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Dong21

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  1. I have stuck with the 4-2-3-1 wide formation with a customised gegenpress style and it is going well. Fernandes plays AM (support) and Pogba is DLP (support), sitting behind him next to a BBM (support) - usually McTominay. Unfortunately Bruno was injured for two months so has only played in 24 out of a possible 45 games so far (I’m at the start of April) but he’s done well when he’s played and created a lot of chances for his teammates. Gomes has been great for me in the Europa League. He’s had 14 starts in all competitions and 9 goals. Unfortunately he’s just got ruled out for 5 weeks, which likely ends his season given where we are in the calendar.
  2. @Smaldini I was also able to pick him up for a similar price (see my update above) and was equally baffled why they don’t want to hang onto him! I was also wondering this. I’ve been considering signing another striker for the second season (with Haaland high on my list), like Smaldini has done with Milik, but as I play a 4-2-3-1 currently I worry how this will limit Greenwood, Rashford and Martial’s playing time.
  3. Season 2019-2020: Part 4 January Transfer Window The board injected £40m into my otherwise empty transfer budget in advance of the January window. However, I had little intention to add to a squad that I thought was already a little bloated. In addition I am focusing on giving youth opportunities, so didn't want to make a large number of signings that will block pathways to the first team. The exception to this was if an opportunity arose that was too good to ignore. This happened when I saw Man City and Spurs bidding for Juve centre-back Merih Demiral for what looked like a bargain price of £20.5m. I matched their bids and was delighted when he chose us. He's 21 years old and rated a better player than Lindelof and Tuanzabe. I loaned out Phil Jones (would have preferred to sell, but no suitors) and tried to do the same with Bailly, but no interest. I was extremely frustrated with Pereira who 'opted to stay' turning down three Chinese clubs who had each bid £27m for him. Eventually I sold him to Schalke for £21m. There was interest in Lingard, but not for a reasonable price. He will go in the summer. I wanted to loan Mexican prospect Macias out to get game time but he had unfortunately already played for two sides (us and Chivas). Luke Shaw expressed his unrest over his lack of playing time - I've been prioritising Brandon Williams - however I managed to stop that from escalating, for now. Fred handed in a transfer request due to a lack of playing time. I'd have kept him around as an option but he was firmly at the bottom of the pecking order for his position, so I was comfortable letting him go. Unlike his Brazilian compatriot, he was happy to move to China and so joined Jiangsu for £19.75m (that should rise to £27m). To fill a short-term gap, providing cover and experience, I brought in Arturo Vidal on loan from Barca for the rest of the season. Next summer Garner may well get the chance to join the squad, or I will turn to the transfer market for a longer-term solution. I was disappointed to get the youth intake preview and learn that our next crop sound very underwhelming. Luckily there are already a great number of talents to develop. I have just given one such prospect, Hannibal Mejbri, his first pro contract. Twenty Five Games Undefeated The first match of 2020 was a classic Football Manager match; we had 35 shots, Norwich had 1 shot, the full time score? 1-1. Everything else went our way in January though. The fans were certainly happy as we won away at Anfield and won the Roses Derby comfortably in the FA Cup. I really did not expect to be beating Liverpool home and away in the League this early into my United career, having seen how dominant our rivals can be on other saves. I won the January Manager of the Month, and used this as leverage to get the board to offer me a two year contract extension which I duly signed. We scored goals for fun in February - in fact we have scored four goals per game on average over the last seven games. The blip amongst the wins was a 3-3 draw with Sheff Utd - annoyingly we had been 2-0 up, pegged back to 2-2, took the lead again and then conceded in the 95th minute to draw. We beat Standard 9-2 on aggregate in the Europa League and go on to face Torino next time out. After beating Newcastle 4-0 we went second in the table for the first time. We have City up next though, so things could change again. Arsenal are the surprise runaway leaders. Latest news is that Martial won the February PL Player of the Month and media speculation that PSG will bid for Pogba in the summer is building. The final thing to mention is we are on course to achieve a niche objective of mine for the season; to with the EFL Trophy (Leasing.com). I have been making the younger players in the first team available for these matches, sometimes at the detriment of my own bench, as often the EFL Trophy fixtures have fallen the day before our first team has played. Experience against Football League sides can only help their development. We have beaten Man Citys U23s (2-1), Blacpool (5-0) and Burton (6-0) in the knockout rounds and will now face Peterborough in the Final at Wembley. Greenwood is the competitions top scorer, Bishop has the most clean sheets and Mejbri has the most key passes.
