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Dong21

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  1. Haven’t had a chance to play any FM or even visit this Forum for over a month as life has been getting in the way. Had a big catch up yesterday on all the posts I have missed recently and really enjoyed hearing about your careers. With social distancing being encouraged in these times of COVID-19 I can see myself having more time to get back into FM. Time to dust off my Bolton save. Hopefully an update on start to life in the Championship coming soon!
  2. Bolton Wanderers - Season 2 - Part 4 Season Update: Upwards and Onwards Going into the final months of the season, the Playoffs looked likely (but not guaranteed), however automatic promotion seemed unattainable. The goal, therefore, was to finish the season in as best form as possible to give us momentum if our participation in the Playoffs was confirmed. Things started poorly, with two disappointing draws. We were much the better team against MK Dons but conceded late on to throw away the three points. By comparison the Gills outplayed us and the draw was a fair result in the end. Business picked up though, and we secured three wins in four games, all of which featured goals from striker Stuparevic, who found form at just the right time. The loss to Barnsley was a frustrating one as we had 65% possession but lost to a long distance direct free kick scored by Cauley Woodrow, which at this point was his 34th goal of the season. Woodburn went off injured against Barnsley which presented an opportunity in the inside forward position on the left-hand side - I played 20 year old Conrad Wallem and he put in a MOTM performance and got on the scoresheet. Wallem has great potential but has been perennially injured, I hoped this could be the kick start his career required. There was little pressure on the final day of the season as we would finish 4th in the League, whatever our result. At the end of my last update I stated that I didn't think I would be able to catch Barnsley or Sheff Wed at the top of the table, it was therefore somewhat of a big shock to me when it turned out to be Bristol Rovers who won the league! The Gas won every single one of their last eight games, including victories over Barnsley and Lincoln. Barnsley, by comparison lost four of their last eight and fell out of the Playoffs. Considering we were hoping to finish mid-table, I was absolutely delighted to finish 4th in the League. The Playoffs awaited and although I was hopeful to go up, it certainly wasn't a given. Wallem was lacking match fitness going into the first leg of the League One Playoff Semi Finals so I decided to play Eddie Brown in the left wing inside forward role - this tactical decision paid dividends as it was young Brown who stepped up to score the winner. I brought Wallem back in to the team for the second leg and he put on a wonderful performance, getting an assist and scoring twice. This meant we won 4-0 on aggregate, much more comprehensive than I'd have expected. There was a fourteen day wait until the Playoff Final, in which we'd play Lincoln who knocked out Barnsley who had well and truly lost their way. I did something I had done in the past, and see as somewhat of a positive superstition, I arranged a friendly against a lower league opponent to maintain confidence and fitness. We thrashed Bamber Bridge with Wallem, Stuparevic and Brown maintaining their runs of form. We won the Playoff Final in a way that if we'd have lost I'd be still pulling my hair out now - a 121st minute penalty! That said, we had 73% possession and ten more shots on target than our opponents, so it wasn't like it was a robbery. Wallem only started seven games all season, but his three goals and four assists came just at the right time. The first thing I did after the Playoff win was renew his contract, partially to reward him and partially to ward off interest from other clubs. Reflecting back on the season, for me James Garner was once again my most important player, a metronome in the middle of the pitch. I was surprised to see Remi Streete win the fans' Player of the Season. Streete had a good season playing fifty times, but interestingly my staff would always suggest dropping him when I asked for selection advice and they even advocated not renewing his contract that was up at the end of the season. I have of course chosen to ignore that and have given him a new deal, albeit on lesser terms. I was proud to see Eddie Brown finish top scorer with 14 goals. Stuparevic got 12 goals and I think he would have likely have doubled that if I'd have had him for the entire season. Woodburn had a good season getting 11 goals and 8 assists. By comparison Jordan Rhodes was very underwhelming. It was another academy graduate who was the top assistor, with King-Harmes achieving 10 assists, even with limited game time. No player played more than my 'keeper Maric, starting 55 games and delivering 20 clean sheets. It would be remiss not to mention Bailey Wright and Brandon Williams who were ever present in front of him, as well as Streete. The right back position, by comparison was rotated throughout the season between Jonathan Clauss and George Williams. So up next is the Championship - an exciting but daunting prospect with so many huge clubs in the division. Our finances will continue to be a challenge, but I look forward to seeing what I can do and what additions I can make to the squad.
  3. @Jogo Bonito You wait ages for a Bolton Wanderers update and then two come at once Sorry to hear it didn't work out as you'd have hoped, but look forward to following where you end up next!
