Bolton Wanderers manager Ian Evatt has declared Derby County as the latest ‘big fish’ to enter the League One pond after their relegation from the Championship was confirmed.
Following points deductions totalling 21 points earlier in the 2021-22 campaign, the Rams’ inevitable fate was sealed on Easter Monday following a 1-0 defeat to Queens Park Rangers, despite Wayne Rooney’s best efforts in the last few months to overturn the deficit imposed on them.
They will now join 23 other clubs in the third tier of English football when the new EFL season kicks off in July, although whether they start on zero points or minus 15 remains to be seen once Chris Kirchner has completed his takeover.
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County will be joining a plethora of ex-Premier League clubs in League One, including Bolton, Ipswich Town, Charlton Athletic, Portsmouth and depending on the results from the last few matches of the campaign and then the play-offs, then both Sheffield Wednesday and Sunderland could both be in the league as well.
There are many sleeping giants in the third tier and Evatt, a former player for the Rams in the early stages of his career, believes that County can be added to that category and has also praised Rooney for the job he has done at Pride Park.
“Sitting here being Bolton’s manager, I understand – and I think we all understand as a football club – what their fans and that football club has gone through this season,” Evatt said of Derby, per the Bolton News.
“I don’t think it’s got to the extremes it did here but it hasn’t been good and it hasn’t been pretty and the players and Wayne (Rooney) deserve immense credit because without that deduction, they would have stayed up comfortably.”
“They are in League One now and this is a tough, tough league,” he said. “They are just another big fish in the pond, which seems to be getting bigger and bigger, really.
“I think the division is virtually split in half. You have some big ex-Premier League teams and then some little ones that are probably punching above their weight.
“You have to find a way to beat the big ones and the little ones and that’s something we’re working extremely hard to try and do.”
Evatt will no doubt be relishing a return to his old stomping ground next season where it will be a clash of two big teams at League One level.
Even though he wasn’t at Bolton when they went through financial hardship and when they dropped down the leagues, Evatt will know about what the Trotters have been through before his arrival and it’s a similar situation to what has occurred at Derby.
Whilst Bolton are yet to make it back to the Championship, they’re in a good position to challenge for promotion next year.
Whereas with Derby, we have no idea how they will fare under new ownership and what will be basically a new-look squad, so it may not be an easy ride for County – especially if they have to endure another points deduction.