  4. Season 2019-2020: Part 3 When I last posted an update we were sitting in 7th place in the Premier League and Bruno Fernandes had just been ruled out for two months. It's fair to say business has picked up since then... Bellingham filled in for Fernandes in our next game and scored the match winner, instantly putting me at ease that we have good alternatives in attacking midfield. This was coupled with Gomes grabbing a goal from the same position against PSV in the following game. Gomes took things to another level in our next Europa League game, bagging a haul of four goals against Getafe. Greenwood was the hero against Bournemouth, rescuing a point after we conceded in the 87th minute. A 5-0 thrashing away at Watford in mid-December (including a McTominay brace) was particularly pleasing, however this was eclipsed in terms of enjoyment by our 3-0 win against City. This was achieved despite both Fernandes and Pogba being ruled out injured (Pogba was ruled out for 6 weeks just days before the game) and saw us leapfrog our local rivals into 4th place. Out form was strong in a busy Christmas period. Sancho scored his third in four games against league leaders Arsenal on the last game of the calendar year, but frustratingly we drew after an own goal error from David De Gea. The point meant we ended the year in third, and Arsenal remained top of the table - with Liverpool sandwiched in between. Europa League - Group Stage We concluded the Europa League group stage with a 100% win record. This was particularly pleasing as I selected primarily a youth based side throughout, and on paper the group hadn't looked the easiest. McTominay, Chong and Gomes were the standout performers for us in these games. Somehow Bayern, Dortmund and Atletico all finished third in their respective Champions League groups, meaning they drop into the Europa for the knockout stages. This makes winning the tournament a tougher proposition for me. That said, we were lucky and drew Standard in the 1st Knockout Round. Year-End Sancho ended 2019 on a high as he picked up both the European Golden Boy award and the Premier League Young Player of the Month for December. Pogba was named in the World Team of the Year and De Gea came second in the World Goalkeeper of the Year rankings. I was also informed that in a year's time, due to Brexit, all EU players would require a work permit. As far as I can recall this is the most hassle of all the possible scenarios, so I was disappointed to discover this. I'll follow up shortly with another post on how the season has continued, as I'm conscious of not making this update too long!
  5. Season 2019-2020: Part 2 Pre-season is all about building match fitness, squad togetherness, tactical awareness and team morale. In a busy period of games we scored more than four goals in seven out of eight pre-season fixtures, so I was certainly pleased with how things went. We carried our electric form into the start of the league campaign, thrashing both Sheffield United and Aston Villa. Martial got a hat-trick on the first day of the season and Rashford bagged a brace on matchday two. Fernandes was great in both fixtures. What followed was a frustrating period of four draws. They came against decent sides, but I felt we deserved so much more from the period. Spurs parked the bus in classic Mourinho style. We had 29 shots, 15 of which were on target and 63% possession, but only drew 0-0. To add salt in the wound, Sancho got ruled out for two months with an injury incurred only four minutes into the game. Then we were 2-0 up against Everton, when we capitulated and conceded in the 89th and 95th minutes to draw. The win against Getafe in the Europa League was a real highlight as I played a very young side and we won comfortably with Greenwood, Chong and Bellingham bagging the goals. Another young player, Macias, got his first goal - a late equaliser against Leicester. A 7-1 trouncing of Norwich was very enjoyable, but even more pleasing was the 3-0 win against Liverpool that followed. Hometown hero Marcus Rashford stepped up when it mattered scoring a hat-trick against the Scousers. This win was made more impressive, I thought, due to the fact that I had to start Lingard and James as Martial and Sancho wer both out injured. Although we'd had a few too many draws, I was very pleased we made it to late October without losing a match. Defeat finally came when we lost to Arsenal in a frustrating game in which we were the better side. I knew luck was not with us that day when David Luiz smashed in a world-class free kick. I played a younger side against City and we lost, exiting the Carabao Cup. Rashford won Premier League player of the month for October.At the point of writing this update we sit in 7th place, six points off 4th with a game in hand. I'm not disheartened as I knew this would take time with a very young squad. The defence needs reinforcements but that is a job for another transfer window as securing Sancho and Bellingham took precedence. A couple of our draws could easily have been wins, and that would have seen us into the top four. Plenty of season still to play. Update: I'm gutted to report that Fernandes has just been ruled out for two months with torn ankle ligaments. On the bright side, this creates opportunities for the likes of Bellingham and Gomes.
  6. Season 2019-2020: Part 1 After spending much longer than expected on an EFL save managing Bolton, I've finally got round to starting my annual United save. Generally I like to wheel and deal at whichever club I manage, but I'm going to try to be a bit more hesitant in the transfer window with this career as I'd like to give our many talented youth prospects the opportunity to develop. Here is how I've got on so far... Backroom Enhancements I believe a quality Head of Youth Development is essential, therefore I was delighted to secure my first choice for this position Bernhard Peters. Some managers don't see value in having a Director of Football but I sometimes like to utilise the 'suggest transfer targets' function to get fresh ideas - I hired ex-Barcelona and Milan Director Ariedo Braida. I cleared out most of the coaches, including Carrick who sadly just isn't good enough, and brought in a raft of replacements including Miguel D'Agostino and Danny McGrain. I was surprised to find that the standard of goalkeeping coach was poor across all levels, so I brought in six new goalkeeping coaches. Tactical Intentions I intend to play a 4-2-3-1 (wide) formation, with a secondary but similar 4-5-1 formation familiarised in case of the need to be more defensive. The desire to play Bruno Fernandes in a central attacking midfield position was a major