Bolton Back To Europa S5E1 – Fast Starts

We are back! After a week or so break, I am refreshed and ready to smash season 5. Take 3 in the Championship after making the play offs last season, ultimately falling at the first hurdle as we were just not strong enough defensively. This season, I want to go one better and reach the Premier League. To do that we will need improvements in defence and midfield as that’s where we are weakest and now that we have a decent transfer budget of £6 million, some smart business could get us on our way.

The episode revolves around pre-season, the transfer window and the first month of the EFL Championship season. We’ll dip into the league’s wage expenditure graph to see how we fair as well after being bottom of it in season 3 when we only spent a mere 64k p/w on wages.

The Squad

The squad at the start of pre-season has slightly trimmed down, I think the only prominent name who isn’t about is Antoni Sarcevic who was released. A shame as he’s been here since League 2 but he didn’t have what it takes in the Championship. Looking at the squad, I think the only originals left are wing back Gethin Jones, Captain Ryan Delaney and injury prone winger Lloyd Isgrove, although the latter is transfer listed due to his poor star rating.

The squad is more or less the same at the start of pre-season, Adam Senior has stayed on loan at Southend with young prospect Eddie Hillier joining him. Young winger Michael Baxter has joined Sunderland in League 2 for the season and Joe Kendrick will spend some more time with Crawley Town.

For context, I’ll be looking to bring in 1 or 2 centre backs, a new defensive midfielder, Box to Box midfielder and Advanced Playmaker. I would like a back up winger for the right side if possible and preferably on the cheap.

There is one new face who came in on loan from parent club Chelsea in June, Right wing back Gavin Moth (18) for the season boosting an area that has needed it for some time.

3.5 star at right back as well – very promising stats

There will be a further transfer update after the pre-season results!


7 games for pre-season against decent sides. I decided to get an early one in versus Aston Villa but seems the holiday blues had sunk in as we got pasted 3-0 at home..

This pre-season we were off to the sunshine in Andalusia, Spain facing three fixtures against a good mix of teams. All of our games were played at Dos Hermanas Stadium in our location of stay.

Might be the angle but that pitch isn’t lined straight…right?

Too many jugs of sangria on the first night and we get wiped 4-0 by Cadiz surprisingly. A respectable team in Spain but we did not give them a game at all, very disappointing even for a friendly. Arguably against the hardest team of the tour in Real Betis, we won 4-2 thanks to a hattrick from Tarrelle ‘the bagsman’ Whittaker (standard proceedings) and up and comer Hari Harvey grabbed a goal. We finished our time in Spain with an unconvincing 1-1 draw with Granada, a rare goal for defensive midfielder Louis Thompson.

Back on home soil we hosted LASK Linz winning 2-0, thanks to ‘the bagsman’ and Tom White. Then a respectable draw 1-1 with Rapid Wien kept some momentum, assist king Kai Fotheringham grabbing the goal. To finish off pre-season, all the way from Kazakhstan arrived Astana who we despatched 4-0. Goals courtesy of Conor Chaplin, Daniel Kemp (2) & Callum Richards.

Rocky start to pre-season but we came into form towards the end putting us in a good place for the start of the season, optimistic as always!

Transfers (Before season)

These are the transfers that were completed prior to the first day of the season.

So finally I got the opportunity to spend some money and I done just that. Daryl Kandola joins from TNS in Wales. The 19 year old Goalkeeper was signed for a compensation deal of £165k and will compete for the number 1 spot with George Long. Andre Ansorge signs for £1.2m from Bayer Leverkusen. The 19 year old has bags of potential and is already good enough to start in defensive midfield – very good as a right back too. The great thing about Ansorge is he also has a £28.5 million release clause in his contract, big money! Lewis Bate joins on a permanent deal from parent club Chelsea for £220k, an all action midfielder who can play all 3 midfield roles will compete to start and at 21, will only get better. Byron Semakula joined on loan for the season from Chelsea, the 19 year old will provide midfield cover.

Major leavers are Alex Gogic who returns to the Scottish Premier League for £300k after he was transfer listed. Solid player but never really lit up the world for us. Injury prone Matt Crooks joins MK Dons on loan for the season, this will effectively run down his contract after no team wanted to take the risk in buying him.

August 2024

A very busy August to start the season with 9 games in total! 2 Carabao Cup games (highlighted) and 7 in the league. This is a great opportunity to get us going high up the league.

