Having taken the brickbats when things were not going well, the Bolton boss may also be entitled to crow a little about the fact his side are on an 11-match unbeaten run – something the seven other men who sat in the hotseat since Sam Allardyce could not manage to do.
But while talk at Port Vale centred Bolton’s new-found reserves of fight to go with the flair, another discussion was pushed to one side about a name conspicuous by its absence on the team-sheet.
Evatt has done splendidly to bind a winning team from the signings he made in January and the squad which had under-achieved in the first half of the season – but perhaps his biggest challenge is to coax the best out of enigmatic winger Marcus Maddison.
The manager was kind last week when he described Maddison’s start at Bolton as “slow-ish” and the incredible rate of improvement the team has shown since the start of February has certainly made it easier to side-line the Charlton loanee’s disappointing showings to date. Maddison has played 251 minutes of football thus far for the Whites, starting three games and lasting a little over an hour in each.
His previous start at Charlton had been on December 19 in a 2-2 draw at Swindon and the only time he completed 90 minutes this season was in an EFL Trophy game against Leyton Orient in November.
His relationship with then Charlton boss Lee Bowyer – now poised to take over at Birmingham City – had deteriorated, with rumours that he was no longer training with the first team.
With that in mind – was it unrealistic to expect the 27-year-old to hit the ground running at the UniBol?
“What he has to understand and realise is there isn’t a switch you can just flick on and off,” Evatt said last week, referring to the player’s struggles thus far. “When you have been out of it and training with youth teams, to come straight back into a first team environment and think you are going to be the same player he was at Peterborough two years ago, it doesn’t work like that.”
Whether there is enough time remaining in the season to see the ‘real’ Maddison emerge, remains to be seen. But as the pressure builds and games take on added importance with each passing week in the promotion chase, the need for a playmaker capable of producing the extraordinary could be greater than ever.
The challenge for Evatt is to keep a player motivated whilst trying to get him up to the kind of condition the rest of his team are in. For Maddison, it is about wanting to get to that same place.
With a jazzy headband and skill to burn, there is a clear path for the former Peterborough man to become a star at Bolton and make an impact on a promotion run.
We should learn a lot more about Maddison as a person and a footballer between now and May, depending on his success on that front.
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