influence when deciding on a tactic. Pogba would play deeper, hopefully building up a strong relationship with Bruno. Pogba had expressed an interest in leaving early into my tenure, however our private discussion went well and he has been settled thus far since. Player Recruitment My two primary transfer targets when commencing this save were Jadon Sancho and Jude Bellingham. Right wing is for me probably the biggest weakness in the squad and Sancho is a quality player with great potential who I wanted to secure before my rivals. Bellingham, on the other hand is a prestigious talent who I want the opportunity to develop. With a budget of £50m I decided to try something new and ask the board to handle signing for Sancho. To my delight they got the job done, securing him for £90m. I had a deal for Bellingham agreed, but that fell through when my budget was depleted to £0. I sold experienced players Mata (to Wolves) and Matic (to Leicester) for a combined £25.5m. This allowed me to renegotiate with Birmingham and complete a £22m deal. I offered out Periera and Lingard as I would prefer to give Greenwood, Chong and Gomes opportunities, however the bids I received were below my valuations of the pair, so I elected to keep them, for now. I pulled off what I believe to be somewhat of a masterstroke though, recalling Marcos Rojo from his loan and then selling him to Guangzhou Evergrande for £16.5m. My final deal of the window was for Mexican wonderkid striker José Juan Macias for £16.5m from Chivas. The only downside was I had to pay him £80k per week wages in order to secure his work permit. I tried to sign 17 year old Anderlecht winger Jeremy Doku during the transfer window, however his club wanted a deal totaling around £15m and we just didn't have the money so had to step away. After the window had closed Doku became unsettled and handed in a transfer request. I was frankly shocked to see him listed for £1.3m so I swooped up and signed him. He joins in January. Youth Focus One of my first order of business was to renew the contracts of Tahith Chong, Aidan Barlow and Angel Gomes (if only we could have done this in real life...). I asked the board for a feeder club and selected Derby from the options presented due to their excellent training facilities and the chance for my players to play alongside Rooney. I sent Garner and Laird there and I am really hoping they get a lot of game time. I intend to give some of the younger players opportunities in the Europa League, where we have drawn PSV, Getafe and AIK.
  7. Just stumbled across this thread @Jogo Bonito and enjoyed reading about how you’ve been doing. I can tell by the pace you are going at you are liking this save! Although a long-term visitor of the forum I’ve never really ventured much into the Career Updates section. Your thread has made me think I might like to give it a go, I think I’d enjoy posting more detailed updates.
  8. I’ve managed Bolton for five seasons @wattzy, although I started the game before the January update. I’ve wrote regularly about my save in this thread if you’re interested. Will keep an eye out for how you get on with The Trotters!
  9. Bolton Wanderers - Season 6 - Preview Not a single ball has been kicked since I last wrote an update, but already there have been some interesting developments heading into our first season back in the Premier League: Taking advantage of my 100% board confidence status, I persuaded the board to commit to investing in upgrading our youth facilities, youth level and training facilities. I don't want to just spend all the money generated by promotion on players, I am looking for long-term success for the club and that includes continuing to develop our own players. I've agreed a new three year contract with the club. This will give me a bit more security if we struggle next season. The board set us a target to look to bravely battle against relegation. To my surprise and delight Man United have allowed me to take James Garner on loan for the sixth successive season. This is, once again, without us contributing anything to his wages. Spurs have no interest in letting me take Hirst on loan again. As you are only allowed to take two players on long-term domestic loans in the Premier League I will look to move away from a heavy reliance on loan players this season. I have decided to not renew the contract of club captain Tom Lockyer, meaning he will depart on a free transfer this summer. First choice centre-back the season before, he has barely featured this campaign. I've also made the decision to release my young French CM Eric Junior Dina Ebimbe as although when signing he had great potential, a five month injury this season has taken that away from him. I've decided I'll take my chances on a replacement in the transfer window. Shortly after the season ended I tried to make an offer for a player and was told I could not make any signings as we were under transfer embargo with the club being in the process of being sold. The media said two different consortiums were battling it out. This has come at an unfortunate time when I was looking to rebuild the squad in advance of the big step up to the Premier League. In early June it was announced we had been taken over by Ryan Ryan. This caused me some bemusement at first as my second choice regen 'keeper who is out on loan at AaB is also called Ryan Ryan. My goalkeeper is an Aussie and my new owner is English however, so there fore I'm assuming I don't have a Player/Owner scenario! The new owner doesn't appear to be a tycoon type owner. He has modestly increased the standard £38m promoted team transfer budget by £3m up to £41m. I feel no feeling of excitement regarding this takeover as I'd already successfully balanced the books. I could have done with a new owner who would clear the club debt any time during the first four seasons. Feels a bit like shutting the barn door after the horse has bolted 😂
  10. Thanks @Jogo Bonito! You know me, I like a challenge! Quite often I'd want to get my back-up striker John-Jules on but didn't really want to lose Hirst or Tedic so I'd sub off my right midfielder and switch Hirst there to utilise his pace.
  11. Thanks @karanhsingh! Here he is: He's already an England international, scoring on his debut in March of the season just completed, although England manager Dyche hasn't elected to take him to Euro 2024. I think it is virtually impossible for me to get him back next season - Tottenham have just renewed his contract and he is clearly good enough to get in their first team. I wouldn't be able to afford signing him permanently either. So there is quite a void to fill going into the Premier League campaign!
