Back at it again! Last time I left you we had made up some really good ground in our chase for the play-off places ahead of the turn of the year. As is becoming a regular occurrence now, this episode is another hectic one despite the fact we’re only covering 2 months – you’ll understand why soon.
We have one of the most crazy transfer windows I’ve had during this save as somewhat of a squad dismantling took place and in our search for replacements we were forced to finally loosen the purse strings… sort of. In comparison to other clubs in the championship we were barely spending pennies but for me and my level of frugalness this was my attempt at pushing the boat out for the first time during this journey!
On top of that there are 10 Championship games to get through as well as some unbelievable giant-killings in the FA Cup… Ready? Me too. Let’s do this!
Ahh January 2026… Happy New Year! Well initially it was a far from happy January on the transfer front for myself as clubs from all around the world came in and dismantled my team piece by piece! As well as sending 21 players out on loan this month, we also sold 11 first team players, 6 of which were starting XI players!
I was delighted to get a fee close to £1m for Ryan Woods, a 32 year old fringe player who was yet to play a game for me. Arber Zeneli was another one who I was happy to get any fee for as his contract was expiring at the end of the season and he had been denied a work permit so to get any fee for him was a bonus.
I was really disappointed to lose first-choice GK Christian Walton but he wanted to speak to Everton and a fee rising to £8m for a 30 year old keeper is not bad business. The Lasse Sorensen deal hurt, don’t get me wrong we got a really good price as the fee will rise to £25m but he was my standout player, one that I really wanted to build the team around. Darko Todorovic was our starting right back but £11m was a very good price for him in all honesty.
33 year old Tommy Smith was sitting in our U23’s and despite only being rated 2 star was in our top 5 highest earners, so I was delighted to get him off the wage bill. George Nunn wasn’t ever going to be good enough for the club so we wish him luck at Hull and take a pretty decent fee for someone of his ability. Jordan Storey was one of those ones that I just relied on when he played, I liked his style. A good all round centre-back but just wasn’t going to get consistent game time so when Forest came calling with a £3.8m fee I agreed to let him go.
Another centre back then followed out the door as regen Steven McCall wanted to speak to Newcastle and a fee rising to £8m was accepted. Disappointed with this one again as I saw him as the future rock of our defence, but I never keep a player who doesn’t want to be here! Our 2nd choice keeper Cameron Dawson then left to be the 4th choice keeper at Man City, can’t blame him really.
The final day of the window was madness as you will see not only from the above but also the below. So we have already lost Steven McCall and Cameron Dawson on deadline day, and then first choice left back Nahuel Gallardo attracts interest from Fulham and his heart is set on a move. They stump up a massive offer rising to £20m and we let him go… but Fulham weren’t done with me there. With barely any time remaining they submit a bid for our star striker Jacob Brown!
He wanted to go but he was not absolutely set on it to the point he would become unsettled if we rejected. I set my price to Fulham, a fee rising to £30m but they tried to get back down towards £18m. I negotiated to around £26m before deciding that I wouldn’t be able to replace him adequately with the time remaining and declined any further talks. Fortunately Brown didn’t kick off and that’s good news because we will need him in our promotion push!
There were so many incomings in January I have split them into 2 parts for you!
Terell Pennant was a no brainer for me, a free agent RW rated 2.5 star with 4 star potential who I signed and tried to loan out but nothing materialised. Eduardo Ayovi is a regen who can play CB & RB, with a 3.5 star rating and 5 star potential a £2.4m fee is a bargain.
The next 2 signings were incredibly frustrating for me, Jason Dos Santos (CM regen) and Ridvan Yilmaz (LB) for a combined £3m was a phenomenal bit of bit of business by the club. Unfortunately both of these players had played for one club’s U23 team before moving to another club and then joining me. This meant they could not be registered and therefore could not play for me until next season… something which I was not warned about during the transfer process. I can’t even loan them out as they won’t be able to play anywhere else either, absolutely fuming as you can imagine.
