Following the wild celebrations at the end of last season from the confirmation of Europa League football coming back to Bolton Wanderers, a press conference was called in the early off season for an important club announcement.
You read it right ladies and gents, I’m putting it all on the line for one more season and its our biggest season at the club. You may think why is he doing this? But it is something I’ve been thinking about since the end of season 6 when I got the team promoted back to the Premier League. This project was not about taking Bolton to world stardom, it was about getting them back to the good times they experienced some years ago and taking the club away from the dark days that haunted them all the way down to League 2.
I’d love to win the Europa League of course but we’re nowhere near the best team in the competition. If I can get the team to the quarter finals then I’ll gladly take that but I will see out the full season before I clear out my office and call it day.
One thing I can assure you all, I’m going all in this season just to see what we can really do on all fronts. Which brings us to now where we get ourselves ready for season 8 with this great club by doing absolute madness in the transfer window, bringing a pre-season trophy home as well as going to our furthest pre-season camp destination. In addition we’ll have a look at the first month of the league season, so let’s get right amongst it!
The board usually make staff wage increases in different areas each season and this season was no different with the Head of Performance Analyst position’s wages being increased.
This is an area that’s been weak in the backroom for sometime so I was happy to see this. My current Head of PA’s contract was running out anyway so this gave me the perfect opportunity to get some quality into that area, in which I done just that by bringing in Jose Mourinho’s former number 2 – Joao Sacramento who has great attributes for this role.
And it was Sacramento’s former club Tottenham who were then after our services shortly after this very appointment!
Not that I’d even join them but they missed out on European football to us anyway…so satisfying to be able to say that finally.
I wanted share our finances as well to show you how far the club has progressed in the past 7 seasons, the amount that is in the bank now is more than eye opening for this club.
A massive jump to £125 million recently due to our 6th place finish and Europa League qualification, you can see the growth over the years to this point and it’s safe to say Premier League football has taken our finances from strength to strength.
Summer Transfer Window
We’ll take a look at the transfer window before we get into the pre-season and competitive season results as it was all just madness. With being in Europe we needed some quality within the squad depth however, this also triggered a bit of a clear out for various reasons.
First up though, let’s have a look at the bit everyone wants to see…the new signings!
10 new faces join the squad with goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu joining as our new number 2, in addition to some smart free signings in Yacine Hourcade who is a young central midfielder who will be in and around the first team squad whilst he still in development. Agustin Almendra is a midfield playmaker with some great attributes and of course world renowned striker Mauro Icardi joins us at 34 years old to give some experience to the strikers department.
Then I was able to acquire a couple of wonderkids as Gerard Berghmans joins for the season on loan from Real Madrid, a very capable box to box midfielder too (for my tactics). Porbably my best signing in my opinion is Jovan Ilic, an 18 year old wonderkid who is a centre back but also has the capability of playing left wing would you believe?! He looks great for his age and will only get better over the season. Young inverted winger Junior came in for a relatively cheap £4m from Brazilian side Botafogo, another player with bags of potential.
More midfield reinforcements came in with Marko Stamenic being signed for a club record fee of £12.5 million. Stamenic is a very good advanced playmaker and will slot into the starting 11 nicely. I then turned my attention to central defence acquiring Rafa Marin and Giannis Michailidis who will provide a good battle for starting places.
Check out all the players below to see everything you need to know about them!
The outgoings were a bit crazy, the usual flurry of youth players left on loan but quite a few notable first teamers were shipped out mostly for not being good enough anymore or essentially being replaced.
Notable first teamers who have left is former back up goalkeeper Ondrej Mastny, defender Victor Nelsson who wanted out during season 7, defenders John Souttar & Jude Russell leave for European teams alongside Nicholas Opoku who will join former player Uriel Antuna at Tenerife. I made the decision to sell Will Ferry, Sean Elstone-Coyle, Ante Coric, Lucas Da Cunha & Riqui Puig as after the players I had brought in, they were no longer at the standard we needed. A shame to sell Da Cunha as I generally liked him on the left but sometimes we have to make such decisions. Alex Robertson left on loan again after a very underwhelming spell following his return from LA Galaxy half way through last season.
One very unfortunate sale was Ruben Iranzo. The young defender finally looked ready for a starting spot in the back four however, it became apparent that his work permit renewal would fail when due at the end of the season which is when his contract expires, so after discussions with the player we mutually agreed to let him go for a price of course.