  12. Bolton Wanderers - Season 5 - Part 4 Our red hot January form continued on in the beginning of February as we put Sheffield United, Middlesbrough and Oxford to the sword, without conceding against any of them. Perhaps predictably, our forward in electric form, Hirst, scored in each game, but goals also came from throughout the squad. On the night we beat Oxford, our closest rivals Burnley slipped up losing 5-3 against a Millwall side who occupied the relegation zone. We had Millwall up next and I mistakenly took their result against Burnley as a fluke and approached our game in the usual manner I would against a team in the bottom half. This mistake cost us as we lost 4-2. This was much more than a fluke for Millwall, in fact it was a resurgence as these wins commenced a run of seven wins in nine which ultimately would see them avoid relegation comfortably. This loss saw us slip to second in the title race and was confounded by draws against Portsmouth and Derby, two matches we could and should have won. March was magnificent. We begun by thrashing our local rivals Blackburn 4-1 at their own ground. We then traveled to the Molyneux in the FA Cup, having already knocked out, another Premier League side, Bournemouth. We more than held our own, drawing 1-1 but eventually losing on penalties. This gave me promise for if we were to make it to the Premier League. The match was subsequently voted the best FA Cup match of the season. Otherwise it was all victories in the League, including beating Playoff contenders Brentford and Crystal Palace. The win against Palace took us back top of the table as Burnley slipped up with a draw. With only seven games left apiece it was extremely tight at the top. Then the unthinkable happened as we were beaten by third place Birmingham. This was the first time all season I can recall us being beaten resoundingly, and it couldn't have come at a worse time. I hoped that it was a blip but we lost again, to Stoke, and then again, to Fulham. The loss to Birmingham had given the upper hand in the title race to Burnley, but the following two losses had me looking over my shoulder and fearing we would drop out of the top two for the first time since the first week of October. Our late collapse in form didn't bode well if we were to compete in the Playoffs. Next up was Sheff Weds and the pre-match press conference did my nerves no good as the reporter informed me we had failed to beat Wednesday in seven previous attempts. I rallied the troops though and they stepped up to the plate with a big win. We won and Burnley lost to Palace, reducing their lead at the top to just three points, but they had superior goal difference. We still could influence the final outcome though, as we had Burnley to play up next, followed by fourth placed West Brom. When we visited Turf Moor I took the pressure off the players, telling them nobody expected them to be anywhere near promotion so don't worry if we don't win. Burnley dominated the game in terms of shots and possession but we got the all in important goal to win the game. It was scored by James Garner, a player who poetically has been with me every step of the way over the past five seasons. Next up was another dangerous trip, this time to the Hawthorns. We won again through narrow margins, though this was a much closer game. To my delight I saw post-match that Burnley had drew with Stoke sending us top. All we needed to do was beat Bristol Rovers and we would be champions. In a surprisingly stress-free final day of the season we beat Rovers with goals from each of my strike partnership, Tedic and Hirst and were crowned winners of the SkyBet Championship. Promotion to the Premier League seems even sweeter after five seasons at the club, which in the early stages felt like somewhat of a slog. It was a joy to manage this team, all of whom I had recruited except for academy graduates Boon and Browne. Having a supremely talented forward clearly made a difference. Jimmy Hirst scored 26 goals to pick up the Golden Boot and his average match rating of 7.43 was not only the best in the Championship this season, but the best in Championship history. Hirst was voted man of the match on 14 different occasions, therefore it was not exactly a surprise when he was awarded both the Championship Young Player of the Year and Player of the Year. We were by no means a one man team however, with five of our players making the Championship Team of the Year: I was surprised not to see Correia also make the league's Team of the Season as he had a stellar campaign, he may have missed out though as he played just under 30 games due to his injury early in the season. Five seasons in a row I have wrote the same thing; James Garner was absolutely essential to the success of my team. He does not get many goals or assists, but he is the link in the team that starts off the attacks - like Scholes in his later years at Man United. Tedic was a great signing for me, he may have only bagged 11 goals but his partnership with Hirst was invaluable. When switching to 4-4-2 I made the unorthodox decision to play players who were traditionally inside forwards on the wings in positions they were not natural in, purely so that they could provide crosses with their natural foot. This paid off as we had the best crossing completion in the league (26%) and best heading completion (67%). We set up with a primary focus of looking to get the best out of Hirst and Tedic. The defence deserve praise too as we conceded fewer goals than anyone else in the league (just 36). Dahlberg looks even more of a bargain at £300k after delivering 21 clean sheets, but of course all of the back four deserve praise. I began the season expecting Lenihan and van den Berg to be my centre backs but I gave 21 year old academy graduate Shaquille Browne (previously fifth choice CB) an opportunity and never looked back. He played and starred in 23 matches. The experience of Lenihan alongside him surely helped his development.
  13. @karanhsingh Congrats. Just surviving in the Premier League is an achievement, let alone winning the league by 10 points! I’d be interested in seeing a screenshot of your tactical set-up? It might be useful if I somehow manage to steer Bolton to the promised lands! Now the big question; where next?