We signed centre back pairing George Edmundson & Daniel Ballard from Crystal Palace for £2.9m & £5.25m respectively. Both great signings to strengthen that area ahead of the departures detailed above. Regen Joey Singleton is more of a potential player, but will play the odd game this season for us – my scouts were going on about him non stop so I decided to take a punt for £1.8m. Miroslav Mach rounded up the deals in the first couple of days of the window, 18 year old regen left back with significant potential for £54k? Don’t mind if I do! Based on his ratings I will probably look to train him as a centre back, let me know what you think when you see him below.
Now usually I show you all the players in screenshots one after the other, but with the amount of signings in this window I think you would be scrolling for hours! So I’ve put in a little slideshow below, just use the arrows to navigate through the 8 signings and let me know what you think of them in the comments below:
Right onto part 2… I promise there are some football matches coming at some point during this update! But first another 10 players to go through, including 6 who joined on deadline day!
Caoimhin Kelleher joined from Blackburn for £700k to become our first choice keeper for the remainder of the season at least. Only rated 3 star so I would have liked to have found someone a little bit better but my scouts couldn’t find anyone and he is tried and trusted at this level plus as he is only 27 there is time to improve. 25 year old Kader Keita was a great signing from Celtic for only £5.5m, despite him moving there for nearly £17m only 2 seasons before.
We returned north of the border for another cut price deal, signing Lewis O’Brien for £2.4m despite him only joining Rangers for £9m 18 months previously. Syaiful Setyawan is a 19 year old Indonesian regen who can play ST or RW, 2 star rated with 5 star potential. He wasn’t granted a work permit first time round but at 19 he has 27 caps for his country so I don’t think we will have a problem in the future.
After we sold out 2nd choice keeper on deadline day I was scrambling to find a replacement, but I stumbled upon the loan signing of 18 year old George Kelly. There is no way I will be able to sign this kid permanently as I’m pretty sure we’re looking at one of the best keepers in the world in a few years time, but for now he will play second fiddle to Kelleher and get a bit of game time here and there.
Northern Ireland had been a tried and trusted place to go and find young talent in this save and we tried our luck again, this time signing regen Jason Hughes for £350k ahead of about 20 other interested teams. Speaking of Northern Ireland, those who have followed this journey will remember the next name, Liam Moroney! That’s right we snapped him up only 6 months after we had sold him and loaned him back during our time at Lincoln. £9m is the biggest fee we have spent yet but come on… it’s Moroney! Had to be done.
Luis Binks was a fantastic replacement for Steve McCall on deadline day, particularly when you take into consideration his potential (4 star) and price (£475k). We then pulled off a real coup in getting Keane Lewis-Potter from Burnley for only £8.75m – he will add real quality and flexibility to the attacking areas. Finally the signing of Harry Toffolo came following Gallardo’s last minute sale and the fact we can’t use Yilmaz until next season, a good deal for all parties.
Again check out all 10 players using the arrows in the slideshow below!
Transfer Window Round-up
AAANNNDDD done… What a window that was! Honestly felt tired after it.
Overall we let 33 players leave the club (21 on loan) for a combined fee of around £80m (including add-ons). We brought in a total of 18 players (1 on loan) for a combined fee of around £42m. So even though I was loosening the purse strings by my own standards I was actually only replacing what we let go and adding real quality for half the price… you can tell I’ve had to manage finances throughout this save!
It’s fair to say other clubs were not looking to balance the books so much as West Ham continued the big spending of the top clubs in this division by spending nearly £60m, and almost half that went on one player, Louie Barry who they signed from Aston Villa for £29m.
You can see clearly that the clubs in the Championship really do have the cash to compete with the big boys as we nearly spent as much as Premier league sides in this window!
Remember the football? The thing these posts are meant to be about? Well I’ve still plenty of that to go through with you and honestly some of the results are even more ridiculous than that transfer window! We’re still in January 2026 (just to remind you) and we have league and cup action this month.