  4. Bolton Wanderers - Season 2 - Part 3 Season Update: The greater good Transfers Out Traditionally in long terms saves (which these lower league saves tend to become for me) I look to hang on to my high potential and home-grown players, shunning the much-discussed Moneyball approach in favour of the satisfaction I get from developing players over several seasons. This save is a bit different though, with Bolton's well publicised financial instability present in my thoughts I decided to think of the greater good and cash in on hot prospect Ronan Darcy. When I was able to negotiate Watford up to a bid of £8m rising to £10m, it seemed like a no brainer. I get the additional £2m after he makes 10 appearances for them and he has already made his debut, coming off the bench to see out a shock 2-1 victory over Chelsea - so I expect to see these funds roll in soon. Transfers In With the coffers bolstered from the Darcy sale, I thought I would treat myself to a few additions. £1m landed in my transfer budget, however I decided to be cautious and avoid spending big as long-term stability is my goal. I signed two AMs to replace the outgoing Darcy, perhaps highlighting the importance I placed on him! The first was Welsh teenager Brennan Johnson on loan from Forest, very much a like-for-like as he has very similar attributes and potential to that of Darcy, according to my scouts. The second was the more experienced Albanian Valon Ahmedi who arrived on a free from the Croatian first division. He can also play on the right wing and this versatility has already proven valuable. I have previously mentioned that the wings are a weakness in my squad, so I also brought in right winger Chris Fuhrich, who had great pedigree having been released by Borussia Dortmund. I saw an opportunity to bolster my striking options by signing the talented Filip Suparevic on loan from Watford and balanced the squad out by cancelling the loan of one of my previous signings Dan N'Lundulu and sending Vasco Costa out on loan. No more 'Cupsets' for this season as we fell to defeat against Championship side Cardiff, and I was kind of relieved as January was already looking hectic. I was delighted to see Eddie Brown's form continue on from November and December as he delivered five goals in five games, starting with a brace against Accrington. We took on our toughest test of the season during this period, visiting runaway league leaders Sheff Wed. I was very pleased to secure a draw, particularly as it came from academy graduate King-Harmes. We exited the Leasing.com Trophy, to little disappointment, but otherwise January was a really positive month. My new signings who joined late in the month had an instant impact. Fuhrich scored against Ipswich and Suparevic scored against Peterborough, from an Ahmedi assist. We were deservedly beaten by Rotherham at the start of February but this was followed by good performances against Charlton and Bristol Rovers. A big frustration was Fuhrich going off injured in the Charlton game as he had been in a rich vein of form. The spell of games that came after the Bristol fixture are the ones that have scuppered my hopes of taking an automatic promotion place. For some reason we were unable to score against three poor opposition sides and we dropped seven points. Form of both the team and striker Suparovic picked up at the end of the March and we seem to be on the right track. In the last game of the period Bradford were 2-0 up, before we came back to 2-2, then my left back Boon got send off and we still secured a draw - so I class this as a good battling performance that showed spirit. We have a game in hand after postponing our last fixture due to eight international call-ups. Hopefully we can win that and climb back to 3rd, the position we have occupied most frequently over the last three months. Barnsley and Sheff Wed seem too consistent so I think it would be very unlikely that my young side would be able to catch them. Finishing in the Play-offs would be an achievement I would be very pleased with, so here's hoping I can keep this up. Jimmy Garner has continued to be my best player, but the source of most joy has been the development of young winger King-Harmes who is now up to 8 assists for the season.
  5. Yeah Barnsley are flying on mine, although there not doing quite as well as Bristol City appear to be doing on yours! Looks like you're having a great season @10Sammo10, good work. Unfortunately I've had to cash in on Darcy - I've put the best interests of the club above my own as a Watford put together a deal that will rise to £10m for him. Searching for replacements now. Unlucky with the injury there mate @Jogo Bonito - Kodjia is a decent player though, so hopefully he will step up for you. Great to see Brown get a couple of goals in the Championship too!
