Alright alright alright alright now fellas…
What’s cooler than being cool?
The ice cold grip of capitalism around our throat that’s squeezing the life right out of our club!
Oh that’s right, we’re back in Bolton aren’t we. Well hey fucking ya, let’s get down to it then.
1st July 2020
Well we’re already 2 players lighter and somehow even further in debt. 18 year old decent-ish left back prospect Joe White has moved to Wycombe for £115k and half of his next transfer fee. I’m going to be trying this every single time I sell a player by the way, so unless stated otherwise, just assume that we’re getting half of a player’s next transfer fee. Also, Charlie Seaman’s been released.
Despite this, we have officially surpassed the -£4M mark in our coffers. Blimey.
Let’s have a run down of our squad again to see where we’ll be strengthening this Summer:
I’m tremendously happy with our options in goal – Josh Vickers had an excellent debut season and after joining us on a free transfer from Exeter, he’s now worth a cool £1.1M. Matthew Alexander and Luke Hutchinson are still top prospects, while our youth intake in March gave us Keyshawn Wilson, who while not as talented as the other lads, could still be a decent prospect.
We’ve still got the same old problem at centre back – New club captain Brockbank, now valued at £475k, is great, Delaney’s good and then we have 5 middling centre backs, 3 of which I want rid of. At the same time though, I’d also like to sign a really good centre back to partner Brockbank and Delaney. Taft, Santos and Baptiste will all be leaving this Summer if I can find some suckers to take them, while academy graduate Jordan Slater-Bateman will provide some cover.
We could also do with some depth at right wing back. Gethin Jones is fine, but behind him in the pecking order are centre back/right back Jordan Whalley and striker/right winger Jay Fitzmartin, neither of which can play comfortably at wing back yet.
We’re much better stocked at left wing back – Sam Hart had an impressive debut season, while Jordan Boon is now a natural left wing back and also had a really good season. Behind them is academy graduate Colin O’Neill, who really has potential.
I was thinking of buying a central midfielder, but I think we’re actually set. Sarcevic and Graham both had solid seasons, Comley was decent and Regan Riley’s been progressing beautifully, to the extent that I think he’s ready to be in the rotation.
In attacking midfield, I still really want rid of Ali Crawford. At nearly 29 he’s still completely sellable and last season vindicated my decision to place faith in Politic and Darcy, so I want them to carry on their good work. Young ‘un Aled Daykin will back them up.
Up front I’m very excited to see how Nathan Delfouneso and Eddie Brown take to League 1 football, but I’m also very excited to get rid of Eoin Doyle for the reasons mentioned last episode. It’s been slow progress for De’Marlio Brown-Sterling so far but I’m still hopeful that he can turn on the thrusters like Brown has, while potential star Mohamed Guel has just joined us from the academy.
And while we’re talking about attackers, I think I’ve identified the player I want to replace Doyle. 23 year old Frenchman Ilyes Chaïbi is on trial with us at the minute after his contract with French minnows Thoron Evian expired. He seems to have the whole package – Good attributes, the right level of ability with potential to grow into, no known problematic traits like inconsistency or a phobia of big matches. He scored 24 goals in 43 games last season too. The only thing that’s making me second-guess myself is the fact that he isn’t proven at any kind of decent level. He’s been banging in goals in the French non-leagues. I may yet withdraw my offer. Genuinely think I may have just talked myself out of it.
We’re predicted to have a middle-of-the-pack season in League 1 but personally I want to be aiming higher. For me, there’s no reason why this group of players can’t reach the play-offs. Come on boys, lets at least try for back to back promotions!
2nd September 2020
Alright, let’s talk done deals.
I did end up cancelling the contract offer for Chaïbi and he’s since joined Valenciennes in Ligue 2. I might end up regretting that one. Never mind though, instead of him I’ve gone for Real Oviedo’s Steven Prieto on a free transfer.
