Bolton Back To Europa S2E3 – Is This Actually Happening?!

Welcome back guys, after a solid start leaving us just inside the play offs, it is time to press on and see if we could hold our form or at least stay in the top half of the table. We cover November to the end of February in this episode including the January transfer window. I’m not really thinking about the window in November as it was just a game by game focus to make sure we don’t fall into any bad form as such. So let’s see how we got on!

November 2021

For November we had 4 league games, 2 FA cup games and our last group game in the Papa John’s Trophy which we had already secured qualification from.

More confidence for the squad with a solid 2-0 win vs. Lincoln who are a good side in their own right and the team also came through the FA cup first round with relative ease beating Morecambe 3-1. In the Papa John’s Trophy with heavy squad rotation, 0-0 it was after 90 minutes but again my side suffer on penalties losing 4-3 to Sheffield Wednesday meaning we finish the group in second as we advance to the knockout stages.

Then came along a three game goal drought. Drawing 0-0 with Blackpool & Barnsley but both were comfortably in the top six so it was 2 good points away from home. FA cup second round, my side drew league 2’s Southend, who in fairness deserved the tie but we held on for another 0-0 and ultimately a replay. I did rotate but the boys just weren’t at the races, potential over confidence after our solid start putting us above expectations. After some much needed attack work in training, the boys avenged the 3-0 pre-season loss to Wigan by taking a 3-0 victory when it mattered most, in the league.

Another solid month with no losses in the league, I slowly start to feel that this squad is good enough to do something in League 1.

December 2021

9 games in a very busy December, including the first knockout round of the Papa John’s trophy and what isn’t an ideal match in the form of our FA cup second round replay vs. Southend. This month also included our game in hand vs. table topping Ipswich – big month!

WHAT. A. MONTH. The league form was absolutely insane, after the attacking work in training we really hit a purple patch and what a month to do it in!

But let’s break it down, Leeds u23s knock us out of the PJT and we suffer on penalties again! Real England vibes about us from the spot and we don’t even have that bad of penalty takers. Back to the league for a game, vs. last season’s title rivals Grimsby and we run riot with a 5-0 win, we got back to business in the FA cup replay beating Southend 3-1 for the big round 3 draw. Then 3 very good wins came vs. Oxford (2-0), Bristol Rovers (3-1) and Swindon (2-0). The games against Bristol Rovers and Swindon showed me we are getting better as at the start of the season my team threw away 2 goal leads against them.

I didn’t know what to expect vs. Ipswich, they were up there and maybe better on paper but with this form we should give them a game and we did drawing 1-1 which I was very happy with. My Bolton side finished off this unreal month sneaking past Leyton Orient 1-0 (again!) and putting away MK Dons with a 2-0 – another team we drew with earlier in the season.

19 points out 21 is an insane points haul in a busy month, my custom wing play tactic is still doing the business in our trusted 4-3-3 DM wide formation.

December 2021 League Table

I usually do a league table section at the end of an episode but as our performance had been so good I had to give you all an end of year update of where we sit.

We are hot on the heels of Ipswich with another game in hand (international break), that game will be played in January vs. AFC Wimbledon. We are solidly in the top 6 and I’m definitely taking promotion chances seriously at this point.

January 2022

January! Happy New Year…that was 3 weeks ago (IRL!). ANYWAY, another busy month with 8 games including the FA cup third round vs. Championship opposition.

And we started with that very game vs. Millwall winning 3-1 would you believe! We played unbelievable, Isgrove and Banks tearing it up on the flanks and Simon Murray done his thing up front too. My team played Millwall who were 7th at the time off the park and I loved watching it!

In the league, two solid victories vs. Gillingham (2-1) and Fleetwood (3-1) before our game in hand vs. AFC Wimbledon who deservedly beat us 2-1. Squad rotation was taking its toll but with so many games, losses will pop up – just hopefully not too often! In the next game we bounced back vs. Crewe 3-1 before taking on Stoke in the FA cup 4th round. There would be no fairytale run with a respectable 1-0 loss but I was proud of the progression in the competition. 2 more league wins to round off the month vs. Newport (1-0) and beating Sheffield Wednesday 3-1. Sheffield Wednesday are struggling following relegation so they are not performing how you’d may expect.

