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Dong21

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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 👏🏼
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 😂).
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Lots of interesting updates on here recently, clearly lock-down combined with the Easter Bank Holiday weekend is a recipe for good FM career progress! So a brief update from The University of Bolton Stadium (well... brief for my standards!) Bolton Wanderers - Season 4 - Part 2 When I last reported on our progress we were in the relegation zone and things weren't looking all that positive for The Trotters. I did, however, have some hope as we had switched to a 4-1-2-2-1 (wide) formation in the final game of my last update and we had played very well in a drawing effort against Fulham. We began the month with a trip to the King Power Stadium, a fixture I had identified before the season started as likely our toughest fixture of the campaign. They still have Youri Tielemans! We lost the game, but played pretty well and I even went away feeling a little hard done by that we didn't get a draw, as their goal was a soft set piece. The rest of the fixtures in September were against teams also in the bottom half of the table, so I knew this would be make or break for us. We began against QPR and put in a shift to get a well deserved victory. The winner was scored by MOTM Doyle-Hayes who is operating in a box-to-box midfielder role alongside Brownhill. With Garner sitting behind them as a deep lying playmaker with defensive duties, the team was looking well balanced. I was feeling fairly confident of securing a win leading up to our next game against Hull, but could not predict our margin of victory. 5-0 is my biggest result in four seasons as Bolton manager, in a competitive fixture. Lemperle was the star of this result, playing on the right wing and cutting in to score a hat-trick on his left. Stuparevic ended a barren spell to score, and even now-squad player Streete got on the scoresheet, coming on late in the game to cover at right back, a position not even familiar to him. Next up were Middlesborough. We looked comfortable at 1-0 until an 82nd minute red card for Brownhill made things nervy. We hung on and secured the three points. Finally, Bristol Rovers. This fixture had banana skin written all over it, but thanks to an own goal (the ball was going in anyway) we secured a victory here too. What a difference a month makes. I'd gone from contemplating starting a new save to falling back in love with my squad again. October was a tougher month, but I still have maintained a lot of the positivity from the month before. We lost away at Sheffield United, a victory firmly in the category of 'games we expect to lose'. We got back to winning ways though with a victory over Birmingham. 1-0 has quickly become our favourite scoreline and Mbenza had developed into a key player after a slow start. These narrow victories highlight that we are playing well but struggling to score goals. We create tonnes of chances each game but my forwards aren't putting them away. We didn't win in our last five games before the pre-World Cup winter break, which sounds bad on paper but we actually secured some good results. Score draws away at Elland Road and Hillsborough are good results in anyone's books. Barnsley were 5th and Wigan were 3rd when I took them on, so both were having great seasons and performing well above expectations. These were extremely frustrating fixtures as we were much the better side in both games but only came away with 0-0 draws. We had far more shots and possession, for instance in the Wigan game we had 22 shots and 60% possession. At the half-way point of the season we sit 16th in the league, not too far off the board's expected finish of mid-table and surpassing the medias expectation of a relegation dog fight. We play good football and on the whole have decent players, the big issue though is a lack of goal scoring. Stuparevic bagged 17 league goals last season but has only mustered two this season. Brown has been presented more chances to play this season than the one prior, but has only repaid my faith with one goal. Our top scorer at this point is Mbenza, who only has four. If one of my forwards can kick into gear and start scoring then we could see ourselves in a secure league position. Star performers have been my midfield trio of Garner, Brownhill and Doyle-Hayes. I wish I had moved Garner into his deeper position in my prior three seasons managing him, as this appears to be where he is most effective, with space to spray the ball around the pitch. I constructed a mini pre-season prior to the league restarting on Boxing Day after the 2022 World Cup to keep the players match fit and build up some form. I was worried that I had picked too strong an opposition when we were pumped 4-0 by Southampton, but my faith was restored when we beat another Premier League side, Watford, 3-1 a few days later. Next up was a set of Ligue 1 opposition; Guingamp and Montpellier. I thought these were going to be tough games but they turned out to both be very comfortable victories. We finished the period with two morale boosting wins over non-league opposition. I feel like we are raring to go, so fingers crossed for a strong second half of the Championship season.