A very busy window in terms of the incomings and outgoings but I’m very happy in how we have strengthened the squad going into the season, this kind of quality in depth should give us a chance of a little run in Europe and in at least one of the domestic cups.
Pre-Season 2027 Results
A lot of games were booked for this pre-season as I looked to pump match fitness into the ever evolving squad over the summer. The fixtures included a friendly cup which AS Monaco invited us to which made a nice change, a simple two game tournament with a semi final and a final – a third place play off was there in addition.
I chose Singapore as our tour destination this pre-season for a complete change of scenery! Where were we stationed for our games this time? The famous ‘Jalan Besar Stadium’…oh you haven’t heard of it either?
Very nice looking to be fair, holding 8,000 fans although it does look somewhat small and narrow which doesn’t suit our style of play at all. However, it didn’t look to effect us as we score 26 goals across 3 games without conceding which is always pleasing regardless of the opposition.
In general though, 10 wins out of 11 in pre-season with some very good results over some notable teams such as Benfica (4-1), Athletic Bilbao (3-0) and RB Leipzig (2-0). These are all teams with European experience so I was very happy with how we played and the scorelines.
The last part of pre-season, we were off to the Stade Louis II to take part in the AS Monaco friendly cup. My side got their semi final win over Portuguese second division side Penafiel with a narrow 1-0 before taking on the hosts AS Monaco in the final and securing the win with a 2-1 victory. It was nice to have something to mark a very good pre-season and gives me confidence with this squad going into the season.
Here it is then, the start of our final season in charge of this great football club and I can’t wait to get amongst the competitiveness.
How underwhelming, we have started this season exactly the same as last season – 1 win and 3 draws. I’m all for being unbeaten but draws don’t win you prizes! The first game of the season was against fellow Europa League participants Wolves. It was Wolves who took an early lead but last season’s top scorer Jorge popped up with a first half equaliser. The game more or less fizzled out after with Wolves’ 5-3-2 becoming difficult to break down.
Newly promoted Burnley visited the UoB Stadium and gave us some problems but newly signed wonderkid Jovan Ilic scored on his debut, volleying home from 12 yards out following a corner – getting us our first win in the league. I was hoping to carry the winning momentum to our next match against West Ham but it was one of the most boring games I’ve ever seen as it produced one highlight all game for a shot off target…unsurprisingly a 0-0 draw.
August ended against cash rich Everton which produced another draw at 1-1. We actually looked a bit brighter in the first half and got our reward through newly signed centre back Rafa Marin. He rose highest at a set piece, powering a header home but in the second half we got a bit slack and Everton got their reward in the 75th minute. A game of two halves for sure, we really did tail off in this one.
Not the most convincing of months but one positive is no losses. Similar to last season, team cohesion needs a bit of work with all the new faces but hopefully that improves sooner rather than later.
Some good news though, as wonderkid Jovan Ilic makes his mark in the Premier League winning Young Player of the Month at the first time of asking.
Europa League Group Stage Draw
At the end of August, it was time learn our early fate to see which teams we will be up against in our bid to get out of the group and into the knockout rounds.
It was a tough one in all honesty, we were in pot 3 for the draw so there was always a chance of getting some of the bigger teams which we certainly did with AC Milan & Bayer Leverkusen. Ideally, we need a win and a couple of draws against these two teams and hope we do the double over Motherwell but it’s always easier said than done. We stay optimistic though so bring on the challenge!
To mark the occasion of returning to the Europa League, my side have been provided with some throwback kits, similar to those of the 2007/08 season where Bolton had that famous UEFA Cup run.
As expected after August’s results we lie in mid-table occupying 9th place. The coming months’ its all about building and getting some wins under the belt but with the additional mid-week games, the squad rotation has to be spot on to ensure we do not fall into any bad form or runs.
In the next episode, we will be looking at the early months of September, October and November as we try to adapt to the extra games and workout the right line ups for each competition that we contest in.
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 9. 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/2021/04/26/unemployed-unskilled-inexperienced-s9-ep-1-going-for-europe/
Well the announcement was made which may shock some but it will still be an action packed season! Thanks as always for reading, take care and I’ll be back with the next instalment soon.