Season 7 and another season in the Championship awaits us after narrowly missing out on the play-offs last time round. I am hoping having a full pre-season with the team will be enough to get us off to a good start and set the scene early doors. There’s no doubt about it, for me the play-offs is the absolute minimum we are aiming for this season!
Our second window with the club is just as busy as our first to be honest with a total of 14 players coming in. Which means in the 2 windows I’ve been at the club we have brought in no fewer that 33 players… talk about a squad overhaul!
In this episode I will be going through the transfer window, pre-season results, the first month of the league season and a few other bits and pieces I think you will all be interested in. Come on then, Championship take two, let’s get into it!
Our transfer window actually started at the end of last season as we had already tied up quite a few deals ahead of the new season. As you can see we had 8 players join us on the 9th June 2026 when the transfer window officially opened.
Some real players in here as well, both for now and the future! Darren Yeats (RW/ST) was a great free transfer and already a Scotland international at 20 years of age is certainly one to keep an eye on. Nicola Armini was signed mainly for his versatility across the back line, he can play CB/RB/LB all at the same rating and is a very good player for only £3.4m.
Sergio Quezada (RB) is one I am very excited about. I think he could break into the starting XI this season but if not then he is certainly one who will go on to play for one of the big boys in the future. £4.2m might seem a bit pricey but I know when we do sell him we will make 5 or 6 times that no issue.
Rafael Garitano (LB) is another one I’m very excited about, the aim is to loan him out for the season and hopefully have him ready for the starting XI next time around. He’s another one who I am convinced will play for one of the biggest teams in the game so £1.6m was a no-brainer.
What a signing Matias Fonseca is! 4 star rated striker, aged 25 for only £900k? Scouts are doing me wonders yet again. Sandro Comentale is another young left back who I’m convinced is destined for greatness, he will be loaned out this season and hopefully fight Garitano for the starting spot next time around, so £1.4m promises to be a snip.
Luke Mbete-Tabu may be up there with my greatest free transfer on the game so far. 22 years of age and his stats suggest he is going to dominate not only this league but most certainly the Premier League in years to come. Incredible bit of business to get him through the door!
Louis Broadbent (CM) is another one who I am hopeful will make his way into the first team at some point this season, but he was another one signed mainly for the future. Take a look at his stats, particularly physically, I am certain he is another future top drawer player.
Finally we managed to sign Neil Maupay for only £825k from recently relegated Middlesbrough. Him and Fonseca for a combined £1.7m may be the deal of the century for two strikers of that quality!
Take a look at all the players below using the arrows to navigate between them:
Fortunately that business was pretty much the majority of our overall transfer window done, so when we got to the new season’s transfer window there were just a few loose ends to tie up.
As you can see we brought Josh Tymon (LB) back to Stoke for a bargain £2.6m. Yago Santiago (CM) was a fantastic free signing to make, I don’t think he’ll set the world alight but a great squad player to have and we could certainly make a profit on him in the future.
Massimo Longo (CB) for £2.5m is another one for the future (you can probably tell that was my main aim for this window – signing talent that could take us to new levels when we reach the Prem in the next couple of seasons… hopefully!). He will spend the season out on loan if we can find him a club.
Now the signing of Terry Allison (GK) on loan put to an end possibly the most frustrating pursuit of one position I have ever had. Would you believe no fewer than 7 keepers rejected me over the course of the transfer window! All I wanted was a keeper who was at least 3.5 star rated, and I found some great ones, but time after time I would agree a deal, verbally agree a contract and then another team would come in and swoop them away at the last minute! Thankfully Allison then came up as a loan option from Chelsea and although we had to cover his £37.5k per week wages, I felt it was a deal worth doing considering the trouble we had trying to find one permanently.
Finally Elias Lemos (CM) joined after we agreed a deal for Arsenal to become our senior affiliate (which you will see below). I wasn’t really looking to strengthen in the centre of midfield but when a 4 star rated wonderkid comes up for loan and you don’t have to pay any wages how can you say no?
Again take a look at all of them below using the arrows to navigate.
Pre-contracts (In the summer?!?)