Another amazing month on reflection, team morale is high with great dressing room vibes to aid the performances.

January 2022 Transfer Window

Around December time when Eoin Doyle came back from injury, he had dropped to a 2 star player as an Advanced Forward, Simon Murray was on 17 goals already and Ryan Cassidy was slowly proving to be a good option off the bench. I then realised Doyle was our highest paid player on 3.1k p/w which I can’t have for a fringe player so I was trying to move him on but his wages were putting clubs off. I brought in Nicky Clark on loan from Dundee Utd as a third striker/wing back up to cover Doyle’s departure which came in February, where I had asked him to find a club so he took himself back to Ireland with Cork City. We thank him for his goal scoring exploits last season but the step up in leagues mixed with the injury unfortunately had an undeserving effect on the lad.

Then deadline day madness (again…) to an extent. Youngster Hurford-Lockett who had just broke into the team had a bid from Swansea at 40k which was rejected outright. As you all know, when players realise who you’ve rejected a bid from, it becomes a thing and they throw their toys out of the pram so to speak. Much like Almeida Santos on the August deadline day, Hurford-Lockett didn’t want to miss the opportunity so I negotiated a 150k fee with Swansea with a loan back deal – saves another scramble for a player.

February 2022

A calmer month in February with 5 games however, 3 games against fellow top 6 teams in Ipswich, Coventry and Burton. Not going to be easy but Burton are also exceeding their mid table expectations so that will be a good battle.

Home game to Ipswich and we get the better of them this time, 2-0! Scenes when this match was played by me, one thing I love about Football Manager is the emotion it can give you and my passion came out for this with the win – on the sofa holding my laptop in the air like the trophy I never won as a child…we can all still dream.

Or just picture that famous scene in the Lion King, if you know, you know!

Where was I? League action! 4 points from our next two beating Charlton (2-0) and drawing with Doncaster 1-1 which was a frustrating, wasteful performance. We did fall to a loss vs. Coventry 1-0, I think it was needed to bring us back down to earth and know what we’re still up against but the boys put it right vs. Burton with a confident 2-0 win.

An OK month all in all but at the same time, I would have been more than happy with that considering our original expectations at the start of the season.

League Table

Its been a crazy four months and some of the form has been absolutely brilliant, let’s see where that leaves coming into the business end of the season.

Can you believe it?! Just looking at it I’m struggling to come to terms with it. Ipswich have a wobble, they lost when we lost to Coventry and we storm into a 12 point lead and a 20 point safety net from outside the play off places. It’s not mid-table anymore my friends, its time to try and close off promotion and we will deal with the struggles of improving the squad enough if it happens. Amazing stuff this! Watching the games, I can only say I have a tactic that suits this squad down to the ground and they are all excelling with it – I don’t say this with arrogance, it’s all about recognising your players strengths and utilising them with the correct formation and player roles.

I do believe this squad is good enough for League 1 and younger players are improving too meaning they are competing for starting places with established players, which I think is great. Shows a great balance within our squad.

What’s Next?

Episode 4 will be the season finale and it will be all about the closing months of the season (March-May). It is around the time I would look for pre-contracts for players north of the border and I have a scout already there to see if we can find any within our budget. The main question will be, can we complete the promotion to the Championship securing successive promotions? I’m already nervous thinking about it!

While you are exploring the DP-FM site, go take a look at Louis’ (Co-blogger/creator of DP-FM) challenge where he is embarking on his series ‘Unemployed, Unskilled & Inexperienced’. This entails Louis starting from the bottom of his management career with no coaching badges and low attributes to add to the fun! The link is right here –

Thanks again for all your support, check us out on twitter (@DP_FMblog) to keep up with episode releases and other news. Take care and we’ll be back really soon!

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