  14. Bolton Wanderers - Season 5 - Part 3 Our form continued into November, with Hirst once again the star as we defeated Cardiff. The win against Derby marked 13 games in a row without defeat. This would unfortunately end in our next game though, as we lost to Sheff Weds in a game that we dominated. We then lost to Reading and I started to fear that this would be the start of a negative run of form that would see us plummet down the table towards the sort of position we had been expected to finish in. My fears were allayed though in a busy December in which our form returned to being very satisfying. A win against local rivals Blackburn certainly lifted morale. Avenging their 3-2 win from last season with one of our own. A draw with Brentford saw us drop to 2nd, just behind Burnley in the table. A 2-2 draw with promotion chasing Brentford was by no means a bad result however. We lost to Bristol Rovers who have quickly established themselves as our bogey team, but otherwise won the 4 other matches that followed the Brentford match. The 4-0 destroyal of Nottm Forest was a particular highlight. The Christmas period was as hectic as ever and meant that our emphatic victory over Forest was followed just two days later by our game against Cardiff. I played a very changed side and unfortunately they could not get the win. The 6-0 win against Luton in the FA Cup 3rd Round was one of the most enjoyable of the season, to date. This was not just because of the scoreline, but because I gave opportunities to a lot of squad players who all stepped up and performed. Third choice striker John-Jules got a brace and utility option Mbenza delivered a hat-trick from left wing. We had been interchanging positions at the top of the table with Burnley, but our 1-1 draw with Barnsley, coupled with a defeat for The Clarets, saw us take the lead at the top of the table by a point. Two wins apiece since then has meant the margin has stayed the same. Carlo Holse has proven to be a key player over the last three months as the winger has stepped up to score important goals when it has mattered most. We are well placed in the table but this is over a third of the campaign still to go, so I don't intend to start getting complacent. The month ended with a victory against Bournemouth in the FA Cup 4th Round. It was reassuring to be able to beat Premier League opposition, with promotion potentially on the cards, particularly as it wasn't a 'smash and grab', we were the better team. The next round see's us face Wolves who are 7th in the Prem; an even sterner test. Transfers It was an uncharacteristically quiet transfer window by my standards, primarily as things were going so well I didn't see much reason to change things. Eddie Brown was not seeing many opportunities due to the great form of Hirst, Tedic and John-Jules, therefore I loaned him out to Bristol City to continue his development. There were a couple of sales of youth players, but neither of them had much potential so it was nice just to receive a fee for them. There was only one incoming player; someone who is quite popular on this forum! In one of my press conferences a journalist asked me for my views on Reading manager Maarten Stekelenberg transfer listing Danny Loader. This was the first I had heard of this. Reading were having a good season (at that time they were 7th in the league) and Loader was in good form with 7 goals from the left wing - I therefore assumed he must be transfer listed by request due to ambitions to play for a club of greater stature. This was not the case however, as I discovered he was listed due to the club's financial status. In fact, the entire team was transfer listed and the club's financial position was listed as 'In Debt'. I don't recall seeing something quite this extreme before. He was transfer listed for £8.75m. I liked the player but I was well stocked on the wings and did not really need to change a winning team. I thought I'd be kind to Reading and see if they would accept a reduced offer but with the big benefit to them of keeping him on loan for the rest of the season. They accepted £6m with the loan and the deal was agreed. When the summer comes Correia will return to Man City and Schurrle will be a year older, so Loader will see opportunities on the wing at Bolton more plentiful. Reading ended up selling 14 players in January, with a few loan incomings to plug the gaps, it will be interesting to see where they finish in the league.
  15. @Parmie I’m impressed at the rate at which you get through seasons! It’s taken me about 6 months to find the time to get 5 seasons in with Bolton 😂
  16. @karanhsingh Looks like you are on course for another cracking season! Balancing performing well in Europe and the league is impressive. Looks like some solid recruitment there @Jogo Bonito with the signing of Abraham certainly a coup. I expect him to be a real threat at that level. Good luck for the upcoming campaign. @serg__23 I might be biased but Bolton have some quality youth and, for me at least, the academy has continued to produce. Just up to you if you want to start with the challenge of starting on -12points!
  17. Thanks @karanhsingh. I’m still favouring a more fluid approach, rather than direct as I like to play possession based football. We are set up to counter attack primarily though, playing to the pace of Hirst.
  18. Bolton Wanderers - Season 5 - Part 2 Pre-season went very well with many of my new signings building momentum by getting on the scoresheet. We also conceded quite a few early doors, but that was mainly before my new centre back signings had arrived at the club. We didn't play any particularly big clubs as I prefer to build morale and fitness over glamour ties, for example against Premier League opposition. During the course of pre-season I made a tactical change that would stick going into the new season. Last season we had operated with a 4-1-2-2-1 formation with a midfield trio anchored by Garner, an inside forward on the left and a lone central forward. I decided to change things up though after signing Hirst and Tadic. Both strikers seemed too good not to start. This switch was potentially harsh on one of my centre mids Brownhill who will now get less games and perhaps means less goals from the wingers, but these were sacrifices I'm willing to take. You will see from the image I have been playing Holse and Wallem in positions they are uncomfortable in - both are more used to playing further forward and on the opposite flanks, but I decided I wanted the option for more crosses with their natural feet with two capable forwards to feed in the middle. The fixture list was kind with four seemingly winnable league fixtures to start the season. We won three of these, with the other a frustrating loss against Luton when we'd had 28 shots at their goal. We ended the month with a respectable draw at Sheffield United. A good start to the season, but I expected this to drop off slightly once we took on tougher opposition. I gave my squad players an opportunity in the League Cup. We ended up losing on penalties in the end but the match itself was an exhilarating experience. We took a 2-0 lead and looked comfortable, Blackpool roared back into a surprising 3-2 lead, before we scored a goal in stoppage time to take it to pens. I was feeling positive about this season, but was has happened next has shocked even me. We have beaten a series of top half Championship sides, embarking on a terrific run of form. In the prior season our top goalscorer got 6 goals all season whereas, as you can see above, Jimmy Hirst delivered 8 goals in 6 games at one point! Hirst has rightly been getting the headlines but his strike partner Tedic has repeatedly put in strong performances, acting as the perfect foil. James Garner has been top class in the centre of the pitch - negating my fear that we may fall short without a third centre midfielder. We have conceded the second fewest amount of goals in the league, with new signings Dahlberg and Lenihan showing their worth. Our current league position is well above expectation (we were predicted to come 12th), so don't be surprised if we drop off at some point. I am loving this season though thus far. Still a long way to go, but returning Bolton to the Premier League in 5 seasons would be a proud achievement. Fingers crossed.