  11. Great season that Jogo, finished it off in style! I have had a bad experience with Brewster, he underperformed whilst on loan in my first season. But his stats and potential are undeniable. In my save he is established in the first team for Liverpool... When you are used to lower league management it always seems a tough decision whether to spend large sums of money! Whatever you decide, I look forward to hearing about your summer business in your next update.
  12. Bolton Wanderers - Season 4 - Part 1 Asset Stripping for Survival As I alluded to in my last post, the financial situation at Bolton was pretty dire going into the fourth season, our second in the Championship. This wasn't down to any mismanagement on my part, it was due to large debts sitting on the club's balance sheet. In fact I have done a lot to keep the club in the black, cashing in on large sell-on clauses in season one and selling Darcy for £8m in season two. Although we made player sales in season three and only brought in free transfers and loan players, there was no significant incoming of cash which I believe is why my budget was dashed so drastically. Our wage budget was decreased from £185k per week to £155k, when we were spending £185k per week, and the amount of funds I would retain from player sales was decreased to just 5%. I was placed in a very difficult position and I must admit I was very tempted to quit and start again with a new team. I do like a challenge, and a long-term save, so I thought I would at least give it a try. This season is the year of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar which means the season is paused for the whole month of November and the majority of December. The impact on me is that the season starts earlier and as such the transfer window finished early on the 21st July, meaning I didn't have much time to try and raise funds and enhance the squad. I began by reviewing the squad and considering who I could dispose of. Atsu under performed last season, Clauss had been a liability for me at times, Burton had potential but in a position I was stocked in and Wright had come back half the player he was before his injury - as such I deemed all surplus to requirements and selling them raised me just over £4m. I only received a minuscule fraction of these funds, but the sales freed up some of the wage bill to make two signings. I was absolutely delighted, and quite frankly shocked, to be able to recruit Germany under-21s international Armel Bella-Kotchap. Lots of other teams were interested, but for some reason he chose Bolton. To put things into perspective as to how much of a coup this was, his transfer value was set to £13.75m on arrival. Bella-Kotchap's signing was important as Streete had also come back a poorer player after being ruled out for the entire second half of last season. My second signing was striker Ben Brereton from local rivals Blackburn. His goalscoring record for them has been poor but he has good attributes and is young, so I am hoping I can mould him into a player. Not shown on the transfer page (I have never understood why this is the case on FM) are the loan renewals of James Garner and Filip Stuparevic, two of my key players last season. I chose not to renew the loans of Brandon Williams, Boubacar Fofana and Ronan Darcy. Williams was the hardest decision as, like Garner, I have had him for three seasons already, but with Boon and Marlon at the club I couldn't really justify a third left back. Darcy is a local lad with talent but I thought it was time I gave Harrop a chance in the team, plus his wages were expensive. I thought I would bulk up my squad with loanees with 0% wages covered, but basically no clubs would allow me this. Very disappointing in our quest for success on a budget. The only player I was able to secure on these terms was QPR centre-back Semi Ajayi. The benefit of his signing is this gives me the flexibility to play 5-2-1-2 with Ajayi, Bella-Kotchap and Lockyer at the back. Our primary tactic was still to be 4-2-3-1 however and with the departures of Atsu, Fofana and King-Harmes (on loan) I quickly realised we were very short on wingers. I asked the board to intervene and negotiate the loan signing of Koln inverted winger Tim Lemperle and was surprised when they actually complied and covered his wages. When identifying players who were surplus to requirements at the beginning of the window I also identified Conor Hourihane. Hourihane is a very good player who had had a good season for me but with his questionable injury record his high transfer value caught my eye. I was also aware I had some good young centre-mids who could benefit from an opportunity. I offered Hourihane out for his value and was pleased when lots of bids came in. Throughout the window, however, I agreed fees with clubs multiple times only for him to reject his personal terms. A stressful experience. In the end I had to accept bids from English sides, something I had