Bolton Back To Europa S5E3 – The 3 Month Marathon

The winter months, its always a busy period from December to the end of February but across all 3 months, we have a massive 22 games to get through! The league schedule becomes its usual busy self but cup performances add more games to the calendar as we look to test ourselves against the big boys.

Of course, the January transfer window will be ran through where we simply have a target of a centre back. I did want to grab another winger however, the development of Hari Harvey our young winger/striker, has seen his star rating to increase to 3 stars and has the potential to be a Premier League standard player. He is well within first team contention.

Harvey is in fact 18 years old, not 19 as stated in a past episode!

After episode 2, the side were sitting top of the Championship 3 points ahead of early promotion rivals Burnley. With so many games to play over the next 3 months, we have to keep things on a positive curve to ensure that when we reach the business end of the season, the team are in a good enough position to see out the season reaching the target of promotion.

December 2024

Before I get into the results of December, I took advantage of the pre-contracts early in Scotland by signing a player I’ve been after for a season or so.

18 year old all round midfielder Bob Gemmell will join us next season from Celtic. I tried to sign Gemmell last season but Celtic triggered a year extension clause in his contract, one of the scouts provided the opportunity again and this time I got it across the line. Gemmell is likely to go into the newly formed U23s side for next season.

7 league games as the schedule picks up and an exciting Carabao Cup Quarter Final vs. Reading.

The first 3 games were all in the league starting with a 2-0 win vs. Nottingham Forest. Usually a tough opponent for us but the boys got the job done thanks to Hari Harvey & Conor Chaplin. Off we travelled to Preston next, gaining an impressive 3-0 win. The drought was over for Tarrelle Whittaker after 8 games without a goal, wingers Callum Richards & Shane McNeill chipped in with goals also. Facing Reading for the first of two games in a row, it was a tense 0-0 draw with ‘The Royals’. The score line does not provide the full story, end to end stuff but both defences were equally solid.

Carabao Cup Quarter Final time against the opposition we had just played in the league – Reading. A completely different story to the league game as we dominated, winning 3-0. I did put out a relatively strong team due to the opportunity of a semi final and my lord did the boys deliver. Byron Semakula, Kai Fotheringham & Conor Chaplin all grabbing the goals in a very pleasing performance.

Back to the league and we were truly brought back down to earth in a surprising 4-2 loss to Bristol City. There was a point in the game where we got a goal back to make it 3-2, then from kick off Bristol City were basically allowed a walk through to restore their 2 goal cushion – absolutely raging. Ryan Delaney & Jonathan Afolabi with our goals. The boys were made to work but we bounced back with a 3-2 win vs. Peterborough thanks to a late winner from Conor Chaplin. Lloyd Greenwood & Lewis Bate scored first half goals for us in a frantic match.

Normal service finally resumed with an impressive victory over Watford ending 3-0. Tarrelle Whittaker grabbed an overdue brace and Byron Semakula was at it again from midfield. A team who kicked us out of last season’s play offs early doors, it’s great to see how far we have come since then.

Generally a good month despite the 1 loss but the clean sheets were flowing, you have to expect small bumps in the road during busy months but the recovery is always key. The good news is that we end 2024 in top spot still battling with Burnley.

January 2025

Well this is some month, 4 league games including the grudge match with Burnley, FA cup action and a Carabao Cup semi-final vs. parent club Chelsea! I’ll go through all 3 competitions separately just so you all know where we stand in each one!

Let’s cover the league first, with some great form from us. We started with a comfortable 2-0 win vs. Brentford thanks to goals from Callum Richards & Tarrelle Whittaker. Up next was a big match vs. Burnley, a win would give us a 6 point cushion over them. It was tense but we held on for a massive 2-1 win. Shane McNeill & Jonathan Afolabi gave us a 2-0 lead at half time but Burnley responded with a goal just after the break and it was a tense watch, thankfully we held on for a big 3 points!

Against Portsmouth, my side were very lucky to draw 1-1 where we were saved by a controversial Conor Chaplin penalty. The challenge that got us the peno, the Pompey defender cleanly won the ball – we dodged a bullet here in a poor performance. Lastly in the league for January, 4th placed Middlesbrough were welcomed to the UoB Stadium in a match we needed to win. 1-0 in our favour it was Tarrelle Whittaker with the goal trying to claim back his bagsman status.

On to the FA Cup and in the third round we faced League One’s Wycombe who proved tricky opposition. Ryan Delaney’s header got my side off to a good start before the opposition responded in quick fashion. I had to bring on the big guns to avoid a replay and Tarrelle Whittaker does what he does best and gets us out of trouble. The fourth round presented Swansea who were struggling in the league, I saw this as a good time for slight rotation. Hari Harvey & Kai Fotheringham took their starting opportunities with their goals giving us a 2-0 win. This gave us a massive draw for the fifth round where we will face Manchester United at Old Trafford! On a personal level I support them and can’t wait for this match even if we get a pasting!