I’m not entirely confident about this one, but in theory Steven should be alright for us. He scored 16 goals in 36 appearances for Real Oviedo B in the Spanish 3rd tier last season, he’s got a bit of potential, he’s physical and a good decision maker. I’ve tied him to a 2 year contract and so far in his 9 appearances he’s not scored a goal. He has however got 86% of his shots on target, won 89% of his tackles and completed 89% of his passes, as well as completing 1.42 dribbles per game, so that’s fairly promising.
I am already thoroughly convinced by our other signing though – I’ve spent actual money for the first time and it’s a significant amount by our standards – £185k for Port Vale centre back Nathan Smith.
Nathan had an average rating of 7.00 from his 43 League 2 outings for the Vale last season and 7.33 from his 3 appearances for them this season before the move. He’s since made 5 appearances for us, averaging 7.36 and winning 90% of his tackles. Good lad. Nathan’s exactly the type of signing I want to make more of – He’s a good age, well suited to our current league and he has the potential to reach Championship standard, which has to be our aim now. He’s not particularly technical, but he’s a John Terry-esque “throw your body on the line” kind of defender, which I love.
I’ve had a good old fashioned cull too, chopping off all of the dead limbs that I wanted to – Eoin Doyle’s gone to Shamrock Rovers for £52k, although I will have to pay £700 of his weekly wage for the next 3 years… Oh well, it’s better than paying his full wage. St Mirren have come back to sign Ali Crawford on a permanent basis for £625k, which is well below his market value, but I’m just glad to have him off the books and to have some money in the bank. George Taft has gone to Luton for £61k and Ricardo Santos, Muhammadu Faal and Jak Hickman have joined Yeovil, Sutton and Kettering respectively on free transfers. On top of all that, Nottingham Forest have signed our 17 year old goalie Luke Hutchinson for £500k (+50%), which is a lovely little earner for us.
I also found another way of injecting some cash into the club – Rob Holding’s switch to Arsenal in 2016 included a 20% sell on clause, which the Gunners have agreed to buy out for almost £5M! So with that cash in my pocket I’ve even paid off Alex Baptiste to cancel his contract. Happy days.
Needless to say, the club’s coffers are looking better than ever before and although it absolutely won’t last, it’s nice to have a bit of breathing room for once.
So how’ve we actually started? Well as you’ve already seen, we’re 6th in League 1, which I’m very happy with even at this early stage. We’ve beaten Sunderland, Gillingham, Lincoln, Ipswich and Accrington but none were particularly convincing wins. We’ve also already surpassed the pre-season expectations in the EFL Cup, with a shootout win over Rotherham and a putting-to-the-sword of Burton taking us to the 3rd round, where we’ll play Cardiff. We’ve just begun the EFL Trophy campaign with a 4-0 win over Norwich U23’s too, so we’re looking pretty strong across the board.
6th February 2020
Back to back is on!
Bloody hell, where to start? I guess with the cups as we’ve had a great time there. After another bum-clenchingly tight penalty shootout win over Cardiff in the EFL Cup 3rd round, we travelled to the Midlands and faced up against Premier League strugglers West Brom in the 4th round, holding our heads high as we went out 1-3. We’re still in the FA Cup though, having beaten Torquay, Maidenhead, Premier League side Norwich City and Premier League hopefuls Fulham to reach the 5th round! We’ll be playing Sheffield Wednesday at our place and I’m very excited to see if we can reach the quarters. We did alright in EFL Trophy too – Having come through our group and knocked out Port Vale on penalties, then Liverpool U23’s in normal time, we eventually ended up on the wrong end of a penalty shootout against Morecambe. Oh well.
In the league, we’ve literally just had an 18 game unbeaten streak ended by relegation candidates Southend, which is annoying as it’s knocked us off the top spot, but to be honest I’m over the moon just being up in the automatic places. All in all, we’ve been really bloody good so far this season.