been resisting doing throughout the window, which meant he finally left on deadline day. As usual I had a large number of trialists at the club throughout pre-season with the hope that I would be able to offer some of them contracts when some money was raised. On the eve of the season commencing I hadn't been able to raise enough funds and we were looking likely to go into the new season with gaping holes in my squad. For example we had no right backs at the club after the sale of Clauss and the release of George Williams. I decided to assess my squad again and see if there was anyone else I could sell. Throughout the window I had bids for the young Barca-bred forward Fernandez, the highest being £4.5m from WBA. I had been rejecting these offers due to his high potential, but with the interest of the 'greater good' I decided to contemplate selling him. I offered him out for the release fee he had in his contract £11.75m. Southampton came in with a bid of £9.75m and the board accepted it - I was tempted to be annoyed about their meddling, but I would definitely have accepted it anyway. The one saving grace was that the deal included Gerard Fernandez coming back on loan for the season, increasing my options. This large amount of funds meant I finally had some leg-room to sign up some of the trialists I had been hoping to sign. Experienced right-back Matt Lowton, box-to-box midfielder Josh Brownhill and inside forward Isaac Mbenza all joined the club on deadline day. After the transfer window had closed I noticed that relegated Leicester had released Jamie Vardy, who had already declared he would be retiring at the end of the season. His pace had depleted but his mental and technical stats are still exemplary. I entered into negotiations and was delighted to find he was interested in an 'impact sub' role and only wanted minimal wages, so I snapped him up. His experience should help my otherwise youthful squad. The final signing was utility midfield option Jose Rodriguez, a player with pedigree as he had passed through the Real Madrid academy. Pre-season started extremely early and went well, primarily due to the legion of trialists at the club that I was running my eye over. We started the season well, beating Oxford with both of my strikers getting on the scoresheet. The start to the season went downhill from there however, as we fell to defeats against Blackburn, Reading and Derby. I could tell this season was going to be a real struggle. August begun with three more league defeats. They were all close games in which we applied our new 5-2-1-2 formation, although it didn't stop us from conceding as hoped. Swansea and Brentford had been relegated from the Premier League and Forest pushed for promotion the prior season so these were always going to be tough fixtures. We picked up an important win against fellow strugglers Portsmouth - a win that gave me slight hope we could turn this season into something. It was a shame to go out of the EFL Cup but survival in the Championship is the clear number one priority, and we followed that game up with a 1-1 draw against Fulham, a game in which we were the better team. After the opening two months of the season we find ourselves in the relegation zone. The board have inexplicably demanded a mid-table finish, despite crippling us financially, so questions will soon be asked of me if I don't start to steer us up the table soon. I feel like the game recently has been Administrator 2020 rather than Football Manager 2020 as the focus has purely been on asset stripping. Now that is out of the way, the focus turns to trying to find a tactic that will see our team of underdogs succeed this season. We switched to a 4-1-2-2-1 against Fulham and played well, so maybe that will be the solution. Our main issue is a complete lack of goals with Wallem and Mbenza the only players to make it to two goals so far. I may get sacked as this continues but I can hold my head high that I have transformed the clubs balance sheet over the last two months. We are now £18m in the black and club debts stand at £22.5m, which appears manageable at current. Hopefully results improve and I can stay in the role, to make the efforts worth it.
  13. Congrats on your promotion @Jogo Bonito - sounds like a cracking season! Must admit I can’t help but feel jealous when I see your transfer budget for your return to the Championship! 😂 Back-to-back promotions has to be the aim? Any interesting sides in line to be relegated from the Premier League, that might challenge you?
  14. The board have dropped the wage budget from £185k per week to £155k per week. They’ve also dropped the percentage I retain from transfers down to 5%. I tried to protest but they’ve said that is non-negotiable. So I’m not sure at this point if I’m going to be able to rebuild...
  15. I think you might be right! Regroup, rebuild and let’s go. Congrats on your start at the Hawthorns, looks like you’re flying. Hope you can keep it up.
