Bolton Back To Europa S5E4 – Back in the Big Time!

Welcome back guys in what could be the biggest episode of the save so far. We are getting ever closer to the goal of the save and if we can pull off promotion to the Premier League we will be within touching distance of what I have set out to do with this club.

Last time in episode 3, it finished off that we were top of the EFL Championship with Burnley being our closest rivals at that point. League wise, there is 10 games to go as the end of the season looms.

It is a busy one, the youth intake swings around again, there are boosts to our new U23s squad, some early transfers completed (I can’t wait to share one of them!), the end of season review and some extra things that will be uncovered as we go on. So let’s get it going with the stuff you want to see..

March 2025

Some big games in March starting with an appetising FA cup tie with Manchester United at Old Trafford, we then proceed with 4 league matches.

FA cup fifth round against my beloved Manchester United at Old Trafford and they dominated having 26 shots to our 2 but we somehow kept the score down to 2-0. Marcus Rashford had an absolute field day!

More important horizons now as we get back to full focus on the league, Barnsley were welcomed to Bolton and were truly dispatched with a 4-1 win for the boys. A late couple of goals boosted the score line with a brace from Tarrelle ‘the Bagsman’ Whittaker and Conor Chaplin grabbing 2 goals to haunt his former side once again. Following this game, a certain popular Premier League team were after our services…

Good to see Mike Ashley has moved on finally!

Up next was 20th placed Ipswich who held us to a disappointing 1-1 draw. Whittaker was at it again firing us into the lead early on but the boys looked rather flat for the rest of the game and conceded early in the second half – are we getting early stage fright at the top? Not quite as the team responded in fantastic fashion beating Stoke 4-0! ‘The Potters’ are struggling this season and the lads ran riot – Andre Ansorge & Felipe opened their accounts for the club and Jonathan Afolabi grabbed a couple of goals after 2 months without one!

Kai Fotheringham saved our grace vs. Swansea (1-1) with a late equaliser against another struggling team in the league. It seems to be becoming a trend that the team can’t or struggle to get the job done against teams lower down in the table.

8 points from 12, would have preferred another win out of the 4 games but we’re not losing which is the main thing. The top spots look like this going into the final 6 games of the season…

Burnley begin to stutter form wise and we lead by 8 points, time to hold our bottle.

Youth Intake 2025

It was that time of the year where some new talent trial for a spot at the club!

It wasn’t a bad intake but not the greatest although anything would be better than last season’s. Ash Eyo clearly looks like he could become the part and Linton Hurst looks like a good prospect in goal. The rest however, need good development in the first couple of seasons with us to stand any chance of first team football.

April/May 2025

Right then, it all comes down to these last 6 games. All we need to do is keep rolling with good momentum, keep the losses low and promotion will be ours along with the title.

Aston Villa were welcomed to the UoB Stadium and a late Jonathan Afolabi goal gives us a crucial 1-0 win and brings us a step closer to the Premier League.

A play off spot secured at least however, automatic promotion is still the goal here. A trip down to Millwall brought us a 3-1 win, thanks to Lewis Bate, Byron Semakula and Jonathan Afolabi. Great performance as we sometimes struggle against Millwall but the team are still playing great football despite the pressure in the league.

It then came to Good Friday of the Easter weekend on the game. The press talked it up highly and a win would bring us two things – auto promotion and the EFL Championship title. Nottingham Forest can be very good on their day and it was so tense to watch. The whole game we just looked like the pressure would make the team crack as clear chances were missed until….91st MINUTE GOAL TARRELLE ‘THE BLOODY BAGSMAN’ WHITTAKER STRIKES! 93RD MINUTE GOAL LEWIS BATE CONFIRMS IT AT 2-0 – CHAMPIONS!!!!!

Absolute elation and scenes, all in front of the home fans. You could not write it, you really couldn’t – League 2 to the Premier League in 5 seasons, 4 of which we had debts unreal levels. Can’t quite believe it still, what an amazing feeling!

But we’re not done…the points record for the EFL Championship is 103 points, we won the title on 97 with 3 games left and I want that record!

The first of the last 3 games was Preston who were battling in the relegation places but we added to their problems with a 1-0 win thanks to another late winner for us in form of Conor Chaplin who’s had an outstanding season. The penultimate game was against Reading who were still battling for a play off place, Lewis Bate got us off the stormer after 36 seconds with an looping ball that caught out their goalkeeper but honours ended even at 1-1 with Reading responding 20 minutes in.

