when he talks systems it’s beyond just a superficial level. So I think that gives me confidence. Over say a Coyle who talked a brand of football without clearly understanding what that meant, required or the tactical nuances involved.

The biggest attribute any manager needs is man management skills to get every player prepared to run through walls for the cause. Both Allardyce and Ricoh possessed this in spades and whilst you can never completely tell at the start my gut feel is Evatt will have some skill here too.

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Re: I don't think I like Ian Evatt much, but this is why I think he will succeed here.

Post by irie Cee Bee » Tue Sep 15, 2020 2:21 pm

Evatt came and placed expectations in our head and talking up a storm like a Marketing Manager. I said Ok, proof of the pudding is on the field. He has been given a blank slate and supported by Owners and Fans within the constraints that we have. He got the players he wanted fitting the positions in his system. Has had about 2 months preparing the team. A reasonable pre-season winning against teams below us and losing to teams above. Two cup losses to sort things out then Boom.. an absolutely poor match against FGR where the players looked like strangers to each other, lacking confidence, and then him blaming the club for having losing mentality!!!

I was so disappointed with that and now want him to shut up his mouth and prove himself as a good Manager by having the players win football games. Does he have it as Brand Evatt would want us to believe he does or not. Prove it by results on the field and not by talk or he will be found out very quickly by us all. We have been through too much disappointment. It needs to stop now.

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Re: I don't think I like Ian Evatt much, but this is why I think he will succeed here.

Post by GhostoftheBok » Tue Sep 15, 2020 3:57 pm

The management bullshit and the self-help guru stuff is off-putting, I agree. When anyone in a leadership role tells me "The Secret" changed their life I have to control my facial expressions fairly dramatically. For Evatt to follow it up by saying positive thinking affects the fabric of the universe is....well.

Where Evatt will come unstuck, if he does, is that he has never really been around excellence. He is sure he has and he is sure he now exudes it from his pours, but when he talks about himself in the same terms as Pep, Jose and Poch you have to see where those guys have been around the real thing during formative periods. Even Dyche got to see it under Brian Clough. That's not to say you have to come from an elite level to be elite, but when Evatt talks about spending lockdown "massively self-improving" by reading 3 books, I grow worried again.

His huge advantage is that he has started at the bottom. If people buy into that sort of thing it can work. If you don't look behind the curtain, so to speak, you can mistake the ridiculous for the profound. He had the time to see who will buy into what he is selling and who won't. Most players are on short term contracts and not many in this group have ever worked under a genuinely top manager. If Evatt can sell "Brand Evatt", as he loves to call it, to any group of league players it is probably this one. Short contracts mean he can quickly rid himself of those who don't buy the brand and avoid the powerful "this is crap" cliques that formed under Coyle.

As I said above, when he encounters players who do know what excellence looks like and people who live it every day, I think he will struggle. As he moves up the pyramid fewer and fewer players are likely to buy his current approach, but if he can build a resume here and learn to rein it in he has a chance.

Ultimately, most managers fail. Like I say, I think the current circumstances give Evatt a better than even chance - which is a pretty big deal.

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Re: I don't think I like Ian Evatt much, but this is why I think he will succeed here.

Post by BWFC_Insane » Tue Sep 15, 2020 4:10 pm

irie Cee Bee wrote:
Tue Sep 15, 2020 2:21 pm
Evatt came and placed expectations in our head and talking up a storm like a Marketing Manager. I said Ok, proof of the pudding is on the field. He has been given a blank slate and supported by Owners and Fans within the constraints that we have. He got the players he wanted fitting the positions in his system. Has had about 2 months preparing the team. A reasonable pre-season winning against teams below us and losing to teams above. Two cup losses to sort things out then Boom.. an absolutely poor match against FGR where the players looked like strangers to each other, lacking confidence, and then him blaming the club for having losing mentality!!!