  6. @Jogo Bonito Some great options there, I look forward to seeing which one you settle upon. Bolton Wanderers - Season 2 - Part 2 Season Update: The kids are alright After an August that exceeded expectations, things seemed to be going from strength-to-strength in the League as we commenced September with a 4-1 thrashing of Gillingham. Optimism turned to frustration though, as we then lost 1-0 to Sunderland despite having 64% possession and 9 shots on target. I thought this may have been 'one of those games', however the frustration grew as we dropped 5 points in three games, all due to injury time goals from our opposition. We were winning 2-1 against Accrington and Coventry before conceding in the 91st and 92nd minutes respectively, and were drawing with Fleetwood going into injury time and then conceded in the 93rd minute to lose the game. This lack of concentration could be attributed to the fact we had the second lowest average age of a squad in League One, at just 23.5 years old. There was one big highlight in September though, as we took another Premier League scalp by beating Norwich in the 3rd round of the Carabao Cup. Many of us agree that the Leasing.com Cup is somewhat of a waste of time, however our fixture against Blackpool in the tournament turned out to be quite pivotal. I had been playing a 4-4-2 formation up until that point, but I decided to use the Cup as an opportunity to experiment and switched to a 4-4-1-1. This gave me the chance to bring Darcy back into the team as AM, supporting the young Brown as the lone striker. This worked really well, so I decided to continue on with 4-4-1-1 and with Darcy becoming a first choice pick, as had been intended at the beginning of the season prior to his injury. Darcy rewarded my faith in him with 3 goals in 4 games. Our giant killings of Leicester and Norwich earnt us a visit from Manchester United in the 4th round of the Carabao Cup. Unfortunately this proved to be a stretch too far and they were comfortable winners. So after a bumpy period, things certainly picked up in November. Admittedly the teams drawn in the FA Cup were favourable, however we secured some very satisfying results against good league opposition. Since his purple patch in August, Rhodes had only scored one goal and that had come in the Leasing.com Cup. Fed up with his lack of contributions, I dropped him for the game against Charlton, switching Woodburn up top (instead of right wing). Eddie Brown scored from the bench, so I decided to start him in the next game against Doncaster - this paid off massively as he bagged a brace. This led to a spell of 5 goals in 4 games. Brown won League One Player of the Month and Young Player of the Month for November, with Darcy also coming second for both awards. A big disappointment came on December 1st when Darcy once again got injured; this time a fractured cheekbone that would see him ruled out for the month. Woodburn was switched to AM, but he was not as effective as Darcy. Due to this, and a few other injuries, I was lacking in wingers so called up 19 year old Connor Stanley (who I had previously signed on a free from Man Utd) to play right wing for a couple of games. The young lad has done well, delivering an average rating of 7.22 over his 8 games and bagging a goal against league leaders Barnsley. I should also note that we won our Leasing.com group and also beat Scunthorpe to progress to the Northern 3rd Round. Going into the New Year we sit 3rd in the table, outperforming the clubs expectation of a top-half finish. Budget restrictions and the youthful nature of our side considered, I will be delighted if we are still in the Playoffs at the end of the season. He's only started 9 games due to injury (5 goals and 4 assists), but Darcy is clearly my best player. The problem is that Premier League clubs are circling, and I have already had to reject a bid of £3.2m from Brighton on January 1st. Due to the club's precarious financial position (£32m of debt) I may have to give in and sell him if a really big offer arrives, however I would really like to continue to develop him. Garner and Williams have once again been great, but I am particularly pleased with our own youth - Brown is our top goalscorer with 8, and King-Harmes already has 7 assists from the wing.
  7. @stevemc Really impressive first season that! What were your transfers the second time around, or were they very similar? In the middle of a save with Bolton that I'm really enjoying, but when I'm done with that then A.C. Milan are high on my list of teams to try next. May just wait till the next update (or use the sortitoutsi one like you) as it will be fun to have Zlatan around!
  8. I'd be interested to see how you get on in the Championship @Jogo Bonito, if you were to continue, but totally understand if you've lost the desire to continue the save. Nothing worse than persevering with a save you just know you're not into! Great work @warlock! The Stoke side looks quite bland on paper, so pleased to see you are managing to get them playing and are enjoying it. This tickled me Where is the elusive @DefinitelyTaylor?! Enjoying all the updates on this thread, (such as the ones from @Fubz and @HaphazardHawlucha - keep up the good work!) great to see it so active.
  9. Bolton Wanderers - Season 2 - Part 1 Season Update: Squad Rebuild My first season at the University of Bolton Stadium ended with narrow survival in League One and, although the season ended in a disappointing manner, I was excited to start restructuring the playing squad. When I joined pretty much the entirety of the squad had also just arrived, therefore it was not possible to move them on - now was my opportunity to do so. I released a large number of players, the most notable being Jason Lowe who had made 49 appearances for us in the prior season. I was comfortable releasing this many players as I believed the wages we had been spending could be better spent elsewhere, with a bit more care and planning. I also allowed the loans of Brewster, Gomes and Levitt to expire, with no attempts to renew. I carried out a great deal of scouting of players whose contracts would be expiring in the summer, so that on July 1st I had a good pool of potential signings to target. The issue would be our limited wage budget; the board had slashed it from £85k per week, to £60k per week and yet still expected us to finish top half. On July 1st I took a very large number of players on 4 week trials. This allowed me to better evaluate their abilities and also gauge what wage they would be demanding. It also meant we had enough players to fulfill our pre-season friendlies (without trialists I only had one CM at the club!). I quickly realised that my budget was not going to allow me to make the signings I needed and player sales were going to have to finance our rebuild. It was a really delicate balancing act trying to keep players at the club on trial long enough until I had enough money to offer them a decent contract and many of my original targets were lost. Player sales: Right back Josh Emmanuel