3rd July 2027
How on Earth are you? Welcome to my 9th Season in charge of Bolton. Cheers for reading this far! It’s just dawning on me now how long it’s taken me to actually get this save to the point I wanted to get it – We have cash, we’re in the Premier league, we have a competitive squad, a good scouting network and almost top facilities. Oh and did I mention… A BRAND NEW STADIUM?
Yep, the University of Bolton Stadium… Can I just call it the Reebok? You all know what I mean, I’m surprised it’s taken me 8 seasons to think of doing this. So the Reebok is now 30 years old and the board have agreed with my heartfelt assertion that that’s far too old and we need modernisation to keep us relevant. Now, this is very exciting to me as I genuinely cannot remember the last time my club built a stadium in FM. I think it might be an actual decade since this last happened to me. Or at least 6 or 7 years. From what I remember though, there are a few options for what the stadium will be called:
Option 1: The Bolton Wanderers Arena/Bolton Wanderers Stadium
This is obviously the worst case scenario. No creativity, no imagination, I’d be ashamed to walk through the doors of such a poorly named stadium.
Option 2: The Nathan Delfouneso Arena/Nathan Delfouneso Stadium
Yup, as far as I’m aware, this is an actual possibility. Our U23 coach is a club legend after helping to blast us up to the Championship back in the day and I’m pretty sure that stadiums can still be named after club legends. This would be brilliant.
In fact yes, I just went searching for proof and found it in Middlesbrough’s 2 year old Juninho Paulista Stadium. For some reason, I assumed it would only work with people who’ve become legends since the inception of the save, but apparently not. This opens up another possibility.
Option 3: The Nat Lofthouse Arena/Nat Lofthouse Stadium
Not gunna lie, I didn’t know very much about Nat Lofthouse until now. I think that’s fairly reasonable considering he retired as a player 60 years ago, but after a quick look at his wikipedia page, it’s obvious why he’s held in such high regard by the Trotters. A 1 club man, he scored 255 goals in 452 games for Bolton, as well as 30 in 33 for England. Jesus, what a goalscoring record. He also managed Bolton for 3 years to continue his streak of being involved with Bolton and nobody else but Bolton forever. The East Stand of the Reebok is named after him, he was a Freeman of the City and he had an OBE, so bloody right I’d be happy to have his name on our new ground. But then…
Option 4: The Dave O’Leary Arena/Dave O’Leary Stadium
The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that I’m also on the list of Bolton icons. Near the top too, although I’m not sure whether that means anything… Nevertheless, if I do well enough over the next 2 years, there’s a chance that I’ll become a club legend and likewise, there’s a chance that this stadium will be named after me. This is now what I’m striving for. I want to take this club to glory for purely selfish reasons.
Anyway, it’s very likely now that I’ll carry this save on until we move into our new stadium, if only out of curiosity. All I know at the minute is that it’s going to be a 48,000 seater… I don’t really even know how long this takes, but if the planning’s apparently going to take 2 years, I’d imagine 4 or 5 seasons overall until we move in? Hope you’re in this for the long haul.
I’ve quite liked showing you the squad when it’s finished in September, so I’m going to keep doing that. Tata.
4th September 2027
Hey, not bad!
Alright, down to business. I said it was going to be a quiet window, and as it turns out… I was mega, ultra, über wrong. Starting with the outgoings as we do, Jordan Boon, George Dobson, Saul Stern, Nicklas Jensen, Tomasz Lisowski, Oisin Mahon, Ryan Stokes and Kevin Knapen have all left the club. I wanted to sell Boon, Dobson, Stern and Jensen this summer, I got too good an offer to refuse for Lisowski and the rest are unproven teenagers. We’ve also let Victor Joseph go out on loan to Cardiff City in the Championship, as I don’t think he’s ready for the Premier League. All in all we made a respectable £49.5M.
In terms of incomings, let’s start with…
No 20 – Hocine Boussaada – Striker – £10M from Dijon FCO
Over the last 5 seasons for Dijon in Ligue 1, ave ratings 6.87-7.14, 60 goals and 7 assists in 176 games, 1.77-2.5 dribbles per game
Hocine’s come in as one of the replacements for Jensen and Joseph. At the time he was a record signing for us, but spoiler alert: We’ve broken that record twice more since. He’s been a ridiculously consistent performer in the French top tier and it’s about time he stepped up to test himself in the Premier League. I’m very excited to see him play more, but he’s probably in my 2nd string at the minute.