  19. Thanks. It certainly does @Jogo Bonito! Much more satisfying than starting a fresh save with a club with money I think. I decided that I was happy with my squad and recruits so didn’t feel the need to spend more. Hopefully I don’t live to regret that, but so far so good! An update on how the season has gone so far will follow shortly. You’re doing terrifically with Sunderland, keep up the good work 👏🏼
  20. Bolton Wanderers - Season 5 - Part 1 As expected it was a summer of much comings and goings at Bolton Wanderers. Transfers Out The transfer window had only been open a short while when a £20m bid came in from, now established Premier League side, Huddersfield Town for my centre-back Bella-Kotchap. I didn't particularly want to sell the highly rated Germany under-21 player and I had thought that if he was to go it would be to a top side. I replied to the offer stating I would only accept his contracted minimum release fee of £36.5m and to my surprise they came back and agreed the fee right away. I was quite shocked, but he is a young player with bags of potential and this transfer is indicative of the levels of finance that clubs in the Premier League possess. I had been going into the transfer window full of excitement as for the first time in this career I had a budget, thanks to player sales in previous seasons. This was a complete game changer though as my budget rocketed from £2.5m to £25m. It took me a little while to acclimatise as I have spent my whole time on FM20 to date searching in the bargain basement. The other notable sale was of a 16 year old CM who had literally just arrived in my latest crop of youth recruits. He looks quite the talent, already rated 2 star with 5 star potential. Spurs came in with good money for him and although I'd love to do some player development, I decided not to stand in his way. Luckily I still have a young squad overall to focus on developing. Transfer In Having lost first choice stopper Maric to a pre-contract agreement, signing a goalkeeper was a necessity. I signed Pontus Dahlberg from Watford for what I think was a bargain fee of £300k. He is already a very good player for this level and his age means he has plenty of years ahead of him to get even better. I also signed Aussie regen 'keeper Ryan Ryan who I have sent out to AaB for experience. He has a lot of potential, but more importantly has an amazing name. I signed young Northern Irish regen Mark Donnelly with the view that he would be my first choice right back for the upcoming season. Late in the window I decided that his current ability probably isn't quite there yet and, not wanting to have any weak spots, I decided to once again loan Ethan Laird from Man Utd. Lowton was shipped out to the MLS and Donnelly assumed the roll of deputy. I decided that I was happy with my two left backs from last season, but centre back needed some work after the departure of Bella-Kotchap. With an abundance of funds that I was somewhat reluctant to spend I decided to make a marquee signing in the form of experienced centre-back Darragh Lenihan for £3.4m from Norwich. The view was that he would add real leadership along with some class. I brought in Sepp van den Berg on loan from Liverpool to partner Lenihan at the back. This is perhaps harsh on club captain Lockyer who has performed well in previous seasons and will likely lose his starting role, but I can't pass up the opportunity to upgrade. I rejected a £3m bid for him on deadline day as I want to keep him for now at least as an option. I also recruited Ezri Konsa which may look like a coup as he'd previously gone to Aston Villa for £12m but injuries have downgraded his stats slightly. At 26 he still is a good squad player. Centre-midfield was the area I was most happy with last season. Retaining the trio of Garner, Brownhill and Doyle-Hayes would have been good enough business here for me. Right at the end of the prior season Dina Ebimbe got an injury that would rule him out for 6 months but I also had cover from young Assarsson who was returning from loan. Plans changed though when I noticed that a player of the quality of Conor Gallagher was available to loan, and the Chelsea man was brought in swiftly. Talented wingers are key to my formation, so once again this was an area I looked to enhance. Despite having a large budget, Carlo Holse was one of only three players I paid a fee for. The Dortmunder is a rarity as a left footed wing option in my squad. I also brought in experienced Andre Schurrle who I have a fondness for as I seem to end up managing him or signing him on every iteration of Football Manager. I have always found him to be predictably German in his reliability. Finally I also signed Felix Correia on loan from City, so we are well and truly stocked on the wings. A lack of goalscorers was definitely my team's downfall last season, so I was determined to add this to my team this time around. I believe I have found a real gem hidden in the Serbian league - I shall share a screenshot below of Slobodan Tedic below (along with a few other key players), and hopefully you all agree. Also joining on a free, Tyreece John-Jules is a young pacey forward who has spent his career at Arsenal prior to release. The final signing to report on is particularly exciting. I spotted that Spurs had a wonderkid forward with electric pace available for loan. They wanted all his wages covered and they are a hefty £44k per week. I pondered raising the wage bill long and hard, as a keen focus of mine in this save has been financial stability. In the end though, I decided that there would still be tonnes of cash left available after I completed the deal and Jimmy Hirst could be a real game changer, so I went for it and completed the signing. Pontus Dahlberg: Darragh Lenihan: James Garner: Slobodan Tedic: Jimmy Hirst: Season 2023-24 Squad: The transfer window closed with £17m and £100k per week for wages still sitting in the pot unused. This may seem wasteful but I am happy with my squad and excited for the season ahead. Hopefully the years of slogging away with this club pay off with a fun season finally.
