Alex Baptiste scored a dramatic last gasp equaliser as newly promoted Bolton Wanderers grabbed an opening day point at home to Milton Keynes Dons in a 3-3 epic.
The experienced defender is happy to see his teammate Ricardo Santos return to the side for their League Cup first round tie against Barnsley this evening, he told The Bolton News.
Ricardo Santos was a rock at the heart of defence last season as Ian Evatt’s Trotters stormed through the chasing pack to claim automatic promotion in the second half of the season. Baptiste is convinced of the Portuguese’s ability.
He said: “For the team it will be good to have the big man back. I said last year he was the best player in League Two and this year I think he can be the best player in League One.”
Many were tipping MK Dons to push for a top six finish this season, so as a newly promoted side it was an impressive point at the University of Bolton Stadium.
Baptiste’s experience will be crucial as the club look to acclimatise to the new level, Evatt is a former teammate of the 35-year-old and may rely on his intelligence on and off the pitch this term. The defender is confident the Trotters can handle the step up.
He continued: “There is a feelgood factor around the club now and gaffer has touched on it, if we’re in it together then we can go places. It’s a real positive.
“There will be low times but with the squad he has put together I think there will be plenty more positive times.”
The size of the club and their rich history in English football means Bolton are not amongst the favourites to be battling the drop this season, but that does not mean the campaign will be absent of troubling times.
Ricardo Santos will be a crucial part of Ian Evatt’s robust Trotters when he returns, at 35 it is a big ask for Baptiste to perform week in week out at the heart of defence. The cup tie with Barnsley provides an excellent early test in Santos’ recovery, no expectation on gaining a result from the matchup but an intense examination of his defensive capabilities for when Evatt deems him ready to return to the first team.
It is clear the influence Baptiste can have in the dressing room as one of Evatt’s older lieutenants and the scenes his equaliser sparked on Saturday was testament to the respect from the squad he clearly commands.