was one of my best performers in the prior season, so I was reluctant to sell him, but when a significant bid from Sunderland came in I knew that I had to sell him for the greater good of the squad. Likewise my 'keeper Carrasso had done well and I had no intention of selling him, however when Inter Miami bid £1.5m for him I was very confident that I could replace the 32 year old, with a lot of change to spare! He rejected the deal frustratingly, however I managed to move him on to Nimes as my mind was made up at this point. Sales of Emmanuel-Thomas, Edwards and Politic were more straightforward as I did not particularly value any of them. The one shame was the sale of young winger Brown-Sterling who had a lot of potential but I had run out of money with the season close to commencing and he was one of the few assets I was able to cash in on. Season Update: New season, new squad With so many departures, the number incoming was bound to be high. In fact it was over 20 in the end. All arrivals were free transfers or loans - markets I love to utilise in lower league management. Due to the scale of the rebuild I will break down the squad in sections: Goalkeepers After the sale of Johann Carrasso, I was left with the competent Remi Matthews. Matthews was, however, the only 'keeper option (Stuart Taylor had also retired) so I brought in Marko Maric on a free transfer from Hoffenheim. Maric had been first choice for Lillestrom whilst on loan in the Norweigen league the season prior. Defence Going into pre-season we had no right backs as I had cashed in on Emmanuel and Dwight Tiendalli had retired. I was delighted to be able to bring in not one, but two, good quality right backs as I signed Jonathan Clauss (previously at Arminia Bielefed) and George Williams (previously at MK Dons). On the left side I was extremely pleased to be able to renew the loan of Brandon Williams and I decided I was happy to continue to give opportunities to academy graduate Boon as his understudy. I believe I pulled off a coup with the signing of centre-back Bailey Wright from Bristol City, a classy defender whose only downside is his international call ups to Australia. Zouma returned from a successful loan spell at Wrexham to add competition for places. Midfield I was frankly shocked when Man United agreed to sending James Garner back on loan to us for another season. He is a superb player who I intend to build my team around this season. My top targets to add to centre-midfield were Markus Henriksen and David Davis (formerly of Hull and Birmingham respectively). Both spent 4 weeks of pre-season on trial with us, but timings did not align and I could not muster up enough funds to offer the fairly reasonable amount of wages they wanted and they departed for other clubs. The season was dawning and it was looking like I'd only have Garner and teenage prospect Assarsson as options. I therefore signed Jack Evans on loan from Swansea and Ethan Hamilton on loan from Man United, both on 0% wage contributions to bolster the squad in case I couldn't raise the funds to sign more recruits. Luckily I was able to make some more player sales and on the eve of the new season I recruited the vastly experienced Andy King, who had been let go by Leicester, and another player (who I seem to have signed on every single version of FM!) Matty Palmer, released by Rotherham. I now potentially have too many centre-midfielders but with no wage consideration for three of them (Garner, as well as the aforementioned pair) it doesn't seem a bad issue to have. On the wings I managed to secure Ben Woodburn on loan from Liverpool and also signed the experienced Jonny Hayes from Celtic. Both bring a lot of versatility, being also able to play up front or at left back, respectively. The wings are probably where we have the least amount of depth though, however the positive is that it will present young prospect King-Harmes with a lot of opportunities. The last player to mention is Ronan Darcy who I had planned to accelerate the development of by building my team around him, continuing with a 4-2-3-1 formation. Darcy, however, got ruled out for 2 months in pre-season with an injury and with a lack of other AMs and an abundance of strikers (more on that next) I switched to 4-4-2 and haven't looked back. It will be interesting to see if I can find a place for him when he returns from injury (which he is just about to do, coming into September). Attack This was another area that needed freshening up. You will see from the goalscorers in my pre-season results that many different strikers were trialed, however my number one target was always Jordan Rhodes. A proven goalscorer, but my concern was his wage demands would be high - luckily he only wanted £2.6k per week and a deal was struck. I bolstered the ranks with Dan N'Lundulu on loan from Southampton and relative unknown Vasco Costa who joined from Sao Martinho in the Portuguese Championship. There will be opportunities for Eddie Brown this season. So after £2.5m of player sales, which has been invested all into free transfers, the overall wage bill of the squad is still only £85k per week, which is exactly the same as last season but, I believe, I now have a much better quality group of players. Pre-season went well but many of the players who featured didn't end up in my squad so it was somewhat of an unknown as to how the season would actually go. We started the season against recently relegated Sheffield Wednesday, and were disappointed to draw as we had 68% possession and 11 shots to their 4, so things looked positive for the season ahead. Since then things couldn't have gone much better - I had a decent level of optimism with the squad I've built but I must admit I expected some inconsistency to start as it was a brand new team gelling. Our one loss so far came against Ipswich, although we were the better side so that caused little concern. Our league form won me the manager of the month award for August. King-Harmes came 2nd in the goal of the month (robbed I say!) for a mesmerising goal where he started in his own half and dribbled past half the Bradford team before unleashing a fierce strike. Rhodes has started strongly with 6 in 6, and the star performers thus far have been full backs Clauss and Williams. The last thing to mention is our stand-out victory over a full strength Premier League Leicester City side, one that will live long in the memory!
  10. That is really impressive @John Joe O'toole! What tactics did you use?
  11. Welcome to Bolton @Jogo Bonito, looking forward to seeing how you get on! The points deduction certainly makes survival a good challenge. I like the unique approach you’ve taken, although I am very jealous as I had to endure a season of Keith Hill's bad signings before I got a chance to rebuild the squad! No update from me for a while as I’m abroad for Christmas and didn’t bring my laptop (instant regret), however I’m back home soon so will be posting an update on the transfer business I did before I went away (hopefully I can remember the details!).