  21. Thanks for the comments @Jogo Bonito, @smplfc123 and @karanhsingh. Loving how interactive this forum is at the moment! Boon is my first choice left back, has played 76 league games for Bolton and is progressing well. I sold Darcy to Watford in January 2021 for £8m and he spent the season after back on loan with us. Last season, however, he didn’t go on loan and he didn’t feature for Watford, so that may have effected his development. Several Championship sides are currently looking to take him on loan for the upcoming season. Adam Senior never seemed to have much potential on my save. Maybe his attributes are variable or he got upgraded after the patch (I’ve been playing this save a while!). Released him in 2022 and he joined Yeovil who have since been relegated to the National League.
  22. Bolton Wanderers - Season 4 - Part 4 Positives for March were that we went undefeated and beat a good Brentford side. Negatives were that we didn't score more than one goal in each game and conceding an 89th minute equaliser against Wigan was tough. In April we fell to defeats against Sheff Utd and Fulham, but continued the narrative that ran deep throughout this season, comfortably beating three teams that would go on to finish below us. Rogers got three in three, in these important fixtures. We ended the season with a battling draw against Burnley. I was particularly pleased with this result as our season could be considered over whereas Burnley were fighting for automatic promotion, however we were resilient to the end. The draw meant Burnley finished 3rd and missed out on promotion to the Premier League, as Leeds went on to win the Playoffs. We finished 14th, which I was very pleased with as at the beginning of the season I genuinely thought we would be involved in a relegation battle that would likely see me sacked. We were only four points off 9th place in the end, which tells me if we had an in-form marksman we could have finished even higher. We got 52 goals, spread across the team, which isn't too bad - but when you consider the joint top goalscorers with 6 goals were Wallem, Mbenza and Rogers, it's clear that we were lacking up top. Perhaps if Rogers was with us all season that might have made a difference. Garner was once again our standout player, shining in his new role as a defensive deep lying playmaker. Brownhill was our most creative player with 7 assists and 4 goals. Right back Laird was only with us for 16 games, therefore I was very impressed he also provided 7 assists. Bella-Kotchap and Lockyer formed a strong partnership at the back, but the German Bella-Kotchap was the star of the pair. Boon and Doyle-Hayes developed well over the season, helped by an increase in playing time. Conversely Brown really under-performed, only delivering 3 goals despite being involved all season. As he is an academy graduate who continues to have potential, I intend to persevere with him, in the hope he comes good. Season 5 Preview I have signed a new two year contract, so the Bolton adventure seems to be rolling on. Due to the club's troublesome financial position, caused primarily by the large directors loan that drains the club on a monthly basis, I have been fixing the squad with many short term solutions. This has included bringing in some players of advancing years on short term contracts. These signings have added valuable experience but just briefly cover over gaps in the squad. Due to my net player sells totaling £39m over the past four seasons and our relative success on the pitch, the club is in a much healthier financial position, setting me up for a summer where I can look to build on my squad. Karim Benzema, Jamie Vardy and Joe Hart are all retiring and I plan to release squad players Remi Streete and Matty Palmer. Goalkeeper Marko Maric had a stellar season, including 17 league clean sheets, but he refused to entertain signing a new contract in his final year and agreed a deal to join German side Wiesbaden at the end of his contract. I won't be looking to renew the loans of Stuparevic, Burke and Ajayi, plus Borges, who did well, is joining Bordeaux on a free and therefore won't be available. With all these departures there is lots of scope to bring in new faces, and finally we have a transfer budget (£2m) with which I am positive I can use economically to improve the side. I have an early piece of good news on the transfer front; Man United have allowed me to take Garner on loan for the fifth season in a row. I really thought this would be the year they finally said no to me. He has a new £27.5k per week contract (of which we continue to pay 0%) and is valued at £17.75m. I would consider looking to bring Laird and Rogers back on loan to the club, but I intend to look for permanent recruits in the first instance. The likes of Bella-Kotchap, Boon, Brownhill, Garner, Wallem, Brown and Doyle-Hayes are a talented and youthful core group. If I can add some touches of class, and primarily a goalscorer, hopefully we can push on for a top half finish next season.