  16. Bolton Wanderers - Season 3 - Part 4 Season Review - Underwhelming Ending After a red hot January in which we won six out of seven games, not even the biggest pessimist could have predicted what would happen to our form next. February saw four out of six games end in defeat. It is hard to put a finger on why our form fell away so badly. The only tangible thing I can think of is the injury to centre-back Streete which ruled him out for the rest of the season. The one player who had the right to feel hard done by was striker Stuperavic who hit good form amongst the losses, bagging four goals in four games. We exited the FA Cup in the 5th Round as our out of form players came up against promotion chasing Fulham. Fans finally had something to cheer about when we picked ourselves and won the derby against rivals Blackburn, with the goal even being scored by local lad Ronan Darcy. We drew our other, slightly less significant, derby against Wigan. This was a battling draw as they were the better side. It was disappointing to get thrashed by Sheff Weds, a team I dislike strongly after they pipped us to a few signings in the summer. We ended the month with a draw against Bristol City. The goal was scored by Christian Atsu, a player who has under-performed all season and who I will be looking to sell in the next transfer window. I decided to opt for a tactical switch up going into the last seven games of the season to see if this could lead to an uptick in form. I switched to a back five and then switched, depending on opposition, between a midfield two or three, with either a lone striker or two strikers behind an attacking mid. Clauss repeatedly let me down at RB so I switched Brandon Williams over to the right and brought Brazilian Marlon in at LB. My other LB Boon has the capability to play CB too, so he joined Wright and Lockyer in the back three. We began April with a 2-0 win against Preston, we dominated our opposition but it was hard to tell if the new formation was a success as the two goals were headers from corners converted by centre-back Lockyer. Likewise the draw against Reading that followed was secured thanks to an own goal. The most impressive of our results in the month was actually a 0-0 as it was a very solid defensive performance against a good Burnley side, especially as Clauss (who I'd given one final chance to) had got sent off after 18 minutes. Our win against already relegated Millwall meant that Stuparevic didn't have two barren months. The two defeats in the month came against two sides who made it to the Championship Playoff Final. Cardiff were the team who went on to get promoted. The fact neither of them thrashed us can probably be classed as a positive. We finished 15th with 61 points. This was well above media and board expectations but still feels like a disappointment as we had been doing so well at the end of my last update and I had thought to myself that top half was attainable. There is lots of scope for improvement next season, so I suppose this gives life to the save. My most important player was Stuparevic, he got the highest average rating for a player who played more than 30 games this season for us, and he delivered an impressive 17 goals. The next highest goalscorer after Stuparevic was Wallem with 8, which perhaps illustrates one of our issues, a lack of goalscorers. The top assistors were Harrop and Fofana with 6 apiece. Harrop didn't play all that often, so that was a decent return for him. James Garner had an average rating of 7 all season, the best return after Stupaervic, so he was a strong contender to win player of the season for us once again. He didn't return any goals, and only got two assists, so perhaps that's an area of his game he needs to work on. I'm already looking forward to getting to work on the squad and giving it a shot at finishing higher up next season. Leicester got relegated, along with Swansea and Brentford, so there are going to be some tough opposition in the division - but I like a challenge.
  17. Yeah I thought this Forum would be swamped in updates, all things considered. I’ve gone on a run of defeats with Bolton which means mid-table is now the best I can hope for. Just need to find the motivation to finish the season, get to the transfer window and then give it another crack.
  18. Love reading about a squad rebuild @Jogo Bonito - Sounds like a fun challenge! I had Leko in League One with Charlton on my long-term FM19 career and I recall he was terrific. The likes of Pereira, Phillips and Gayle should also thrive at this level.
  19. That is a terrific season @Jogo Bonito as that Reading side certainly doesn't appear to be up to that much on paper! Obviously must be disappointing to not have won the league when it ended up in your hands, but promotion is a huge achievement. Knowing you, as I feel I do after all these years(!), I know that promotion to the Premier League means moving on to pastures new - looking forward to hearing where you end up next.