  12. Bolton Wanderers - Season 1 - Part 4 Season Update: Survival, just I'm going to keep this update brief as there really aren't many positives to talk about having now finished up my first season with Bolton. Our form completely fell off a cliff in the last three months of the season. I tried a variety of tactics and personnel combinations, but noting seemed to be particularly effective. Another injury to Brewster didn't help our cause, but I felt there was enough quality elsewhere in the squad to achieve better results than we did. In the end it was only goal difference that saved us from relegation. Going into the final few minutes we were even going down as Rochdale (managed by David Flitcroft who left my side as assistant manager to take over a few months prior) were drawing with Lincoln, until they lost to a 92nd minute winner. The one stand out performer this season was James Garner who consistently put in top class performances in the centre midfield. He provided 7 assists but his contributions were much wider than that. My two next best performers were also United loanees; Williams and Levitt. In terms of players owned by the club it is slim pickings, but I'd probably say right back Emmanuel performed best. A big rebuild begins. The club's highest earners were all bit part players this season and I will not be extending any of their contracts. The board expects a top half finish next season, but has slashed the wage budget from £85k per week to £60k. I will wait to see how my transfer window goes before I pass comment on how confident of achieving our target I am!
  13. Bolton Wanderers - Season 1 - Part 3 Season Update: Reality Check I ended my last update full of positivity, stating my hopes of pushing on towards mid-table, despite our -12 points deduction. What followed in the months of November and December was a period of inconsistency which made me rethink my optimism. We began November by playing Fleetwood, a match made difficult after my stand-in LB Joe Bunney was sent off in the first 30 seconds for a bad tackle. Despite having 10 men we raced to a 2-1 lead, however our lack of bodies caught up with us as we fell to a 4-2 loss after a couple of late goals from Ched Evans. This defeat plunged us back into the relegation zone. We then picked up wins in the cup competitions but followed this by falling to two defeats in the league. At the beginning of December I thought we were back on track as we put in two good FA Cup performances against Peterborough (a better side than us on paper) and thrashed Wimbledon 4-0. However this was not the case as we then went on a run of four games without a victory. The most frustrating part in the three league games was that we had more shots and possession, but couldn't score the goals we needed. Murphy suffered a serious injury at the start of December, which gave me the opportunity to finally shift Brewster up front. It kind of paid off, with 3 goals in 5 games, but this soon dried up in the rest of the month. During December I started to make decisions about players I wanted to keep at the club and which ones I was going to move on. I moved those marked for the exit into the reserves and promoted my most promising youths to start taking their place on my bench. With the points deduction, this season is a bit of a free hit so I now intend to give the youth with potential as many minutes as I can afford. Transfer Update: Mid-season rebuild January rolled around and it was time to make some changes. I allowed the loans of Thibaud Verlinden, Liam Bridcutt, Jake Wright and Josh Earl all to end, without any attempt to renew (of the four, Verlinden was the only one to contribute meaningfully to our season). I also let the contracts of Adam Chicksen and Will Buckley expire. The board finally allowed me to terminate the contract of Chris O'Grady, something I had been trying to do since the summer. I allowed Manucho to leave for the Spanish second division on a free, after half a season without a goal. Finally, Ali Crawford is a player with great attributes, but he spent the first half of the season perennially injured. With Levitt and Darcy as options for AM, I decided to cash in on Crawford, arranging a deal for him to move to Dallas for £400k on the 5th February. I tried to move on Luke Murphy but nobody could stomach his £9k a week wages, so he will continue to sit out his contract on my bench. With 9 players shipped out, I had room on the wage bill to make reinforcements. My most significant signing was that of Dominic Samuel from Blackburn. His physical stats particularly appealed to me and I thought he could make an impact in League One. Murphy would be returning from injury at the end of January, but at 36 there is little point building a forward line around him. I was down to 4 loanees at the club after all the departures and so returned to a source that had done me well so far this season, bringing in Angel Gomes from Man United with no wage contribution. Gomes would be my primary replacement for Verlinden but I further reinforced my wing options, bringing in Jon Gallagher from the MLS and promising teenage inverted winger Conrad Wallem from the Norwegian league, To replace Wright at CB I pulled off somewhat of a coup, signing experienced Haitian defender Romain Genevois who had been released by then Ligue Un side SM Caen. Season Update: Back on track (for now) Luck hadn't been going our way, however that all changed when we visited the Stadium of Light on Boxing Day. We pulled off a shock win against the promotion contenders, benefiting from not one, but two own goals. It should be noted, however, that we were the better side on the day. Next up was another team in the Play-off positions, Shrewsbury, and it was hot prospect Darcy who stepped up to be the hero with a thunderous strike. Samuel arrived on January 1st, after I pre-agreed the deal in December, and he certainly hit the ground running, netting in each of his first five games. In amongst that run was a memorable trip to Anfield to face the Premier League leaders Liverpool in the FA Cup 3rd Round. I was extremely proud of the battling performance we put in, only losing 2-1 to full strength side, despite going down to 10 men on the 30th minute. My fault, perhaps, for having so many passionate Man United players in my side (it was Levitt who got the red)! The game was good for the clubs bank balance too. The five league wins in a row saw us rise up to 16th in the table, and the hope of a mid-table finish seemed feasible again. Since then we have fallen to three narrow defeats, including to the league leaders Portsmouth, which has meant we have sunk back to 19th. I am pleased we are above the relegation zone, but it is only by two points so we can't take anything for granted. If we hadn't had the points deduction we would be 10th and enjoying a decent season after financial turmoil, but there is little point dwelling on that as I knew what I was getting myself into! The hope now is to push on and finish the season strongly. I am paying particular attention to the clubs young players as I begin to plan for next season.