WHAT A MONTH. We kicked it off with an FA Cup 3rd round tie at home against Premier League side Sheffield United. We actually played them off the park but had to settle for a 1-1 draw and a replay at their place. In between those games there was a huge clash against 3rd place Brighton who were now only 7 points away from us, the boys put in a great shift as we raced into a 2-0 lead. Brighton pulled one back late on but a 2-1 win was well deserved and potentially crucial to our play-off hopes.
We then took the trip to Bramall Lane only 4 days later and with the effort the boys put in to the Brighton game I wasn’t expecting much. It was the complete opposite of the home tie, they played us off the park this time around but somehow we managed to come away with the win and progressed on to the 4th round – our first giant killing of the month (hint hint).
Back to league action and a professional performance ensured a 3-1 win away against Barnsley. I rotated the full lineup against Rotherham with the upcoming FA cup 4th round tie against Man City to contend with, and it looked like a great decision as we raced into a 2-0 lead inside 5 minutes before Rotherham produced the comeback of dreams to snatch all 3 points right at the death.
I was gutted, more so because I now had to face an absolute battering at the hands of Pep Guardiola’s Man City… or so I thought. HOW? SOMEONE TELL ME HOW?!?
We have beaten a team FULL of SUPERSTARS. I went up against arguably the greatest manager of all time and came out on top… this journey just never ceases to amaze me! But we did it and we’re now into the FA Cup 5th Round – COULD WE? Obviously not, but whilst we’re in the competition we have a chance.
Back to league football to finish the month with a 4-0 battering of fellow play-off hopefuls Derby County. Aside from the unfortunate Rotherham result the team are just on fire right now!
If you’re reading this well done for making it this far! February is our final month in this update and has 6 fixtures to get through, at the end of which will leave only 10 games remaining in the league, so our results this month are crucial in terms of what we can realistically aim for in the last 3 months of the season.
I was concerned how we would fair in the second half of the season with so many changes to the squad in January, but what’s done is done and we can only focus on what’s ahead of us now…
An unbeaten month! 2 goals on his debut from Lewis-Potter helped us to a 3-2 win over QPR before an early goal from Jacob Brown proved to be enough to secure a 1-0 win over our former employers Lincoln City. Back to back draws followed, first away to Swansea who probably deserved the win to be honest (0-0) and then at home against Leeds, we had to wait until the 91st minute to get the deserved equaliser (1-1), that man Lewis-Potter again proving what a great signing he has been.
We wrapped up the month with 2 victories away to Blackpool & Wigan. 2 goals from Jacob Brown gave us the victory at Bloomfield Road (2-0) before Lewis-Potter scored the only goal of the game at the DW Stadium (1-0). I was delighted with Lewis-Potter’s goalscoring start with us, but also with Jacob Brown, after a failed deadline move to a Premier League club it can be easy to down tools but he’s kept up his form which will be crucial to our play-off hopes!
Right then, at the end of this mammoth episode it’s only right I show you the league table:
6 points clear in a play off place and only 7 points off of automatic promotion! I don’t think we’ll be able to catch Aston Villa but our chances of finishing in the play-offs are starting to tip in our favour. As I always say though, this league can flip on it’s head in no time at all so let’s see what happens!
Next time we will be going through the final 3 months of the season. With an outside chance of promotion, whether that be automatic or play-offs, there is plenty to play for. Plus we’re also still going strong in the FA Cup and could potentially become the first team outside the top flight to win the competition since 1980 when West Ham did it!
So much going on, this journey has just been incredible from day one! Make sure you check back in to find out how we get on in the next episode which will drop on Tuesday 23rd February 2021.
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While you’re here on DP-FM if you want to follow more challenges go over to Scott’s (the co-author of this site) challenge where he is on a journey to rebuild Bolton Wanderers and take them on a Europa League run!
To read from the start click here – https://dpfmblog.com/2020/12/21/bolton-back-to-europa-s1e1/
Or to follow from the current season click here – https://dpfmblog.com/2021/02/07/bolton-back-to-europa-s4e1-early-inconsistences/
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