Welcome back guys, it’s my favourite part of the season as we tackle the winter period as there is plenty of points up for grabs with a glorious amount of matches that we get to play. The FA Cup begins for us and we get right amongst it in the Europa League as well.
Of course the transfer window is a factor as I look for quality over quantity to help us drive ourselves through the mountain of games and challenge those who you may expect us to struggle against.
The last episode saw us sitting just inside of the European places in 7th place as it looked as if injuries had finally caught up with us after a massive 4-0 collapse versus a resurgent Arsenal – the main aim in December through to the end of February is to try and manage the squad better by ensuring our rotation eases the risk of adding to the injury list. Then again, it’s never as simple as that.
Europa League Group Stage – Final Matchday
Last time we went through the group stage, it was confirmed that we had already qualified however, there was still something to play for in that if we won or drew against Bayer Leverkusen in the final match, then we would finish top. A loss would mean that my side would have to face a Champions League drop down team in the next round.
And it’s second place meaning we’ll have to do things the hard way. A heartbreaker as the boys looked good to hold onto a draw until the 91st minute when an unmarked Leverkusen player was given a free ticket to score in the box – 1-0 loss confirmed. Very frustrating but at the same time we were through which in reality is all that matters. The final group looked like this.
Our fate in the next round was decided, looks like we’ll be heading back to Milan but for the better team in the city…
It’s going to be some challenge this one let me tell you, but bring it on because these are the games I want to manage!
A couple bits to look at before we see the results side of things, such as this season’s youth intake projection.
It really doesn’t look promising this season, seems like the money is all one winger by the looks of it. Maybe a failing on my part as I haven’t requested the board to invest in this area but we learn.
Now this next bit isn’t really news but I enjoyed it. My on loan wonderkid from Real Madrid Gerard Berghmans has been awesome since he came in, in a press conference they asked if I would move for him to sign permanently which I obliged to knowing full well we don’t have the type of money to buy him. A day passed and the Real Madrid Manager responded basically telling me to do one, I then clocked who was in charge there…
Would you believe it, Neil Lennon of all people!
Ah imagine the ruckus of him in charge there in real life, FM is the gift that keeps giving! Yes I know he managed Bolton in the past but that was with a 22% win rate so please let me enjoy this one!
Anyway, back to the important stuff in terms of the results with all 7 games being in the league.
It was an intense month of games trying to hang on to some sort of form, Liverpool were first up and despite a valiant effort from the boys, we fell to a 1-0 loss. Fulham were up next and they were struggling, however with a new manager in charge they put up a fight against us. But our DLP Agustin Almendra got his first Premier League goal from just outside the box to give us all 3 points. The day before our next game, the injuries started again…
Another struggling team in Bournemouth were up next and it started out promising with Jorge giving us an early lead but disaster struck in the 90th minute as Bournemouth punished us for not taking our earlier chances – finishing 1-1.
In our third away game in a row, it was a tricky trip to Leeds who cant be potent going forward. The game was another draw at 1-1 and it got off to a terrible start as a very dubious penalty was given allowing the opposition to take the lead. However, we flew out the blocks in the second half with Jorge equalising early on and the game fizzled out after that. You guessed it though, another casualty was on the way in this game as another defender falls down all from doing his job..
Finally we were back in Bolton but we had to contend with early runaway leaders Chelsea. It was a loss as some may expect but it was only a 1-0 loss. Again, it was more late heartbreak as Mason Mount struck a loose ball from the edge of the box in the 94th minute as I looked on in despair, we did not deserve that. OH AND YOU GUESSED IT AGAIN, ANOTHER INJURY!
Captain Lewis Bate against his old club, how ironic. We were really becoming up against it with bare bones versus Manchester United who I have longed to beat in this save…and we done it! 3-0 to the boys, as a counter attacking masterclass shocked the United team. A quick fire 2 minute double from Adam Hlozek & Jorge had them on the ropes and then Tarrelle Whittaker sealed it later in the second half. Shout out to my centre back Rafa Marin who man-marked Haaland the whole game and reduced him to a 6.2 match rating! And no injury after this match either.
The month finished with a calmer 1-0 win over Sheffield United thanks to a goal from the veteran Mauro Icardi. This game was not exciting one bit but the win is all I care about.
An up and down month but the boys really stepped up at the end of the month when we really needed it. Yes there are players out but we will keep fighting regardless.
January 2028 Transfer Window
The transfer window was about being smart, there was a couple of positions where I thought we lacked quality for what we were competing for this season. Goals have dried up in recent months with my side only scoring a goal a game in the majority of matches and that’s not always enough. So going into the window the main aim was a new striker/attacker but I also had my eye on a new left back as it was an additional position that was needed to be improved.
Two new players came in and we did dive into the pockets a bit, spending £25 million on both players. Nestor Bravo is a young striker & right winger who is also regarded as a wonderkid. After speaking to his agent I saw he was available for cheaper than he should be (had 2.5 years left on his contract as well) so we went head to head with Leicester. It took some time but Bravo chose Bolton which was particularly pleasing to get a player with this ability and potential – he is only 19 years old after all.
The chase for a new left back has been tough, I’ve been trying for a couple windows now but never been able to find the right player. Felipe Jonatan, a 29 year old who is regarded as in his prime wasn’t our first choice but Arsenal beat us to our other top target (Josue Polomat) so I swoop in for Jonatan who they also wanted. I feel his experience will serve the team well and with viable competition in Omar Richards, this should bring the best out of both players.