  14. Thanks @Jogo Bonito! Congrats on the promotion with Ipswich, I'm looking forward to reading how you get on in the Championship. Having played on a bit further, I think my hopes of mid-table might have been a tad optimistic, let alone a push for the Playoffs! But that's a story for another day... Cheers @warlock! Keep us updated how Bellingham gets on - hopefully he develops as well as he has for @Jonthedon26 (but with less of the transfer interest!). Appreciate the tip off @John Joe O'toole,I hadn't spotted that the 20% sell on clause could be negotiated now! Just looked and I can cash in for £6.75m so I'm going to do that right away. Unlikely that Holding will be sold for over £35m and even if he does, that money would be transformative for the club right at the present time. It is worth noting that I currently only retain 10% of transfer revenue, but I am actually glad that the money goes into the club's coffers to help with long-term sustainability.
  15. Bolton Wanderers - Season 1 - Part 2 A second update in quick succession, but I haven't had many chances to play or pen write ups recently, so I thought I'd take advantage whilst I can! Season Update: Tactical Challenges Going into the season, my intention was to play a 4-2-3-1 formation. These plans were thrown into disarray during pre-season, however, as we picked up long-term injuries to many of my first choice wingers and attacking midfielders. Along with Brewster and Emmanuel-Thomas (who I mentioned in my last update), Crawford, Verlinden and Politic were both ruled out for lengthy periods of time. I therefore switched things up and moved to a 4-1-3-2, taking advantage of the number of CMs I had at the club. The starting eleven on the first game of the season was as follows: The formation was designed to allow my attack-minded wing-backs to get forward, with the cover provided by the two defensive midfielders. Levitt and Garner were given license to push forward and the hope was that Dodoo's pace would gel well with Murphy's target man capability. The start of the season was a struggle. We lacked creativity without wingers or attacking midfielders. The formation provided stability and therefore we conceded few, but I'm sure it wasn't particularly entertaining for the fans! We picked up 11 points in the first 2 months, meaning we only one point away from 'breaking even' and reaching zero points. The aim, of course, was to get there as soon as possible and see what we could achieve from there. The injuries weren't all bad news, it has allowed me to give some of the clubs promising youngsters match time, such as Ronan Darcy and Callum King-Harmes. Positive Momentum By the start of October players started to return from injury and I was able to revert back to the 4-2-3-1 formation that I had wanted to utilise from the start of the season. Centre-forward Murphy has been the main benefactor of the move to 4-2-3-1, as he has received good service from winger Verlinden and attacking midfielder Levitt. Brewster provides a great attacking threat as an inside forward on the left-wing. I do wonder if I am wasting his potential to score goals by not playing up top, but Murphy's uptake in form means I can't bring myself to drop him. October went great, as we won 3 out of 4 league games, only drawing to Bristol Rovers after they equalised in the 95th minute. I won October Manager of the Month and Murphy won Player of the Month. The most exciting thing is that October's form took us into positive points for the first time this season and we are now only three points off escaping the relegation zone. The expectation from the board is to try and avoid relegation, but I'd like to think that if we keep up our current form we can push onwards towards mid-table. My best performer so far has been James Garner, but a nice surprise has been centre-back Harry Brockbank, who at only 21 years old has performed admirably thus far.