And who’s to say how much better we could have been if star goalkeeper Josh Vickers hadn’t torn a thigh muscle in October? The injury kept him out for 3 months and to be fair, 18 year old Matt Alexander stepped up and was fairly solid in his absence. So much so that Stoke City have just snapped him up for a fee that could rise to £425k (+50%).
So with that, our 2 most promising goalkeepers are gone. As we’re feeling relatively flush at the minute, I went and splashed out on a replacement.
Former Chelsea academy graduate Marcin Bulka is in for £110k. He’s a few years older than Alexander, but he’s also a lot better and still has room to improve. This season he’s kept 9 clean sheets in 13 matches for Paris Saint-Germain 2, which I’ll grant you isn’t an overly impressive level of football, but options were thin on the ground and I’ll willing to take a bit of a punt on him as he ticks basically all the boxes. He’ll be our cup goalkeeper for the foreseeable future
Oh and before I go, I hope you enjoyed that little holiday in the black, as it’s over again already. Christ we need this promotion.
1st May 2020
Alright, this save has officially gripped me. I am fully invested. We’ve not only done back to back promotions, but back to back 1st placed finishes!
Let’s get cup talk out of the way first, because as much as we exceeded expectations, we ended up winning none of them. Sheffield Wednesday knocked us out of the EFL Cup in the 5th round in the cruellest fashion – We were struggling along with 10 men after Nathan Delfouneso’s red card, then Nathan Smith nodded in what looked like a late winner, but Barry Bannan immediately cancelled it out and took us to extra time, where Jón Daði Böðvarsson sent us packing. Remind me never to sign Icelandic players by the way, I had to copy and paste that from Wikipedia.
In the league we lost twice more after that Southend game, going down to Wigan and Salford City, but for the most part we were alright during the run in. We did have 4 0-0 draws in our last 7 games, but it was enough to see us over the line and then some. Beating Plymouth 6-1 in front of our home fans on the final day was the cherry on top.
Delfouneso had a worrying goal drought towards the end of the season, but luckily Eddie Brown has absolutely destroyed League 1, scoring 24 in all comps and ranking as the joint 2nd top scorer in the league with 18 league goals. Steven Prieto had an underwhelming first season with us and I’m really doubting his ability to cut it in the Championship if I’m honest, but to say he was free, he hasn’t been awful.
Delfouneso did weigh in with his fair share of assists, despite his goalscoring record falling away, but he was 1 behind our top creator Gethin Jones, who’s had a good solid season at right wing back. It’s worth noting too that young Jordan Boon actually ended up appearing more than Sam Hart did this season, but in fairness I’ve had to use Jordan as a centre back on a number of occasions.
But how about this – The top player, eclipsing even the great Eddie Brown, has been Nathan Smith. Wow, it’s almost like spending money on players is a good way of doing business. Nathan ended up with an average rating of 7.12, won 94% of his tackles and to say he’s not that technical, completed 84% of his passes. Great effort from the lad, can’t wait to see him cut his teeth in the Championship.
So where do we need to strengthen? Hmm. I definitely want to sign at least 1 central midfielder as I suspect Brandon Comley won’t cut it in the 2nd tier. A right wing back, a striker and a centre back would all be nice if I can find them, too, but to be honest we’re not desperate. I’d feel comfortable just bringing in 1 midfielder and keeping faith in the rest of the squad. I am hoping now that we’ve reached the Championship that some of our top talents like Brown and Brockbank will attract more attention and we might get a big money deal for one of them, which would be excellent as it would allow us to rebuild much more. We’ll see though.
And of course, it would ease our financial difficulties, which are just absolutely absurd. We’ve brought in over £6M this year and we’re still deep in the pain. Hopefully if we do business the right way, we might be able to sneak up to the Premier League in a few seasons and get that crazy money, which would make all of our troubles melt away. But until then, we can only dream.
There’s a lot of potential in this team and I think the success of this save might hinge on what happens in the league next season. Join me for that. I’ll catch you on the flippety flop.