No 6 – Franck Coulibaly – Midfielder – Free transfer from Asec Mimosas
In 4 years since coming through their academy, average ratings 6.95-7.17, 44 goals and 13 assists in 138 games, 1.69-2.1 dribbles per game.
You remember Franck – I told you about him at the end of last episode. Just adding him in here for completeness’ sake.
Dale Jenkins – Goalkeeper – Free transfer from Liverpool
Last season on loan in League One, conceded 35 in 40, kept 19 clean sheets, ave rating 6.94
I couldn’t really pass up the chance to flip Dale. He’s the Welsh first choice international goalkeeper (Coincidentally enough, he’s keeping our homegrown lad Aaron Fell out of the team) and he’s operating at a good League One level. He’s gone out on loan to Sheffield Wednesday as they attempt to bounce back up to the Championship and I’m sure we’ll be able to sell him on for a nice bit of profit later on.
No 15 – Michal Prucha – Right Wing Back – £15.25M from Tottenham Hotspur
In the last 2 seasons on loan in the Championship and the Fortuna Liga, ave ratings 6.83-7.04, 5 goals and 15 assists in 84 games, 2.23-2.66 tackles per game, 1.07-1.14 dribbles per game
And the record was broken again! Michal’s come in essentially to replace Diego Mezzano. It’s sad but I don’t want to be caught short if he has an injury relapse, so I’m preparing for the worst. Mezzano should be back in full training within a month, so then we’ll have 3 really good wing backs competing here. Michal’s just coming back from his own injury and isn’t fully fit yet, but I’m expecting good things once he’s up to speed.
No 9 – Carles Amat – Striker – £35M from Barcelona
Between 2023 and 2025 for Barcelona B, scored 39 goals and registered 6 assists in 72 games, ave ratings 7.01-7.3, 3.03-3.16 dribbles per game
Alright, I can explain. Yes, this may not be the most “moneyball” signing on first glance, but by my logic, relative to his ability, we are signings Carles for cheap and there is no doubt in my mind that we can sell him on for profit. He’s been starved of game time by Barcelona for the last 2 years, but in those 2 seasons in the Spanish 2nd tier between 2023 and 2025, he was an absolute world beater. I reckon if we play him regularly and he adapts successfully to the Premier League, we’ll be selling him for £70M+ within 3 years to one of the big boys. Maybe back to Barcelona. It’s not like them not to put a buyback clause on a deal like this, actually…
Anyway, safe to say our highest fee record won’t be broken again any time soon.
No 16 – Pedro Maciel – Midfielder – £3M from SC Braga
Last season in Liga NOS, 6.9 ave rating, 5 assists in 41 games, 3.23 tackles per game
I reckon Maciel’s got the potential to be my underappreciated signing of the season. For £3M we’ve got a quality Premier League player who has masses of untapped potential. I’ve started the season with him next to Coulibaly and they’re looking tidy.
No 26 – Marco Kana – Centre Back – £11M from RSC Anderlecht
Over 8 seasons since coming through Anderlecht’s academy, ave ratings 6.84-7.16, 3.35-4.31 tackles per game, 80%-85% pass completion
Marco’s come in to replace Boon as our 6th centre back and to offer some much needed backup to Ryan Gaillard, who we sorely missed last season when he was injured. He’s spent half of his career being really solid in Belgium, so it’s time to see if he can make the step up. I reckon so.
No 30 – Iván Vázquez – Midfielder – Free transfer from Real Madrid
Over last 5 seasons for Real Madrid B, ave ratings 6.74-6.92, 11 goals and 24 assists in 125 games, 1.99-3.8 tackles per game, 73%-81% pass completion
I really went back and forth on whether to sign Vázquez. He appeared on my radar towards the backend of 2026 when I was looking for players with just over 6 months left on their contract and my scouts lost their minds over how good he was and how good he could become. I didn’t like the look of his unambitious personality and what my scouts believed to be injury-proneness, although none of my coaches seem to agree that he is. It took me 6 weeks to finally pull the trigger and bring him in in mid-August and he’s currently in light training after a hip injury that’s kept him out for a couple of months. He’s immediately worth £23M, so that’s a good sign.
So for only the 2nd time this save, we’ve actually made a loss in the transfer market, although I think the step-up in quality this Summer has been the biggest so far, so I’m happy with it.