My scouts were hard at work yet again and recommended a number of top quality youngsters that I could sign on pre-contracts to arrive in January, with one arriving next summer. His deal expires on the 31st December 2026 but for some reason he doesn’t join until the 9th June 2027, if anyone knows why this is comment below to let me know as I have no clue.
At 17 years of age, Toni Vaananen (CB) looks like a real prospect for the future. I don’t think he will make it into the first team until he is 19 or 20 but he will definitely make it there so to get him on a free transfer is a great bit of business. Much the same story with William Saldarriaga (CB) but as he is 20 I feel like he may be ready at the start of next season.
Guillermo Sanchez (LB) is the one who is joining in June 2027, at 17 years of age he is another one I have very high hopes for. With the quality of the youngsters I’ve brought in plus Josh Tymon and Ridvan Yilmaz from our first team squad the competition for left back is going to be toughly contested!
Jimmy Magnusson is one who is ready for the starting XI right now and I cannot wait for him to join. I really think he will be something special in the middle of the park and by the time he joins he could very well be rated 4 star. David Jacobsson is another one who I expect to come in and challenge for a first team place, at only 19 years of age I may decide to loan him out for 18 months or so but his time will come.
To get these 5 players for £0 is phenomenal business by the club. The focus is very clear at the moment, yes strengthen where needed in order to challenge for promotion but ultimately if we can get the best young talent from around the world then it will only mean good things for our future both on the pitch and financially.
Again use the arrows below to navigate through the signings – take a special look at Magnusson!
After the dismantling of the squad that took place in January I was determined not to let the same happen again. Fortunately this time there were only a handful of players we let go:
All of the above were players who potentially had a future here but were not guaranteed to make it so I decided not to renew their contracts when other teams decided to come in for them. They may prove me wrong but I just felt there were more talented players that we could bring in through my scouting network so the decision had to be made. The only first team player we lost was Omar Richards, a pretty dependable backup LB but with Yilmaz now able to be registered and the signing of Josh Tymon it was time for him to move on.
In terms of permanent transfers these were 3 deals I was pretty happy to do. Terry Taylor was a CB/CM but did neither outstandingly so ultimately lost his place in the squad. I did try to offer him to other clubs but he wasn’t having any of it so I thought I might just have to keep him as a reserve until January, that was until Fortuna Dusseldorf stumped up a £10m transfer fee and he decided it was best to leave.
Andreas Fragoulis was a youngster I would have rather loaned out, however he had seen enough loans in his time here and decided he wanted a permanent move. £6m rising to £7m with add-ons is again another good deal for someone who wasn’t anywhere near our first team squad. Ben Sheaf had been a great player for me, but with the embarrassment of riches we have in central midfield he was just pushed down the pecking order and a £6m move to Nottingham Forest seemed like a good one for both parties.
I won’t talk you through the players we let go out on loan but there were 28 in all! A lot of players are on the cusp of the first team so these loan moves are vital to their progression. You can see the highest ability & potential players loan report after the first month below:
Roundup & Wages
Jack Grealish finally left Aston Villa to join AC Milan which was music to my ears as he tore up the Championship last season as you can imagine. Leeds bought Daam Foulon (LB) from West Brom for £31.5m plus a player, just to show you the amount of money being spent around the rest of the league. Once again Leeds were the biggest spenders, last season it was £102m and this time around they have done even more splashing out £136m on new players! How are we meant to compete honestly?
We’re still holding on to the 6th spot in terms of highest wage payers. Recently relegated Middlesbrough are spending nearly £1m per week whilst Charlton & our old club Lincoln sit at the foot of the table spending around £150k per week. In all fairness we have a lot of high potential youngsters who take up quite a lot of our wage budget so it’s a worthwhile investment. In terms of our actual first team squad we’re only spending £385k per week so not as much as it appears on paper.
No pre-season tour for us ladies and gents! I suppose why would we want to? If you can do it on a cold rainy night in Stoke you can do it anywhere right? 6 games in pre-season and a chance for our abundance of new players from the last 7 months to actually spend some time together and gel… hopefully!