  20. Bolton Wanderers - Season 3 - Part 3 Achieving Aspirations We had ended October with a win, so it was pleasing to build upon that with a victory against the notoriously tough Burnley. We then lost to the second best team in the league, this season, Stoke and then suffered our biggest loss of the season, a 3-1 defeat away at Derby. We rounded out the month with a huge victory in the Derby against Blackburn. Two wins and two losses out of four was the sort of form that would help us achieve our mid-table aspirations. I was particularly pleased that Eddie Brown extended his run of goal scoring to three is a row, when we drew with Wigan at the start of December. We had good wins against strugglers Middlesbrough and Millwall, but were disappointing over the Christmas period. Stuperavic continued to step up and get the goals when it mattered. January really couldn't have gone much better, with six wins out of seven. Two of these victories came in the FA Cup, meaning we face Fulham in the 5th Round in March. What made these wins even more impressive was that they came against top quality opposition. Crystal Palace were 2nd when we beat them, Fulham were 5th and West Brom were 3rd. Additionally, these were not scrappy wins, they were well deserved. This is well illustrated by the fact Palmer's goal against West Brom won goal of the month, and one of Fofana's against Oxford came 2nd in the competition. It was a shame to lose to Sheff Utd at the end of the month, but you can't win them all. One disappointment was that CB Remi Streete was ruled out for 7 months in mid-January, however this created an opportunity for Bailey Wright to come back into the team and he has performed well so far. Incoming and outgoings were surprisingly minimal for me. I had agreed to sell my goalkeeper Maric to Cincinnati for £1.5m (the money was too good to turn down), which would have forced me to do some wheeling and dealing, however he rejected the terms they offered. I sold squad players Dominic Samuel (Luton, £160k) and Chris Fuhrich (Hammerby, £275k) as they simply weren't getting any game time. The only significant arrival was left back Marlon on a free transfer from Fluminense. The deal for the attacking full back was struck back in November and he arrived on January 1st when his contract expired. I am already well stocked at left back with Williams and Boon, however I don't expect United will let me keep Williams forever, so I am thinking long-term. In the meantime, Williams can also play RB and Boon can play CB, so I have a lot of options. The only other transfer was driven by necessity but moreso due to novelty factor. After selling striker Samuel, other forwards Brown and Fernandez got injuries that would rule them out for a couple of weeks, meaning Stuperavic was my only fit striker. I searched around cheap options and decided to bring in the legendary Andre-Pierre Gignac on a 5 month contract. He plans to retire later in the year and demanded little wages, so it seemed a no brainer to add depth to the squad. With effectively two thirds of the season complete, we are exceeding expectations by sitting 11th in the Championship table. We are only 5 points away from the Playoffs (although even I think that would be a stretch to far) and equally satisfyingly we are 16 points ahead of the relegation zone. I recently had a news item that stated we had fallen to 23rd in the league for wage expenditure, to put into context the financial situation I am operating in. Interestingly the club information page states that we are in the midst of a board takeover, so I will be interested to see how that pans out.
  21. Phenomenal efforts to go from expectations of relegation to topping the table @goonergez - good luck for the final stage of the campaign. As an aside in my career, I've just had an offer to interview to join the legion of managers who are taking on Brentford. They are 18th in the Premier League, but with only 15 games played and them only being 4 points off 11th, I can see a lot of potential for success. It is tempting but, that said, I am a long-term save man and there is still a lot of work to be done with Bolton so I will be saying "thanks, but no thanks" to Mr Benham.