In goal, I’m far more comfortable now that we’re back to having 3 senior goalies – Jean Guillaume, Wojciech Pacholarz and Josh Vickers are all good options, although Guillaume’s still my first choice as he’s got the most room to grow.
At centre back we’re looking good too – Burrows and Kerr are decent with potential to fulfil, Machado and Gaillard are brilliant and getting close to their potential, while Kana and Tamplin are good squad players.
We’re actually overly stocked and under stocked at right wing back at the same time. Prucha, Mezzano and Pérez are all good enough to do a job, but Prucha’s not yet quite fit and Mezzano won’t be fully fit for a while still. Still, we should be alright in a month or two.
On the left we’re as we were last season – Duda and Centelles both offer quality options, while Doherty, probably in his last season at the club, offers backup.
We’ve got a very different midfield to the one that took us up 4 months ago, but I’m very excited at the potential we now have here. All of these players can still grow and some are nowhere near their potential yet.
Again, we have great options behind the strikers. Nmecha’s into his 3rd season with us and is dependable enough, while Lyons has proved his quality over the last year and I want to see him continue to improve. Young Hollingworth-Bevan will be the backup here.
And up front is possibly the most exciting position at all. Amat has really made me start questioning just how far we can go now. I think avoiding a relegation fight has to be a must this season and I don’t think that a top half finish is completely out of the question. Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, but if we continue to bring in this level of quality, it won’t be long. Oh and also, Perez is our new club Captain after Dobson’s departure.
Right, so let’s finally talk about this very young season. To be honest, not only are we doing very well so far, but we’re desperately unlucky not to be doing a whole lot better. Liverpool stole all 3 points in the 91st minute, West Brom snatched a draw in the 89th, then we recorded solid wins against Bristol and Oldham before coming through a tepid draw against Burnley. Aside from drawing Liverpool first again, the fixtures have been kind to us so far, with some favourable home ties in the league and League 2 opposition in the Cup.
But the bookies still expect us to go down come the end of the season. Granted they not expect us to finish 18th instead of 20th, but they still think we’ll be gone. I’m positive we’ll prove them wrong.
1st February 2028
Now that’s what I call progress!
This season has gone better than I could have imagined. Not only have we snatched wins against the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and most recently Liverpool (3-0!!) and not only have we won 9 of our 12 home games in the league, but we’ve also reached the bloody Carabao Cup Final!!
An insane run of luck in the draw pitted us against Oldham, Blackpool, Barnsley and Bournemouth, then lesser Premier League sides from the South coast Southampton and Bournemouth. Having seen off the lot of them, we’ll face Arsenal in a couple of weeks to see if we can win our first domestic cup in 24 years.
I wasn’t anticipating a very exciting transfer window, but it really geared up towards the end, with QPR snatching both of our homegrown centre backs for a combined £35M (+50%) and Bristol City picking up Hollingworth-Bevan for £6M (+50%). The loss of 2 of our centre halves has forced me into action, but having already sent Hallgren on loan and with no perfect options available in the market, I’ve decided to sign a defender on loan.
No 19 – Walter Moreno – Centre Back – Loaned from River Plate (Option to buy for £3.2M)
Over the last 2 seasons, ave ratings 7.11-7.17, 4.01-4.02 tackles per game
Walter seems like a good defender. He might have a bit of a low ceiling so I’m not sure if I want him here permanently yet, but if I do decide to have him he’ll cost us practically no money at all. He’s here purely for cover at the minute.
26th February 2028
Alright, let’s do this. If I’m getting my heart ripped out in front of a Wembley crowd, I’m taking you with me for the ride. Just remember that a cup win could be the last piece of the “Dave O’Leary Stadium” jigsaw puzzle.
We’re without Vázquez for the final as he picked up a twisted knee last week. It’s turned out he is fairly injury prone, but not overly so. Everyone else is fit, so we should still be fine. Of course I pick the strongest squad I possibly can.
Arsenal, as expected, begin on the front foot as Tomori heads just wide early on from an Almada free kick. Another header from Martinelli rattles Guillaume’s crossbar after 20 minutes and yet another from Tetteh bobbles into the net via a deflection off Duda in the 27th minute. The fact that it goes down as a Duda own goal makes no sense to me though.
Despite this, we’re holding our own at the half hour mark. Arsenal have hit 2 of their 5 shots on target, while we’ve hit 6 of 6. Neither side’s had a clear cut chance and we’ve had the only half chance. We’re also edging possession and have had 5 fruitless corners, while the Gunners scored from their only 1.