I mean as I always say, I never get too excited or deflated by pre-season performances as it’s just about building match fitness… but come on? This was impressive. Wins against Man City (Zidane this time not Pep, he never recovered from that famous night at the Bet365), Dinamo Zagreb & West Ham were the particular highlights. Caden Clark was in impressive form as well, hopefully he can carry that into the domestic season.
Ok finally! I promise in January I will try to have the quietest window yet. The last two have just been crazy so thank you if you have read along and managed to keep up! However the main reason we make all of those deals is to try and leave us better equipped for this moment. The start of the domestic season! Let’s take a look at what the board are expecting from us this season:
Ok so they only want a top half finish in the Championship yet again, but as I said earlier, for me personally the bare minimum we should be aiming for is play-offs. 4th round of the FA Cup should be achievable if we get a favourable 3rd round draw and 3rd round of the Carabao Cup should be straightforward enough.
The bookies obviously got wind of my personal objective and self-belief as they had us predicted to finish 5th in a play-off spot before the season kicked off. However the media only fancied us to finish 9th so make of that what you will…
Right then come on, enough messing about! Let’s see if we can carry on that incredible pre-season form and set the pace in the league. Championship – attempt two, let’s go!
A great month to start the season taking 16 points from a possible 21, making it through the first and second round of the Carabao Cup, scoring 25 goals in 9 games. However despite all of that, what on earth was that first game against Brentford?! Wait until you see the stats…
WHO has an expected goals ratio of 3.32 and scores 1 goal. I mean what even is that? They scored 4 goals from 5 shots on target and we were 3-0 down at half time despite completely dominating the game. I guess it’s just one of those freak games but honestly to start the season with a loss like that just felt so demoralising (1-4). Fortunately there was not much time to be disappointed as we faced Ipswich only 3 days later, and we bounced back in excellent fashion with a 3-1 win.
A fantastic performance at recently relegated West Brom followed with a 3-2 win enough to completely banish the memory of that opening day defeat. I completely rotated the starting XI for our Carabao Cup first round tie against Mansfield and the main man of last season Jacob Brown stole the show as he scored a hat-trick to help us on our way to a 4-0 victory and pushed us into the second round.
Back to league action and we raced into a 3-0 half-time lead away at The Den against Millwall. We then faced Huddersfield, the team that ended our play-off hopes at the death last season. Seems like we had a bit of a hangover from the experience as we couldn’t break them down and had to settle for a share of the points (0-0). However we were back to winning ways away at Bristol City as our bargain summer duo (Neil Maupay & Matias Fonseca) got on the scoresheet to secure the victory (2-0).
Bit of a break from the league as we faced Rochdale in the Carabao Cup second round, Caden Clark got his first goal since pre-season to help us to a 2-0 victory and into the next round. Our final league match of the month was against Blackpool and as you can see we completely demolished them (7-1). The funny thing is we only had an expected goals of 2.21 and scored 7, yet in our first game we had an expected goals of 3.32 and scored 1. That’s football I guess!
And that was it, the first month of the season was done! Let’s have a look at how the table was shaping up at the end of August 2026:
That’s more like it! A great start to the season left us top of the league at this stage. It’s all so congested at this time though so let’s not get ahead of ourselves, as we saw last year we will need to fight right until the very end to have a chance at finishing in the play-offs!
Just a couple of bits of news to keep you all updated on. Firstly we received confirmation that we have achieved our Continental Pro Licence! Just reading those words that say ‘Louis Perrin now holds the highest coaching qualifications available’ are pretty surreal considering that we started with none only 6 seasons ago.
Finally as mentioned above we managed to reach an agreement for Arsenal to become our senior affiliate club. As an Arsenal fan myself this is a pretty proud moment for me and I look forward to utilising this agreement to find some highly talented players to bring in on loan in the future.
Now that transfers, pre-season and the first month of the season is out the way, next time we will be carrying on our push for the play-offs through the months of September, October & November 2026. I’m hoping we can keep up our great start and stay amongst the play-off places heading into the winter months!
Find out how we get on in the next episode which will drop on Wednesday 3rd March 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/
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