  16. Bolton Wanderers - Season 1 - Part 1 Transfer Update: Balancing the Books Wheeling and dealing in the transfer market is probably my favourite part of playing Football Manager, so the challenge of sorting out Bolton's threadbare and thrown together squad was one of the things that most appealed to me about taking the job. The drawback was that most players currently at the club had signed recently (deadline day to be precise!) and so couldn't be moved on easily, and the club already had four loanees (although one of them, Josh Earl, was ruled out injured for 6 months). These loans could not be terminated, but do expire in January which gives me the flexibility to shape the squad more in my image soon. With club finances precarious to say the least, I turned to the loan market to reinforce the squad. I was keenly aware that only five loan players could be included in a match day squad but took the call that if there were no wage contributions then there was not harm in adding them to the squad and that I would rotate where necessary. In: My first forays into the transfer market saw me reach out to my North-West neighbours Man Utd and Liverpool for reinforcements. As a Man Utd fan I was delighted to acquire the talented trio of Brandon Williams, James Garner and Dylan Levitt, all with no wage contributions. I was shocked that I was able to bring in Rhian Brewster (paying just 30% of his wage) from Liverpool, expecting more prestigious teams to trump me to his signing. The intention is for these players to form the spine of my team for the season. Brewster picked up an injury early in pre-season that saw him ruled out for 2 months, but he has recently come back and has been inserted straight into my starting eleven. The other signing that you can see in the screenshot, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, also picked up an injury in pre-season, this one ruling him out for 3 months. Out: Even after the loan signings, there were still areas of the squad where I wanted to improve and I also wanted to revamp the coaching staff. I decided, therefore, to review my squad and see if there was anyone I could sacrifice to raise funds and balance the books. The only player who had any significant interest, and value, was 'keeper Alnwick. Despite his quality I decided I was comfortable with the ability of his understudy Remi Matthews and therefore cashed in, selling him to New York FC for a large fee. In: The Alnwick sale gave me the financial flexibility to continue to add to the squad. There were areas where we had no depth and so players were signed on inexpensive free transfers to bulk out the squad; Stuart Taylor (GK back-up), Dwight Tiendalli (RB back-up), Remi Streete (CB back-up) and Manucho (ST back-up). When looking at the list of signings it may look like an excessive amount, however I should note that 8 of the signings were teenagers for the youth squad. I gave my Head of Youth Development the remit to look for signings, retaining my right for final sign-off on deals, and he unearthed some gems. As mentioned earlier, I had come to terms with having Matthews as my first choice 'keeper, and had signed Taylor as his back-up. However on deadline day I unearthed that experienced French goalkeeper Johann Carrasso was interested in signing. This was too good an opportunity to turn down and so I brought him in immediately. Coaching team rebuild: Something I like to do at all clubs I join is review the coaching staff and see if there are more skilled alternatives available to bring in. The Alnwick money meant I could do this and so I revamped my staff comprehensively. Pre-season: Pre-season couldn't have started much worse as we were thumped 4-0 by our own under-23s team (although the positive spin is at least these are my players! ). Morale was low after relegation the previous season and this enhanced my awareness of the challenge on our hands. I scheduled a full calendar of friendlies to give me time to get to know the squad, experiment with tactics, evaluate trailists and youth players and build morale with a run of victories. Luckily form picked up and I felt that pre-season was a success.
  17. Sounds like your season's going really well @warlock! Have you had a chance to give Jude Bellingham any minutes yet? Intrigued to see how he develops. Just looked to see how he's getting on in my save (which I will be updating on shortly) and he's just made his Championship debut and got given MOTM for his contributions. @Rollin93 Hopefully just media speculation as it sounds like you are currently overachieving!
  18. @Chevie Good to see you back on track after the slip up against Zwickau! Now you are almost 15 games into the season, who have been your key performers so far?
  19. Catching up on recent posts and great to see the usual suspects back and getting started with EFL teams. Will be particularly interesting to see the differences between @warlock and @Jogo Bonito‘s approaches to managing Ipswich! I’m going away for the next few days and won’t be able to play till I’m back... so just thought I’d mention that I have settled upon a club. I fancied a challenge and with their 12 point deduction and thrown-together squad, Bolton Wanderers was the one for me! Starting from scratch, rebuilding the squad and trying to restore them to their former glories, over a long period of time, appealed. My aim is just to avoid relegation in the first season, but then I hope to try and move them up the divisions over the coming years, whilst keeping an eye on the finances! I’m pleased with my transfer dealings so far, but I’ll leave that for a proper update once I’ve played some more games.
  20. Just to tie up loose ends in my BETA save, I am happy to report that, after beating Middlesbrough 3-2 on aggregate in the Play-off Semi-Finals, I went on to defeat Leeds in the Final to secure promotion to the Premier League! As mentioned, I will now be stepping away from this save to make a start on my next challenge. Watch this space...
  21. Congrats on a great season with Bristol Rovers @Jogo Bonito. Looking forward to seeing where you end up next and how you get on with wing backs.