  22. Bolton Wanderers - Season 3 - Part 2 Promising Beginnings In my recent update I detailed the changes I've made to the squad to equip us for life in the Championship, now it's time to let you know how we've got on so far. When the fixtures were announced I grimaced as the teams we had drawn to start the season looked particularly tough. I therefore was delighted with the strong start that we made to the campaign. These early results were more about grit and determination as we switched our approach to focus more on the counter attack. The resolute nature of my side can be seen by the fact we scored an 84th minute winner, two 87th minute winners and two 89th minute winners! It should be noted that these were not snatch and grabs though, as we had over 60% possession in every game. The narrow defeat to Crystal Palace was not disheartening as they are strong favourites to win the league and in fact after 15 games they remain undefeated. I was annoyed that we lost to minnows Bristol Rovers, but they actually sit 6th after three months, so perhaps I shouldn't be so disheartened. Wright got injured for six weeks on the eve of the season, so that answered the question for me as to which centre-back would make way for Lockyer. Stuparevic was the star of this early stage of the season as he was particularly clinical in front of goal. September was an altogether different month, as after 6 wins out of 8 to start the season, we failed to pick up even one this time around. Former summer trialist Schneiderlin got sent off against us when playing Sheff Weds, however we still weren't able to capitalise to turn the draw into a win. A thrashing at Old Trafford was demoralising but not exactly unexpected, they were just on another level (Solskjaer still there, somewhat surprisingly!). The biggest positive from the month was that young Eddie Brown got his first two Championship goals. Hopefully many more to come. After a draw with Oxford I decided to use the international break to boost morale with a match against an inferior side. We pumped 10 past local Ashton Town, but it didn't have exactly the desired effect as we went on to lose three times in a row. The three defeats were narrow though and against good opposition. In fact one big positive so far is that we haven't been turned over by anyone yet. I would of course, prefer points than positives! We lost Hourihane to a hip injury prior to the Nottm Forest match and he was ruled out for two months. He had a long-term injury in each of the two prior seasons, so perhaps I should have expected it. I always try and look at these things from a positive perspective as it creates playing opportunities for the younger players in my squad. The month ended on a high with a convincing 3-0 win against Hull. Stuparevic got a hat-trick, his first goals in 7 games. Hopefully the win gives us some momentum to push onwards. So in a season that already has had highs and lows, we are currently sitting mid-table. This was my objective but their feels like there is room for improvement. We shall see how the season pans out. Stuparevic and Streete have been the star-men to date, along with Hourihane prior to his injury.
  23. Thanks @oakesypvfc! I like the look of the recruits you've brought in at Port Vale. N'Lundulu should bag a good amount of goals at that level. @warlock I still can't believe United allowed me to take the pair, and that they wanted to come, let alone for three seasons! Always interesting to see different managers approaches with the same club @nextqprmanager - sounds like you are doing great if you're already in the Playoffs. With regards to player sales, I always have one eye on the potential of a resale when signing a player on a free transfer and it's worked out quite well so far.
  24. Bolton Wanderers - Season 3 - Part 1 Season Preview - EFL Championship After gaining promotion from League One to the Championship through the Playoffs, the boards expectation was that we push on and avoid relegation. Expectations are fairly low, with the grand aspiration of becoming an established Championship side in five years being the peak of the board's ambition. This is due to the club's poor financial position, with the club's overall objective being that we work within our means. Rightly so, given the predicament they found themselves in real life. Over the last two seasons I have improved the club's financial position through player sales, cashing in on transfer clauses and through on the pitch success. There is though, still a lot of work to be done, with over £27m of debt still attached to the club. I, as usually is the case, have loftier ambitions that those the club set for me and would like to aim for mid-table in our first season back at this level. We achieved promotion a year after narrowly avoiding relegation, so I guess anything is possible! I knew that this would require a lot of wheeling and dealing, but that is the element that I enjoy most about the game. Transfers Out The budget was very low and so I knew that I needed to make player sales to fund arrivals. To put it in context, even after all of the above player sales, which I converted into wages to fund free transfer signings, we still had the third lowest wage bill in the division. Andy King was one of my key performers last season, so it was a