The record was still on, my side were sitting on 101 points so I wanted the win. Peterborough were our opposition and they raced ahead with an early penalty and we were just poor in the first half. I fired a few rockets at half time and the lads were revitalised. Jonathan Afolabi & Conor Chaplin had us leading 2-1 by the 56th minute, an unfortunate own goal in the 79th minute for Peterborough and Tarrelle ‘The Bagsman’ Whittaker just couldn’t help himself despite coming on as a late sub giving us a 4-1 win and a record points haul, thank you very much.

Final Standings

The table is post play offs so you know who’s coming up with us, safe to say we’re going up with some experienced Premier League teams.

Burnley’s late wobble saw them drop into the play offs but they came through them with relative ease. Sheffield United’s surge in the second half of the season saw them clinch 2nd place on the last day! Regardless, I’m not too bothered who comes up with us, there will be much harder games to play next season but I am very much looking forward to it! Still can’t believe we done it, held our bottle generally all the way through the season, buzzing!

Season Awards 2024/2025

Now time to reflect and enjoy our successes with the end of season review before we check out the league awards.

There were 3 EFL Championship awards that belonged to our team as Tarrell Whittaker gets the Golden Boot for the second season in a row, Shane McNeill wins Young Player of the Year and lastly I pick up Manager of the Year!

Great to see players get recognition and they deserve it after the season we just had. Happy to finally get some proper acknowledgment as a manager too! It wasn’t done there as 4 players make the EFL Championship Team of the Season (Daryl Kandola – GK, John Souttar – CB, Shane McNeill – RW, Tarrelle Whittaker – ST).

Lastly, the overall Bolton Best XI that runs from the start of the save has shifted after this season with some new additions.

Some season 1 throwbacks in there!

Staffing News

Following our promotion the board have allowed us to expand the backroom staff for all three squads to allow us to compete with the levels that are required for Premier League, in turn the staffing wage budgets have been improved.

Transfer News

The new board who came in towards the end of season 4 have been awesome. They grant requests, increase budgets and we actually make monthly profits these days! The biggest thing though was when the title was confirmed, the next day I was handed a £40 million transfer budget and a £400k wage budget which is unbelievable considering where we were 4 seasons ago.

I made some early business for the U23s squad and of course the first team. I think a certain permanent will catch your eye!

TARRELLE WHITTAKER IS HERE TO STAY! My biggest fee but for a player who isn’t even at his potential yet and it was for over half of his value (15.25m). You can’t excuse his ability and for a player who has scored 59 goals for us in two seasons, won countless Young Player of the Month awards, two Golden Boots in a row and a Young Player of the Year award (2023/24 season) – that more than justifies the signing.

Only downfall is the 20% profit Spurs will make on any future sale but I want to continue developing Whittaker and keep him as our main striker. His finishing ability will need work but then again it hasn’t stopped him from banging them in.

Bob Gemmell’s transfer was confirmed in episode 3 via pre-contract but let’s take a look at the other 3 signings and where they will place within our squads.

Young centre back Ryan Montgomery who was signed for free from Chelsea after being set for release, definitely has potential with some solid stats for a defender. Montgomery will start in the U23s whilst we develop technical aspects of his game.

James Campbell comes in on a free from Everton in similar circumstances to Montgomery’s transfer who will again slot into the U23s whilst we develop him to be able to play the wing back role that forms as part of the 4-3-3 wing play tactic.

Lastly, highly rated Manchester City prospect Tommy Doyle joins on a free in a massive boost to the first team midfield. Incredible traits and can play a range of roles, it’s going to be exciting to see how he fares for us in the Premier League and if he can reach his potential within the squad.

That’s all the business prior to the summer transfer window, I do have plans to move quite a few players on and replace with better talent now that we have the budget to do it. Of course that will all be uncovered in season 6!

What’s Next?

Firstly, we keep celebrating the title win! But for real when we come back for season 6 it will all be about preparing for the unknown of the Premier League. Will we have a stormer in our first season or will it be a long battle to keep our head above water? It’s going to be some ride let me tell you.

The next season will come in a little while however, both of us at DP-FM will be forming an exciting adventure with two of our fellow creators in the FM community. Keep your eyes peeled at the weekend to see exactly what is about to happen – you won’t be disappointed!

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/

Thanks as always ladies & gents, we have done it and made it back to the big time but the real work starts now, I’ll be back soon and then we can dive into the Premier League adventure! Take care all.

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