  22. Great work putting this together @warlock, enjoyed reading it and certainly plenty of food for thought when I consider which team to select for my first 'proper' save on FM20. I made the mistake of selecting Oldham as my first team on the demo... Completely going against my usual preference of picking a team that isn't too much of a challenge so I can experiment and enjoy! Oldham is currently the definition of a challenge. Only one CB of any quality (David Wheater who is out injured for three months), wingers completely devoid of any pace, very poor quality forwards and dire finances to remediate the issues. I struggled along for a while but was duly sacked in November 2019! I learnt my lesson for my second demo save and picked a team I knew I would enjoy, Fulham. The Cottagers are a team I have a soft spot for after a long FM18 managerial career with them and many of the key players from that season remain, along with the addition of quality loan reinforcements that are mentioned in the opening post. It was a fairly enjoyable season in which we finished 4th in the Championship (Play-offs still to play - will do this before departing to start my new save) however there were certainly a few frustrations which may be related to the match engine issues I have seen many others bemoan elsewhere in this forum. All season my wingers would constantly shoot from poor angles, even if they could easily square to a forward, and when my forwards did get a one-on-one they would invariably miss it. I understand that it may be my tactics, but I did experiment with a variety of different approaches and I am someone who has played a lot of FM and not experienced anything like this before. I also noticed that whatever instructions I gave them, my full backs would always cut back and never cross themselves, even when it would be so easy to do so. We had the best average possession in the league (60%), the average best pass completion (85%), we conceded the least amount of goals (37) and kept the most clean sheets (25) but due to our ineffectiveness at the front, we drew 16 games, 10 of them 0-0! The most important stat that reinforces this issue is that we created the most chances in the league, across the course of the season, and these chances were for quality players such as Mitrovic, Greenwood (who I had on loan from United since January), Caveleiro and Knockeart, so they surely should have been able to convert more of the chances if the ME was functioning correctly. Mitrovic is our top goalscorer with just 11 goals. Hopefully when I start my first non-BETA save the ME will be improved. The game is still very enjoyable overall but I wanted to share what I observed as it didn't seem normal to me. Anyway, I need to put some thought into which team I go for next and I'd be interested to hear which teams other people are going for!
  23. @warlock Looking forward to it. Hope you‘re feeling better soon!
  24. Season 2 - Part 1 Going into Season 2 my number one transfer priority was a top class right winger and my number one target was Jadon Sancho. I've managed Sancho on another save this year as England manager and he was absolutely terrific for me, so I was full of confidence that he could deliver for me. I was therefore delighted to seal the deal and get him into the club before pre-season had even began. Besides the big outlay on Sancho the transfer window was much quieter than I had expected. This was for a number of reasons; I had expected my transfer budget to be bigger after our Champions League success and I had hoped I'd have been able to sell some players to generate the funds to buy replacements. Sanchez had a half decent season and was showing as being valued at £50m - I was determined to get him off my wage bill and so offered him out. Despite numerous clubs being interested no team would bid for him. I started by offering him out at £50m and went all the way down to £0 and still no takers! In the end I loaned him to Benfica on deadline day. They are only covering 30% of his wages but by that point I was sick of the sight of him. Another thorn in my side was Jones who rejected contracts at Wolves (£21m deal), Atletico and Ajax (both £16m deals). Finally, I tried offering out Matic but he also could not garner any interest. After unsuccessfully trying to sell him in January, Juan Mata was allowed to leave on a free transfer and subsequently joined Atletico Madrid. Lee Grant retired a year early and James Wilson was the most noteworthy of a group of thirteen youngsters who were released. I loaned a large number of young players out to develop, including new signings Arvin Appiah and Nedim Bajrami. Both are 'ones for the future' who hopefully will get sufficient game time during their loan spells. The only sales were both left backs. Neither Borthwick-Jackson or Mitchell appeared to have a great deal of potential so I felt comfortable letting them go. Juan Bernat was brought in on loan for cover at left back and I decided that we would get by with the likes of Lindelof and Jones to cover for Dalot at right back where needed, rather than sign a player with Hakimi coming in after his two year loan spell at Dortmund (rather than one year like I initially had thought when I signed him!). I also should note that Tuanzabe, Tonali, Gomes and Chong have all been moved into the first team squad and I am hoping to give them match experience this season. Pre-season was plain sailing with nothing particularly interesting to note. My attackers all linked up well and got on the scoresheets. I could not have asked for a better start to the season. The opening day 4-3 win against Chelsea was far more exciting than the 0-0 when we played them at the same time last season! We then thumped Hoffenheim to lift the European Super Cup. The goal we conceded was frustrating as De Gea kicked the ball against an onrushing striker and saw the ball roll into his open goal - but I guess I'm being a perfectionist as we did score five. I was particularly pleased to see Sancho get off the mark and score hopefully his first of many. We won all of the remaining games in the month, with the 7-2 win over Reading being particularly memorable. We fell to our first defeat of the season in September and it was a shock that it was Gent that inflicted it. We had 28 shots to their 10 and 56% of the possession, but that shouldn't be an excuse - I am to blame as I played too many youth. I started O'Connor, Tuanzabe, Tonali, Chong and Gomes. A bit more experience in the side and I'm sure this would not have happened. This has put us in a tricky position as we already have ground to make up in our group and the other sides in my group are Bayer Leverkusen and Real Madrid. League and Domestic Cup form continued to be strong. We bounced back from the Champions League result with a big win against Leicester in which my man Sancho bagged a hat-trick. We have a 100% league record thus far, but I am aware there has only been seven games with many big tests to go, so although I am delighted I am not getting carried away yet!
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