Carabao Cup semi final now and our hard work thus far gave a mouth watering tie for the boys vs. parent club Chelsea. As you will see below, in the first leg we were dominated and done well to hang on to being 3-0 down. In the second leg I was very impressed by the team’s performance, positive mentality and we tested Chelsea at the back with Shane McNeill grabbing what is seen as a consolation goal.

It was expected what the overall result would be but look at the teams they played against us?! Absolute quality everywhere but I enjoyed the test.

Factoring in the league and both cups, I was really happy with the results and the performances I saw from the team.

January Transfer Window

A quiet window all in all but I had one aim, to get a starting centre back in. Firstly, a few players were sent out on loan. Lloyd Isgrove spends the remainder of the season and his contract at Northampton on loan. Prospect Lloyd Gribbin returned from a loan at Cheltenham and will spend the rest of the season on loan at Morecambe. Last but not least Ajibola Alese joins St. Mirren on loan for the rest of the season. Alese has struggled since signing on a free back in 2023, poor performances and just hasn’t gelled with the squad, hopefully this loan will rejuvenate him.

It actually turns out that my only signing was after the transfer window closed, due to the player being a free agent. 35 year old centre back Felipe joins as a free agent. You may recognise the name from Atletico Madrid, he is still very good for his age. For the clubs he has played for as well as £6k p/w for his wages, it is a great deal which will run to the end of the season initially but if the performances are good, I won’t hesitate to extend it.

Great stats by the way and look at the clubs he’s played for, an absolute coup for us. It is against my philosophy of signing younger players under 24 however, the experience is second to none and it was too good of an opportunity to pass up on.

February 2025

All league action in February and some tough teams all amongst it. I just wanted as many points as possible as Burnley will not leave me alone to get on with the title!

A trip to third placed Birmingham and it took another Conor Chaplin penalty to see us through, except this time it was a stonewall penalty. The defender came in like he was trying to hack down a tree! Sharing the spoils with Crystal Palace next, drawing 1-1 with Tarrelle Whittaker grabbing the goal. Fair result – we controlled the first half and the second half was theirs.

Then a massive shock, I think I’m still in shock! A 3-0 loss to Blackburn…I can’t believe the performance. Probably the worst in my time with Bolton, we were so poor defensively and we got what we deserved. Being a local derby it was safe to say it didn’t go down too well in the press but then again it was worse in the dressing room – water bottle galore, physio tables flipped and the door ripped off, the rage was real!

Nothing less than a win would be forgivable in another local derby vs. Blackpool and the main man Tarrelle ‘the Bagsman’ Whittaker grabbed a clinical hattrick in a 3-1 win but was serviced restored? I would say kind of after a 3-2 win vs. Huddersfield who were 20th, it was a tense watch but we grinded out the result with a Shane McNeill brace and another goal from Conor Chaplin, both wingers having great seasons so far.

The performances still were not quite there and we dropped two points vs. Rotherham drawing 1-1. Not our finest 90 minutes but its better than no points I guess! Tarrelle Whittaker was back in full flow with another goal in that one. Sheffield Utd was the last game of the month and they’ve been on some rise, catching up with 3rd placed Birmingham and were unbeaten in 6 coming into the match until Bolton turned up! A brilliant 3-0 win over ‘The Blades’ in the type of display I want to be seeing. Kai Fotheringham got a deserved goal after a recent return to form, Tarrelle ‘the Bagsman’ Whittaker and prospect Hari Harvey with the other goals. So happy with this result and hopefully we’ll see more of the same.

A crazy month in the emotional aspect, all types of matches with twists and turns throughout, safe to say I’m happy February is over with!

One further piece of news, another pre-contract was agreed for 18 year old Carlos who will join from Leganes. Natural position is right back however, for me his stats are more matched to a defensive midfielder. I’m looking to have Carlos available U23s next season but with the first team squad training wise as there are a few attributes I’d like to develop to get him ready to compete for a spot in the starting XI.

League Table

A lot of games have been played, let’s see where we are lying before the gritty business end of the season.

Well some rocky moments but we are still top of the league. The last day of February was a Friday which was our game vs. Sheffield Utd so its a 6 point gap at the moment with Burnley playing on the first day of March. 9 games to go for us and we need to get solid momentum to see us through to the Premier League.

What’s Next?

Episode 4 will be the season finale and it could be the biggest episode of this save. Will we hold our bottle to reach the Premier League? I sure hope so as we are getting somewhat close to the goal of this whole save!

Whilst 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 7. 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 – https://dpfmblog.com/2020/12/21/unemployed-unskilled-inexperienced-season-1-episode-1/

Or to go from the current season – https://dpfmblog.com/2021/02/28/unemployed-unskilled-inexperienced-s7-ep-1-we-go-again/

A big read guys and I appreciate every single one of you who sit through it, I hope you have all enjoyed and we’ll be back soon with the season finale!

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