At half time and still on top but losing, I sympathise with the players in the hopes that they’ll keep doing what they’re doing. It’s working, we’re just seeing no results whatsoever.
At the hour mark, we’ve still not had a single highlight, despite our dominance. I bring on Nmecha and Mezzano for the underperforming Lyons and Prucha.
And With 20 minutes to go, Arsenal seemingly wrap up their rather undeserved win in agonising fashion. A harmless Almada free kick comes in right on top of Guillaume, who misses the ball, allowing Guimaraes to head into the open goal. I decide to sacrifice defence for attack, because why not? Kana comes off to be replaced by Boussaada and we go all out attack, more direct and higher tempo.
But nope, we lose the match without having a single highlight. I’m not too worried though. To not only get to the Cup Final, but then to demolish Arsenal too is extremely promising. Yes, they got the goals, but look at this – This is not a match that should’ve ended 2-0. They’ve pulled off a legendary robbery today.
You haven’t missed much in the league by the way – Since the start of the month we’ve picked up a win, a loss and a draw, moving us up to the top half of the table! Right behind Arsenal, funnily enough.
17th May 2028
Bolton Wanderers, consider yourself part of the fucking furniture.
Yep we’re staying up comfortably this season, which is very exciting for me. I do wonder what we aim for next, though. I suppose top half, but we’ve got so much money to spend that if we can find the right 3 or 4 players, we could easily boost ourselves into European contention… Well that’s something to think about later, anyway.
We’ve had a weird couple of months. After Arsenal booted us out of Wembley, we went on to lose 3 of our next 4 games, drawing the other one. We then proceeded to end the year on a fine run of form, completing the double over Manchester United, (admittedly then losing to West Ham and City), then a win over Burnley, putting the final nail in Bristol City’s coffin, a goalless draw against the Blades and then sweet revenge against the Gunners.
Come to think of it, we’ve really shone against the big clubs this season. Against the Premier League’s big 7, which now officially includes Leicester, we’ve picked up 15 points, beating Arsenal, Leicester, Liverpool and United twice. Whichever way you look at it, this season has been a roaring success.
Carles Amat is already looking like an absolute bargain – After getting off the mark with a bloody hat trick in our 5-1 win over Sheffield United in September, he’s remained a steady contributor of goals throughout the season. To come from the Spanish 2nd tier to playing amongst the English elite and bag 14 goals in your first season is fucking marvellous. Boussaada’s also had an extremely promising debut season, getting into double digits for goals.
Arguably our best signing last year though was Michal Prucha – You can’t argue with 6 goals and 10 assists from a right wing back, can you? Behind him, Coulibaly, Maciel, Duda, Boussaada, Lyons and Kana all chipped in with 4 assists.
Our best player of the season… Technically… Was Jacob Hansen. Although this does come with some asterisks – The vast majority of his playing time and every one of his starts this season came in the domestic cups. My go-to pairing up front was Perez, our captain, and Amat, our best player by a mile. Behind them, Boussaada was the clear choice and I never really needed a 4th option for the league. So in a stunning turn of events, Jacob might actually be leaving this Summer…
… Mainly because I’ve already agreed to bring in his replacement.
Nemanja Arcaba – Striker – £5.75M from Crvena Zvezda
Over the last 3 seasons in the Serbian top tier, 30 goals and 23 assists in 107 games, ave ratings 6.94-7.27, 2.09-2.29 dribbles per game
Nemanja comes in as a more technical replacement for Hansen and will act as a natural understudy to Rafa Perez because of the way his attributes skew towards involvement in the build up of goals, rather than the scoring of them. He’s a bit of an opportunistic signing as Man City were circling and his release clause was low, but he could be very good indeed for us.
So what’s next on the agenda in terms of recruitment? Well, Lyons and Nmecha have both had pretty poor seasons, so an attacking midfielder would be nice. And we definitely could do with a top class centre back prospect, as I’m not impressed with Moreno. otherwise I think we’re alright. I’ll probably get rid of either Mezzano or Pérez at right wing back, as we don’t need both of them.
So, next season will be my 10th in charge of the Trotters. As a reminder, we’ve come from horrifying amounts of unpayable debt in League 2 to Premier League survivors with £150M in the bank, state of the art training and youth facilities (To be completed in October) and a new stadium on the way. It’s all beginning to come up Millhouse, isn’t it? See you next time.