tough call whether to sell him. But he'd passed thirty, had a good level of interest from the MLS with a good value, so after an assessment of the free agents available, I decided to cash in. My philosophy this save has been all about the greater good and I knew I could strengthen in multiple positions with the funds. Rhodes, Gallagher and Costa were all players who had under-performed, so I was happy to see the back of them. 23 players well also sent out on loan, with the most notable being Robbie Burton. Transfers In My first priority was to renew the loans of the loanees who had starred for me in the promotion campaign. To my delight, I was able to renew Brandon Williams and Filip Stuparevic before the last season had even ended. However, I was left gutted when Man Utd said they wanted to give first team opportunities to James Garner. I waited a while and went back to them after he had left the club, and to my surprise they were happy to let him go. Garner and Williams will now have been with me for three seasons and are a big part of the identity of this team. I took a vast number of free agents on trial so I could quickly assess their ability and work out their wage demands. I find it to be a fine art balancing when you start contract discussions in relation to when funds are coming in from sales - start too soon and you could blow it. There was lots of frustration, with some players who had spent all of pre-season with me going elsewhere at the last minute. For example, I've developed a particular dislike for Sheff Weds after they snatched Morgan Schneiderlin and Jordan Hugill from me at the last minute! Goalkeepers I was pleased with my 'keepers going into the season as Maric had been a wall for me the prior year and Matthews was a very capable understudy. Matthews had been making noise about wanting to leave but he declared himself happy to stay in the summer, making my life simpler. I brought in Joe Hart as my third choice shot-stopper after learning he only wanted £1.8k per week. A bargain, I thought, for a man of his experience and with his leadership qualities. Defenders After renewing Williams, I was comfortable with my options at full back going into the season. Clauss and G Williams are both solid options and Boon has great potential. The major addition in the centre was Welsh international Tom Lockyer who arrived from Charlton. It felt harsh on Wright and Streete who both had good seasons, but you can't turn down an opportunity to improve. Midfield was the area of the team that saw the most change. I see the big difference between League One and the Championship as being pace and creativity. It stands to reason that we are going to get less chances in games, so we needed better quality players providing these to our strikers. The replacement for King was Conor Hourihane, a player of great quality but perhaps with a questionable fitness record. I wanted some young talents to challenge for the centre midfield berths, having relied on loanees for back-up last season, so I was delighted to be able to secure young Eric Junior Dina Ebimbe from Havre AC and Jake Doyle-Hayes from Aston Villa, both with good potential. The wings were our biggest weakness last season. I am now full of optimism after pulling off a coup to sign Christian Atsu. I also recruited wingers Diemerdi Ndongala on a free from Genk and Boubacar Fofana on loan from Lyon. Teaming this with a finally fully fit Fuhrich and the ever improving talents Wallem and King-Harmes, I now have a level of depth on the flanks I have not enjoyed at this club before. Some of you may recall that I sold wonderkid Ronan Darcy to Watford for £8m, rising to £10m. So when I saw him on the loan list, it was an opportunity too good to refuse. I am having to cover his £8.5k per week wages, but hopefully he turns out to be worth it. I had been pursuing former Preston and Man United centre attacking mid Josh Harrop at the same time as I was Darcy, so when the Darcy deal was agreed I maybe should have maybe stepped away, as I then had two attacking mids at the club (Ahmedi being the other). But with Harrop being English, young and with a high potential, the possibility to sell him on for a big profit appealed too much and so I finalised his transfer too. Forwards I decided in pre-season that I would be sticking with my 4-2-3-1 formation, so I didn't need a great number of forwards going into the season. The plan is for Stuperavic to be my main man with local lad Brown as his understudy. I came across the teenager Gerard Fernandez who had been released by Barcelona. He was being chased by over 30 clubs, so I was gobsmacked when he chose Bolton as his new home. Hopefully he can live up to his potential, in a tough league. Pre-season Results in pre-season were pleasing with a draw against Premier League side Southampton encouraging (not being trounced by City can also be considered a success!). The main objective, of course, is to build fitness, team cohesion and test out a number of trialists. Bring on the new season!
  25. Great season preview @goonergez - I always like the detailed posts. Dulwich are a side I was keeping an eye on this season after attending their FA Cup tie against Carlisle earlier this season. Good luck for the campaign ahead!
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