I was so disappointed with that and now want him to shut up his mouth and prove himself as a good Manager by having the players win football games. Does he have it as Brand Evatt would want us to believe he does or not. Prove it by results on the field and not by talk or he will be found out very quickly by us all. We have been through too much disappointment. It needs to stop now.
Guardiola went to City and after year one many fans wanted him out. There are videos knocking about of city fans being very unhappy. The point I’d make is we’ve lurched from manager to manager and it’s not brought us anything other than a downward slide. So let’s try not doing that and letting a manager with a vision build something even if short term that isn’t producing results. We can and will moan about results but let’s trust the process for much longer than a few weeks or months because we are in league two...and partly we are here because we kept thinking changing manager would fix things, it didn’t...

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Re: I don't think I like Ian Evatt much, but this is why I think he will succeed here.

Post by LeverEnd » Tue Sep 15, 2020 5:42 pm

GhostoftheBok wrote:
Tue Sep 15, 2020 3:57 pm
The management bullshit and the self-help guru stuff is off-putting, I agree. When anyone in a leadership role tells me "The Secret" changed their life I have to control my facial expressions fairly dramatically. For Evatt to follow it up by saying positive thinking affects the fabric of the universe is....well.

Please tell me he didn't say that 😂
That book is absolute bollocks. Was urged to read it and got through about half.
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Re: I don't think I like Ian Evatt much, but this is why I think he will succeed here.

Post by GhostoftheBok » Tue Sep 15, 2020 5:45 pm

LeverEnd wrote:
Tue Sep 15, 2020 5:42 pm
Please tell me he didn't say that 😂
That book is absolute bollocks. Was urged to read it and got through about half.
Yup, he did.

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Re: I don't think I like Ian Evatt much, but this is why I think he will succeed here.

Post by LeverEnd » Tue Sep 15, 2020 8:16 pm

GhostoftheBok wrote:
Tue Sep 15, 2020 5:45 pm
LeverEnd wrote:
Tue Sep 15, 2020 5:42 pm
Please tell me he didn't say that 😂
That book is absolute bollocks. Was urged to read it and got through about half.
Yup, he did.
Evatt out!
...

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Re: I don't think I like Ian Evatt much, but this is why I think he will succeed here.

Post by Prufrock » Tue Sep 15, 2020 8:42 pm

feck off! We're being managed by Noel fecking Edmonds.

Mr Bobby could do a job at centre back tbf.
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Be more kind, my friends, try to be more kind.

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Re: I don't think I like Ian Evatt much, but this is why I think he will succeed here.

Post by Worthy4England » Tue Sep 15, 2020 8:54 pm

Prufrock wrote:
Tue Sep 15, 2020 8:42 pm
feck off! We're being managed by Noel fecking Edmonds.

Mr Bobby could do a job at centre back tbf.
Moore? He won the World Cup with West Ham donchaknow.

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Re: I don't think I like Ian Evatt much, but this is why I think he will succeed here.

Post by Prufrock » Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:33 pm

fecking autocarrot
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That it's going to lose its mind
Be more kind, my friends, try to be more kind.

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Re: I don't think I like Ian Evatt much, but this is why I think he will succeed here.

Post by GhostoftheBok » Tue Sep 15, 2020 11:34 pm

Honestly, the thing that made me roll my eyes the most was the "My players run in at half time, so the opposition think we are relentless!" bit. He's said that a few times, which surely defeats the purpose? If you tell people you're doing something just to intimidate them doesn't that stop it being as intimidating?

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Re: I don't think I like Ian Evatt much, but this is why I think he will succeed here.

Post by Worthy4England » Wed Sep 16, 2020 12:06 am

It might be more helpful if they walked in, a bit shagged, because they'd given 45 solid minutes of "the press" and could do with the breather.

I rarely judge on the bollocks people talk but in the case of football what I see on the pitch. If he thinks he's getting the best advice from Zen meets the Tooth Fairy, that's fine by me if it translates into wins.

When it doesn't, then we call bollocks.

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