Now the outgoings, this was relatively quiet as well but a big name of the save was let go after I deemed that he was just not good enough for this level anymore…
That’s right guys, Shane McNeill was sold to £7.5 million to Rapid Wien. A player who has been with me most of this save but unfortunately in football, fan favourites must face the reality of an ever improving squad. I’m sorry lad, it wasn’t personal I promise.
Other moves sees young goalkeeper Martin Milligan spend the rest of the season on loan at Derry City and left back Leif Davis will go north of the border to Rangers (£9m) as he was no longer needed following Felipe Jonatan’s arrival.
Right, let’s get back into the results in what was a mammoth of a month in January with 8 games! Six in the league and two in the FA Cup, let’s break it down to see how we went.
We started the new year with an FA Cup third round tie versus Burnley. I want a good run in this cup and we scraped past our opposition with a 1-0 win. Tarrelle Whittaker grabbed the all important goal in this one. Back to league action where we faced Wolves and finished with an outstanding win 4-1. An unreal performance with Adam Hlozek grabbing a brace, Tarrelle Whittaker & Mauro Icardi getting the other goals too. Our good form continued against West Ham as another win was secured with a 2-0 score line. Jorge got himself back in the goals and Tarrelle Whittaker completed the victory.
It was then another match with Burnley but this time in the league and my side looked a bit more convincing this time with a 2-0 win. Centre back Giannis Michailidis was back from injury and grabbed a goal, Tarrelle Whittaker made it 4 goals in as many games, showing some outstanding form. The form was flowing but there was a blip versus Spurs where we lost 1-0. The amount of games got to the squad slightly here but we had to rotate to freshen up a few players.
A favourable draw in the FA Cup 4th round gave my side Hull City who are currently in League One. It was a straight forward 2-0 win as some youngsters and first team reserves got a run out, Mauro Icardi and young midfielder Yacine Hourcade got the goals. We swing back round to the league to face Everton who we are battling for position in the league but we were the better team on the day winning 2-1. Jorge got both goals as the all action striker got back amongst it in that regard. It’s been a while without a casualty hasn’t it? Well the injury curse back!
Attacking midfielder Marko Stamenic’s stuttering season carries on as he just can’t get a decent run of games without something happening. Into the last game of the month we went up against Chelsea but it was a 3-0 loss in a difficult game to watch. The league leaders got the better of us, pulling us a part throughout the game as if we were almost helpless.
Very happy with the results in this month, a couple of loss were expected but the general form looks very good.
Calmer vibes in February, with some league and cup action. The Europa League knockout rounds do start this month too but we’ll talk about that very soon!
Another team bouncing around the top 4 was Manchester City, sometimes a score line seems unfair and this was one of them, which saw us lose 2-0. So much positive momentum from my side but it was just a killer blow when City converted a couple of their few chances. Middlesbrough was the perfect opportunity to bounce back, which we did in exciting fashion, winning 4-2. It was 3-2 at half time but an early second half goal gave us control of the game to see out the result, a hattrick from the ever improving Adam Hlozek and the other came from Jorge to secure the result. Once again though, victory came at a cost with another fallen soldier…
Someone make it stop?! He’s just signed for crying out loud! But it doesn’t stop us as we face Norwich in the FA Cup fifth round and came through unscathed with a 2-0 win. Jorge was the hero after coming on as a sub, scoring a brace in the last 20 minutes as we march on!
Not a bad month, bouncing back from the City loss was key and we done just that thankfully.
After all that league action, we find ourselves in 7th place still but we do occupy a game in hand. Wolves have already secured the lone Europa Conference place after their Carabao Cup victory, so it’s down to me to give Bolton European football again before I depart the club. Come on Everton, let’s be having you!
Europa League Knockout Stage
An exciting part of the season as we made our way to the first knockout round however, due to our second place finish the draw gave us Serie A leaders Inter Milan. Both legs were in February where we had a moderate month in the league and FA Cup but disaster struck 3 days before the first leg…
Imagine losing 3 defenders who were likely to start before the away leg, speechless. I had made changes to training which reduced injuries from that perspective but this is just terrible luck. Still, we go into every game with confidence and the first leg was to be played regardless.
3 away goals and a win! It all happened for us in the second half after a poor first half performance saw us 1-0 down. Jorge’s penalty and Adam Hlozek put us 2-1 before Inter hit back 6 minutes later but new signing Nestor Bravo popped up to score his first ever Bolton goal and what a goal it could be, a massive 3-2 victory! Another in game casualty though as Mateusz Musialowski suffers on this occasion.
There was still work to do back in Bolton for the second leg though but you just won’t believe what happened…
OH MY WORD?!?! I just don’t know what to say…it was 0-0 at half time and I more or less told the boys to see the game out but instead they go on to have an absolute stormer! Adam Hlozek’s goal took the wind out of Inter and we were rampant, Nestor Bravo got a well deserved double, an own goal for a shot that changed paths after hitting Kimpembe and Jorge had to get amongst it too! Absolutely sensational stuff, probably my best result with this team yet.
Wow, you just love to see it don’t you, amazing stuff. However, we can’t celebrate the victory forever as the second knockout round draw was out
Well our group stage rivals it is as we will get another go at Bayer Leverkusen, we couldn’t beat them in the group but we have no choice but to across these two games, bring it on!
And breathe, what a ride that was but my word was it action packed. Next up will be the final episode of my time at Bolton as we will be tying up the season, we’re still in the Europa League and FA Cup, plus fighting away for 6th in the league as well so there is plenty to play for!
Although, takeover rumours have started swirling up in its early stages – will there be another twist for this club before I call it a day?
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/
Thank you as always guys for reading, I hope you enjoyed this episode as much as I did writing it, take care and we’ll be back soon.