  23. Thanks @Jogo Bonito. Only paying £15k of his £25k wages so not too bad! Luckily we had a bit of room in the wage budget after all the player sales. Interesting development; got offered the Crystal Palace job. They are 18th in the Premier League but only one point off their nearest rival, so survival is very achievable. If this was real life any manager would jump at the opportunity but I’m going to carry on with the Bolton adventure (actually, challenge may be the more accurate descriptor 😂).
  24. Bolton Wanders - Season 4 - Part 3 "Beat the teams around you. Those are the important games." The 2022 World Cup concluded in Qatar with France the victors, meaning that the English domestic leagues could once again resume. England had surprisingly failed to qualify, finishing behind Poland in their qualifying group, making the calendar disruption slightly less palatable for the English FA. We'd had a good mid-season mini pre-season so confidence was high going back into competitive fixtures. Our match against Sunderland, however, could have so nearly been one of the most frustrating matches I've ever been involved in. We absolutely dominated the Black Cats, they got players sent off in the 47th and 69th minutes and Wallem scored an amazing goal from 30 yards out that was ruled out due to another one of my players, who was not in their 'keepers line of site, being adjudged offside. It was looking like we weren't going to capitalise on all of these factors, but eventually Brownhill rose to the occasion and scored the late winner. We then beat Rotherham with an even later winner, a 97th minute penalty scored by the man you would always want on penalties in these scenarios, Jamie Vardy. I almost felt sorry for Rotherham, but that quickly passed. We continued our run of form with a victory against Middlesborough. This trio of home wins against teams around us in the table are exactly the sorts of results we needed to be securing. Defeats against Leicester and away at Burnley were expected and therefore not particularly troubling. Particularly as we didn't allow this to then effect us when playing Bristol Rovers, picking up the win in an end-to-end clash against the relegation candidates. If the game against Sunderland was nearly the most frustrating match I've managed, then the defeat in the derby to Blackburn may just take the title. We were 2-0 up and seemingly cruising to victory, when they scored in the 85th, 89th and 92nd minutes. I was speechless. We followed this up by labouring to a victory over Port Vale in the FA Cup which required penalties. Because the team played 120 minutes only a few days earlier, I had to play a second string side against Oxford. A scoreless draw felt like an okay result after left back Marlon get sent off early in the second half. We ended the month with a great victory at Pride Park against Derby. Transfers Out The sale of José Rodriguez is, in my opinion, a delightful piece of business. Signed on a free in the summer, made four substitute appearances and then sold on for £2.3m. This is one of the reasons I value the free transfer market so highly. The other notable sale caught me somewhat by surprise. West Ham bid £1.5m for 17 year old forward Nathan Ashby, who I must admit I hadn't taken much notice of in my reserves, but after closer inspection he had great potential. I offered him out for £2m and suddenly five Premier League sides put bids in for him. This created a bidding war that I negotiated up and up until I could get the best price possible for him. Ashby chose Bournemouth who at that point were having a terrific season, sitting 3rd in the Premier League. I would love to be in a position to develop the youth that my academy is producing, but in our financial position I always have to think of the greater good. Net sales for the season now totaled £24m. Transfers In: You may recall in the summer I asked the board to negotiate the loan signing of winger Lemperle; well it turns out they only bothered to do this for half the season as on Jan 1st I was informed he had departed. This left me with a gap on the wings. Wide play is essential to my formation so I decided to replace him with two signings. Goncalo Borges on loan from Porto and Oli Burke on loan from West Brom. Finances continue to be tight and I had space for more loanees, so the short term market seemed attractive. I wanted some athleticism at right back so I looked to the United academy that has served me so well in this career to date, bringing in Ethan Laird. Finally, to combat our lack of goals, I brought in Morgan Rogers. Hopefully he can shine where others have failed before. There was, however, one more signing made just after the transfer window closed. Global superstar Karim Benzema was lured to the University of Bolton Stadium. Benzema had been available since the summer when his PSG contract expired but it had taken seven months out in the cold for him to even consider a club like Bolton. I only have him for six months until he retires but his physical and mental stats are phenomenal so I couldn't not bring him in for the final chapter of his playing career. Rogers made an instant impression, scoring in a draw against Reading. It was the next game though, that drew big intrigue as we faced top-of-the-table Swansea in what was to be Benzema's debut. The game lived up to it's hype. It was 0-0 at 65 minutes so I decided that this was the right time to bring on my star signing. Benzema instantly made an impact scoring to take the lead. Swansea equalised, but the presence of the veteran striker clearly inspired the team as they went on to bag three late goals that sealed a resounding win. Defeats against Forest, West Brom and Leeds were expected, but of course disappointing. What was pleasing though was our wins against Barnsley and Sunderland. Wallem was returning from injury after a four week lay off and returned with a superb hat-trick against Barnsley. Doyle-Hayes was the star of the show against Sunderland. We exited the FA Cup in a close game against Birmingham in which Benzema got his third of the season. We sit 15th with 10 games of the season to go. I'd have snapped your hand off for that at the beginning of the season. Mathematically it looks like we will finish somewhere close to where we are, although hopefully we can end on a positive run after a slight recent dip in form. Victories against our nearest rivals have been the key to success this season.
  25. Great start to the season @Jogo Bonito, although I wouldn't expect anything less. Particularly impressive considering how frugal you were with your large budget. I'm actually considering taking Morgan Rogers on loan, to try and tackle my goal scoring issue.
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