3 league games to start us off, first up we travelled to play Bristol City winning 3-0 emphatically. A commanding performance with top prospect on wing Shane McNeill with a brace and Lewis Bate solidifies his debut with a goal. Next up was the team who crumbled our play off hopes last season – Watford. A team we have never beaten until now with ‘the bagsman’ Whittaker getting a first half brace, another impressive team effort away from home. Another tough team in Brentford, we ran out 3-1 winners. Goals from Conor Chaplin (pen) & Whittaker grabbed another brace to carry on his exploits in front of goal.

A switch to the Carabao Cup and a match against our season 1 rivals Grimsby who found themselves back in League 2. Decent rotation to give some others a chance and 19 year old attacker Hari Harvey provided the goods with 2 goals in a fairly straight forward game. Back to league action and we fell to Burnley with a 2-0 loss. We were never in this game with only 2 efforts on goal compared to their 20, safe to say we’re lucky it wasn’t more. A reaction was needed and the boys gave me that with a 2-0 win vs. Portsmouth, Jonathan Afolabi & Shane McNeill with the goals. This is a big season for Afolabi, 9 goals in his first season with us and 5 in his second (partly due to Whittaker’s form), this was a season for the striker to prove his worth. He’s 24 so there is still potential there.

Off we went to Teeside to face Middlesbrough and we came home with an impressive 3-0 win. Daniel Kemp, Jonathan Afolabi & Tarrelle Whittaker with some fine goals. It was good to have Afolabi & Whittaker on the pitch at the same time, Whittaker showed he can perform on the right wing and still contribute. 2nd round of the Carabao Cup and we took on Derby, who were promoted last season – I wanted us to prove a point here. Grabbing a dominant 2-0 win, thanks to Kai Fotheringham & Shane McNeill. Great result considering 5 of our usual starters were rested for this one. Last game of the month was Birmingham who have had a great start to the season too. This was very tense and edgy game but inspiration from Lewis Bate who picks the ball up on the edge of our box after we defended a corner and he went all the way to the other end to blast the ball in the bottom corner – absolute scenes! 1-0 win and in the best way too in the final minute…Come on the boys!

Sensational month for us, one loss in nine games in all competitions and we’re in the 3rd round of the Carabao Cup too. To add to things the main man Tarrelle ‘the bagsman’ Whittaker wins Young Player of the Month…AGAIN!

Transfers (Window Closed)

A couple of new faces joined on deadline day in what turned out to be a difficult end to the window.

John Souttar finally joined from Aberdeen for £190k but it wasn’t straight forward for the ball playing defender. He rejected contracts from us twice before deadline day before we settled on £7.25k p/w. A good player he will come straight into the starting XI. Niall Brockwell was signed from Newcastle for a cheap £20k. He’s not the finished article by any means but looking at his stats there is definitely some potential to be unlocked there. I did try to loan him out but when I signed him there was only an hour left of the window so we ran out of time – he is likely to go out on loan in January for sure.

Wage Expenditure

Now the window has shut, the media gave a reflection on each Championship’s team total wage pay out per week. Let’s look at the top 10..

Sheffield Utd & Aston Villa were relegated last season so their high wages are expected, was surprised to see Bristol City in the top 10 as they have finished in and around midtable the last couple of seasons but you can tell which clubs have been in the Premier League in recent years. I wanted to show you the difference between them and my Bolton side for context;

There we are 23rd on the list spending £120k p/w! Its a lot lower than some of the teams we have beaten. It does show we are progressing as we used to be bottom of this list but our wages per week have almost doubled since then thanks to good league finishes and of course the takeover last season.

League Table

After a great month of results in August in the league, let’s have a look at how we’ve started.

Well, there we are amongst the big boys. A goal off of top with the only team who beat us in August ahead of us. Amazing start but like I say at the start of the blog, I want us to go one better this season and get promoted. The players we brought in have helped for sure but still further improvements at centre back required and proper right wing cover.

What’s Next?

Episode 2 will bring the months of September, October and November as we get well into the season as we attempt to hang around the top of the table. Keeping form can be difficult in this league but ensuring we recover from any losses will be key for our hopes.

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’ which is currently on season 6. This entails Louis starting from the bottom of his management career with no coaching badges and low attributes to add to the fun!

To go from the start –

Or to go from the current season –

Its good to be back ladies and gents, thank you for reading, take care and we’ll be back at it soon.

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